Category Archives: trends

Hipster Olympics

I’ve been researching quite a bit about the “hipster” population as of recent, due to a new client. Has to be one of the most fascinating subcultures out there, due to the shear fact of their affect on both fashion and pop culture in such a short amount of time.

In a nutshell a ‘hipster’ is the following:

‘via Adbusters, see HIPSTER:THE DEAD END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, dusty haddow.

People who embrace the pseudo-artistic image and have strong attitudes and opinions toward, design, music, and urban culture. They believe in  “counter-culture” environments, artists and thinkers. They tend to be a little grungy, and spend 20% of their money on just “hanging out” at dive bars and going to music “shows.” Hipsters are always in pursuit of independent, DIY, non-commercial, and/or non profit choices in consumption in any and all aspects of lie. They highly value listening to indie rock or any form of non-mainstream music, thrift store shopping, eating organic, vegetarian, drinking local beer and/or PBR and listening to public radio.

Here is a diagram:

We have all been talking about the deadness of the culture, the emptiness of the music, the feeling that there is a lull — and the hope that it is a lull before the storm. One part of that is the lack of potency and radicalism in the ‘alternative” culture.

Let’s take our discussion not a a chance to rag on what exists, but our explorations of a subversive culture that is so desperately needed.

Take a stroll down the street in any major North American or European city and you’ll be sure to see a speckle of fashion-conscious twentysomethings hanging about and sporting a number of predictable stylistic trademarks: skinny jeans, cotton spandex leggings, fixed-gear bikes, vintage flannel, fake eyeglasses and a keffiyeh – initially sported by Jewish students and Western protesters to express solidarity with Palestinians, the keffiyeh has become a completely meaningless hipster cliché fashion accessory.

The hipster keefiyah:

In addition, the American Apparel V-neck shirt, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Parliament cigarettes are symbols and icons of working or revolutionary classes that have been appropriated by hipsterdom and drained of meaning. Ten years ago, a man wearing a plain V-neck tee and drinking a Pabst would never be accused of being a trend-follower. But in 2008, such things have become shameless clichés of a class of individuals that seek to escape their own wealth and privilege by immersing themselves in the aesthetic of the working class.

This obsession with “street-cred” reaches its apex of absurdity as hipsters have recently and wholeheartedly adopted the fixed-gear bike as the only acceptable form of transportation – only to have brakes installed on a piece of machinery that is defined by its lack thereof.

Lovers of apathy and irony, hipsters are connected through a global network of blogs and shops that push forth a global vision of fashion-informed aesthetics. Loosely associated with some form of creative output, they attend art parties, take lo-fi pictures with analog cameras, ride their bikes to night clubs and sweat it up at nouveau disco-coke parties. The hipster tends to religiously blog about their daily exploits, usually while leafing through generation-defining magazines like Vice, Another Magazine and Wallpaper. This cursory and stylized lifestyle has made the hipster almost universally loathed.

“These hipster zombies… are the idols of the style pages, the darlings of viral marketers and the marks of predatory real-estate agents,” wrote Christian Lorentzen in a Time Out New York article entitled ‘Why the Hipster Must Die.’ “And they must be buried for cool to be reborn.”

With nothing to defend, uphold or even embrace, the idea of “hipsterdom” is left wide open for attack. And yet, it is this ironic lack of authenticity that has allowed hipsterdom to grow into a global phenomenon that is set to consume the very core of Western counterculture. Most critics make a point of attacking the hipster’s lack of individuality, but it is this stubborn obfuscation that distinguishes them from their predecessors, while allowing hipsterdom to easily blend in and mutate other social movements, sub-cultures and lifestyles.

***
Adbusters #79
“If you don’t give a damn, we don’t give a fuck!” chants an emcee before his incitements are abruptly cut short when the power plug is pulled and the lights snapped on.

Dawn breaks and the last of the after-after-parties begin to spill into the streets. The hipsters are falling out, rubbing their eyes and scanning the surrounding landscape for the way back from which they came. Some hop on their fixed-gear bikes, some call for cabs, while a few of us hop a fence and cut through the industrial wasteland of a nearby condo development.

The half-built condos tower above us like foreboding monoliths of our yuppie futures. I take a look at one of the girls wearing a bright pink keffiyah and carrying a Polaroid camera and think, “If only we carried rocks instead of cameras, we’d look like revolutionaries.” But instead we ignore the weapons that lie at our feet – oblivious to our own impending demise.

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.’

True?

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Smart Music

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Radiohead, which offered its latest album as free downloads last week, has seen 1.2 million downloads of “In Rainbows.” With no label, no promotions, and direct access to fans, Radiohead gave up its music for free and asked for donations, whatever fans deemed reasonable, in return. What the band got was an average of $8 per album sold, bringing estimates of profit to about $10 million. Not too shabby for one week. The number of albums sold in the past week exceeded the launch week sales of its three previous albums combined.

So what’s the takeaway? Artists that are big enough to have this kind of pull can more easily leverage this model. It illustrates the way in which the music industry is changing, and artists are practicing in a new marketplace where production costs are low, the middleman is less important, the Internet is ideal for distribution, and the supply is meeting the demand in a nearly perfect match. Other artists are beginning to take this approach as well, even those with smaller labels and less recognition (we all know that the true longtail of music artists has no choice to to use this model of Internet marketing and distribution).

But then again, it’s not the albums that artists make money on–it’s the tours, the t-shirts, and everything else surrounding the actual music, middleman or not.

Green + Green = Red?

Attended the Green Conference in Washington D.C. Saturday with B Brown. We drove up early that morning and returned before sundown (Don Just beckoned).

Very interesting compilation of green capitalism. Its funny how so many of the attendees and participants are so passionate about socialist causes and are, in many respects, anti-capitalistic. But there we were, driving our cars and consuming and advertising and marketing and promoting. Ironic.

Did we just create our own capitalistic model. adaptive or hypocritical?

The other irony was the volume of literature and paper distributed. Each booth had tons of literature (booklets, magazines, brochures, etc.) Each communication should have been driven to the web. Give passer-bys a 100% recycled business card with the business website. End of story. Why are there even “green” centric magazines? If we were really green-minded we would disseminate all information on the web. Right?

I don’t want black hat the whole event. Just seeing the “green” trend unfold infront of my eyes was pretty incredible. And a testiment to the power of popular culture and tribal communication. Its my guess that half of the attendees were there just to jump on the bandwagon. Because regular 60 watt bulbs are so last year. Where are my LEDs?

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