Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Offering tips to hipsters

So, quite a lot of radio silence here. However I have been boasting about my recent purchases on Twitter. This has never been a haul blog or a GPOY blog, although I am kind of regretting turning down the invitation to blog at I Op, Therefore I Am a couple of years ago, because I get most of my clothes at op-shops and would happily rabbit on about them.

One thing I've done, however, is start a Tumblr called The Hipster Tipster. I had this idea last October after spotting a rack of free greeting cards outside a surf shop, and thinking hipsters ought to have been all over it. I thought, "Someone should start a blog where they offer these kinds of little tips and ideas."

It is not as though I am Queen of the Hipsters and hence am speaking from an authoritative position. But I do think I should be honest with myself: I work for an alt-culture website. I know lots of coolsie types. I'm acutely conscious of how my tastes present me to the world and situate me among my peers.

Also, I feel strongly that hipsterism is unfairly maligned; as I wrote in an op-ed last year, haters gonna hate. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to be cool, liking the things you like and wanting to be around other people who like those things too, and this Maria Bustillos story from The Awl really resonated with me:
When you are around young people who have ambition and taste, and who long to enter an imagined world full of gloriously attractive and brilliant cognoscenti, it can break your heart to see their fear and insecurity—which is very natural and really, almost inescapable for the young—manifested in distrust and an assumed arrogance, in a pretense at more knowledge than they really have. The way they pretend to know about this or that band, or the way they suddenly up and say that Pitchfork itself is "too mainstream," or they pretend to read a book that they haven't read. They literally twitch with grief and fear. They are suffering! And this suffering stifles their natural curiosity and pleasure, imprisons them in an airless chamber of embarrassment and insecurity.
As Bustillos shrewdly recognises, a cultural disposition predicated on connoisseurship offers no room for people to admit they don't already know everything. But nobody knows everything, and it shouldn't be uncool to admit as much. So The Hipster Tipster comes from this position of being a face-saving solution: offering little hints and ideas that you otherwise have to figure out on your own.

I was very conscious of wanting to offer tips for both men and women, for people who like cutesy stuff and people who like futuristic stuff, for DIY fans, students, workers, and all sorts of creative people. I also wanted the tips to cover a broad terrain – not just fashion, accessories and grooming, and not just interiors, and not just food, and not just culture, but things from across all these fields.

But one of the things I've realised when running the blog is that there are so many different hipster dispositions that I can't possibly represent them all. My own tastes tend to the feminine, the DIY and the retro, and on Tumblr, your tastes curate the information you encounter (via the users you choose to follow). But I try not to make The Hipster Tipster too prescriptive.

A big however. I also want to condemn the aspects of hipsterism that I find repugnant or just irritating. I want to show readers that they can pursue cool without being reckless or callous, and point out the ways that trying to be individual sometimes leads to ill-thought-out herd behaviour and venerating dickheads. By contrast, I want to show how you can do alt-things politely, thoughtfully and ethically.

I offer readers the opportunity to ask for tips. Disappointingly, very few people have taken me up on this, and when one guy asked how to attract a hipster girl, I was tempted to think he was taking the piss. But it really pleases me to see the social negotiations of hipsterism made public like this, and for me to get an opportunity to put my oar in!