July 15, 2024

Hipster Culture is an Enemy of the Political Left AND Right

Let’s start with a staple of the hipster subculture:

The man bun. While historically reserved for ancient samurai orders (where they belong), American pop and sub cultures adopted the man bun either because ideas were running short, or because it’s a natural evolutionary nuance of hairstyle.

In either case, the bun itself has sparked several developments, such as:

Man bun Ken dolls.
Memes for days.
Clip on man buns (Amazon has 38 product reviews. Meaning 38 people, at minimum, purchased that product).

And the man bun is part of a culture that does have larger implications for American politics. Hipster culture, and man buns, do the following:

1) Create an opening for right-wing propagandists to caricature hipsters — and, by extension, they (incorrectly) generalize that to be all millennials. This leaves obvious divisions and unfair grouping of people.
2) This propaganda drives a generational wedge between voting blocks. Also a geographic one between cities and rural regions. The right is very good a propaganda (see Russia).
3) Hipster culture exacerbates right-wing distaste for the eccentric.
4) It contributes to an insular, exclusive political left culture that excludes a huge swath of American voters.

Hipsters and their branding:

Hipsters are an evolutionary strand of subculture resulting from a marriage of hippies, counterculture protest communities, and post-recession millennials who overintellectualize coffee. Hipsters are ironic to the point of kitsch, and some hipsters even reach the point of nihilistism. In researching this topic, I even found a write up about the “Nietzsche Hipster,” and that’s hilarious considering I bet the philosopher would despise hip people dogmatically following his quotes.

And in hipster circles, everything craft is meticulously created with care, specifically to their loyal, organic base. Authenticity is the key ingredient to hipster-ism. And not only authenticity, but locality, are key to living peaceful, sustainable lives.

… Yet, ironically, in true hipster form, in their pursuit of individualist fairness, gentrification is driven by this culture and ideology.

Formerly glorious markets left to urban decay are transformed by venture capitalists in pursuit of creating cash-cows, and hip millennial boutique … everything … occupies booths with artisanal … soap, or water, or juice bars, or whatever … with the highest small-batch, fair-trade quality products available. Personally, I look no further than right down the street in Ponce City Market in Atlanta or Krog Street Market. In addition, the marketing of this micro-capitalist push seems to be driven by a post-modern, post-industrial realism that conveys both a sense of history and newness.

… and that is the hipster transformation of American cities.

Politically speaking, the problem stems not from the desire to transform American cities, which is noble in itself, but in the inherent gentrification that inevitably follows. Rather than achieving the hipster-esque goals of historical acceptance, present fairness, and future localization centered around small-scale delicatessens, the markets of America’s sprawling urban spaces, in reality, serve to further the interests of capitalist-oriented mega investors — while also displacing existing populations by pricing them out of their own neighborhood. Which presents issues within the hipster community, and for the political left at large. And my god that is truly ironic.

But hipsters don’t shoulder all the blame. The hipster community has a vision, and has goals. … But they also have rent to pay. But investors, and even public money, push forward a bulldozer of development which leaves behind yuppie price tags and displaced citizens. Gentrification is using hipster ideology to push forward an agenda of reinventing American cities as localized specialty hubs.

While aesthetically pleasing, the economics may prove to bite American economies in the ass as time moves forward. While local politicians tout the virtues of restoring historic America in the millennial image, they also fail to mention the tactic is to simply outprice poverty-stricken populations from their homes. … a strategy that may backfire in the decades to come.

And hipsters, it’s fair to say, are probably more Democrat than Republican. This isn’t strictly because they’re hipster (though it contributes), it actually probably has more to do with living in an urban area. In any case, in their effort to localize capitalism, hipsters are hitting cultural resistance from the right (because of the man bun and other quirks), and economic criticism in general.

Economically speaking, people will probably get tired of seeing $6 cups of coffee, $13, 6-packs of craft beer, a $5 bottle of “organic” vegetable juice, or a $160 “ethically sourced” cotton T-shirt. Not only that, the buzzwords the hipster community generates is almost as bad as corporate business jargon … “fair trade,” “non-GMO,” and the like.

But gentrification aside for the moment (yet keep the idea fresh), enter the man bun, if we can: the flagship product of the in-town male.

Sporting a man bun is supposedly several things: bold, masculine, aesthetic, and fashionable. It’s also intimately tied to hipsters and celebrities. And, by extension, it’s tied to the political left’s aims to systematize social justice while molding capitalism to fit their vision of a post-racial, post-poverty society. But, for propaganda purposes, hipster philosophy is tied to the Bun (and Hollywood), and by extension the Bun is tied to the American left. Hence the term “snowflake” came into existence. … thanks propagandists.

This is should be considered a problem for the left, and an opportunity to polarize America further for the right. Because hipster culture creates it’s own sense of eliteness. And not only that, it’s a society that has a high cost of admission vis-a-vis hipster capitalism! And in reaction, the right uses symbols (such as a man bun) to delegitimize and degrade the original message: That commerce should be more localized and fair for all — something not yet achieved, for sure.

Because the political right has less tolerance for notions of equality, and are more concerned with working-class conceptions of order, security, and power, conservative thinkers aren’t interested in utopia building. The right will predictably meme out the man bun and associated hipster cultural artifacts (Pabst Blue Ribbon, flannel, horn rimmed glasses, etc.). … The Bun is now one of the easiest target for propagandists to portray the left as self-absorbed, overeducated artists without any grounded compass. The Bun can effectively be construed as feminine, eccentric, faddish, and unnecessary (and to some of those, I can agree).


And the hipster-centric wing of the left feeds into the Right’s propaganda narrative a few ways:

— By not creating a realistic vision of economics-for-all. Large-scale department stores have that owned, and so has Amazon. Creating cheaper products requires scale, which is something the hip urban culture is missing. This is a natural point of disdain from the right — left-wing, localized capitalism.

— By creating an aesthetic that’s easy to target. … hipster fashion in general is an easy target. The insistence to care deeply about fashion, yet seem not to care at the same time, is annoyingly hipster, and an obvious source of friction with the right.

— By fostering an elite-oriented group centered around small-scale capitalism and individual-centric craft marketing. It’s too exclusive, and inherently un-Democratic. Those in rural localities look on with disdain as urban dwellers pay $20 for hand crafted hamburgers.

… it’s no wonder that the right can package all these criticisms up in one neat package, meme out the man bun, and proliferate a conception that inner-city dwellers are bumbling idealists who only care about aesthetic and have no work ethic. The price of goods is unrealisticly sustainable, the fashion is an intellectual minefield where far too much though is frowned on but too little thought is stigmatized, and hipsters could be considered unknowing leaders of gentrification. The combination of overpriced goods, exclusive philosophy and fashion, and excluding local communities while claiming locality are sure fire ways to create political criticism and blowback.

And so it is: Hipsters, while valiantly trying to solve problems of inner city blight and lack of local development, can most certainly be considered an enemy of politics from both sides, perhaps unfairly so. From the left, hipsters present an image and liability problem — casting rural and older voters away. From the right, hipsters are merely elite youth rebelling with Instagram and exacerbate already obvious rifts.

In short, the movement lacks any self-awareness … and, yet again, that is truly ironic, true to hipster fashion.

And for what it’s worth, I’ll recommend the following advice for hipsters: Use less buzzword-laden labels, make things less expensive, and let coffee exist as coffee. … Go ahead and keep your obsession with ironic neat-but-messy fashion, but understand you’re an easy political target.

Joel also writes about politics on his own blog Political Ideas and Education.

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