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  • Here's an idea: You're probably a hipster. Hipsters catch a really bad rap. The word

  • hipster conjures some smug guy or gal; Ray-Bans; scarves; a bike that's hard to ride; waistcoats;

  • and pickled, local, small-batch everything. [We can pickle that.]

  • And, the cultural backlash to hipsterdom is huge, so huge in fact it's hard to somebody

  • who self-identifies as a hipster; however, with nerds, it's a much different story. (And

  • I want to pause her to say that for simplicity's sake, I'm conflating "geek" and "nerd," and

  • I realize there's a difference, but for now I'm going to use them interchangeably, so

  • don't get mad.) Unlike hipsters, there are tons of people who self-identify as nerds:

  • math nerds, music nerds, video game nerds, philosophy nerds, nerds, nerds, nerds, nerds,

  • nerds. [Get those nerds! Nerds! NERDS!] We talk about nerd cred and nerding out. Many

  • of us are nerd fighters, and there's even nerdcore music, and sure, there's still a

  • bad nerd rap, but generally the cultural tide seems to favor nerds over hipsters, which

  • is a little bit of a false dichotomy, right? Because if there's anything people like Richard

  • Ayoade, Kari Byron, Chris Hardwick, and Felicia Day have taught us, it's that you can be hip

  • and nerdy, but this doesn't stop us [from] drawing a cultural line between a group of

  • people who might wear this t-shirt and a group of people who might wear this t-shirt, meaning

  • while in theory they might be super-different, in practice it's a little bit more complicated,

  • which it usually is. (Stupid practice! Thinks it's so complicated!)

  • Both groups are defined not only by what they enjoylike anime and Mumford & Sonsbut

  • also how they enjoy it. Simon Pegg says that, "Being a geek is all about being honest about

  • what you enjoy, and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play

  • it cool about how much you like something." And we all probably agree that hipsters exude

  • some smugness or arrogance. They enjoy things ironically and not effusively. In other words,

  • hipsters look or behave in ways that they shouldn't. You are not a 1920's oil baron.

  • Why the handlebar mustache? You wear red flannel and have a large beard, yet you've never touched

  • an axe. Also, your shoes cost five hundred dollars, and you have a back tattoo of a Jackson

  • Pollock painting. Hipsters adopt the styles and affects of many

  • cultures. Cultures which aren't "theirs," cultures they don't actually belong to, mostly

  • because it would be hard to be an Appalachian coal miner from 1860. Other subcultures enjoy

  • what they enjoy and that is the end of the story. But is it?

  • Our tastes are complicated. They are earnest, aspirational, include guilty pleasures, things

  • we should like but don't and are largely an effect of our socio-economic geopolitical

  • supercalifragitive backgrounds. So, when someone's tastes express something

  • that they "can't" or "shouldn't" enjoy, the hipsterness alarm sounds. (The hipsterness

  • alarm sounds like this, by the way.) A lumberjack looking guy who mixes drinks and listens to

  • country music and rap but also plays D&D is such an extreme pastiche that he causes people

  • to hulk out! But, what's wrong with that? I mean, you don't get mad at your mom when

  • she shops at L.L.Bean, goes to Starbucks, and listens to the Grateful Dead. We see mom's

  • choices as natural, and we see hipster choices as performative; they are pretending or worse

  • yet mocking. What's happened though is that because of our global-media-whatever or are

  • internet-interconnected-whatsit, people have started to realize that every cultural artifact

  • from Carhartt pants and trucker hats to fedoras has cultural capital.

  • Cultural capital, coined by French anthropologist and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu describes

  • the social worth of a particular object, style of dress, or manner of speech, you-name-it,

  • to a particular class or subculture of people. Bourdieu theorized cultural capital as a way

  • to gain status. One could study, inherit, or purchase their way to having huge amounts

  • of cultural capital and, therefore, status. Status, though, is just really complicated.

  • For instance, for punks, high status might be indicated by the number of studs on their

  • leather jacket, but for other subcultures, that indicates extremely low status.

  • The process of recognizing cultural capital in objects and affects and then sticking with

  • them until they are assimilated, that is the modus hipsterandi.

  • This is why people draw that angry, spiteful line between hipsters and other subcultures.

  • Subcultures like nerds have to work for their cred to attain cultural capital within that

  • group. Hipsters just cherry pick the stuff they think is neat. People see hipsters as

  • devaluing cultural fashions by cashing in on their capital without embodying their meaning

  • and by combining cultural capital from entirely different subcultures. They're sort of like

  • the subcultural version of Girl Talk. And maybe the purity of those cultural expressions

  • is diluted a little bit when mish-mashed into hipsterdom, but is it really that different

  • from the cultural reappropriation of things like Levis, chain wallets, or, uh, kilts?

  • What do you guys think? Nerd? Punk? Mom? Is there a little hipster inside all of us? Let

  • us know in the comments and please subscribe, ironically or earnestly, doesn't matter to

  • me.

Here's an idea: You're probably a hipster. Hipsters catch a really bad rap. The word

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B2 US cultural hipster capital nerd enjoy status

Are You A Hipster? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

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    James posted on 2015/06/26
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