London’s Hipster Hate

In London and New York, a backlash against hipsters is making the fashionable few unpopular. Why do they annoy everyone so much?

A popular blog in London focuses on criticism of the excesses of London’s hipster scene. Hipsters, according to this version, are fashionable, young, mostly well off, but inconsiderate, annoying, and superficial. There are plenty of similar blogs, and a good definition on Wikipedia.
Like many cultural groups, hipsters are identified by specific clothing, including skinny jeans, hi-top trainers, retro hair styles. They are clearly big consumers of culture, but are more likely to attend a warehouse party than the National Theatre.

Commentators have over-theorised the group, discussing their chase for authenticity, and how cultural theorist Bourdieu almost predicted them. A run down of arguments for and against hipsters in the US is outlined in an Economist magazine interview.
But arguing that hipsters are annoying because you don't like their clothes or their shoes is unacceptable - there must be more to it than that. One thory (mine) on hipsters is that most of the irritation is caused by their cultural insensitivity to local communities, which are often those in disadvantaged areas of London, like Hackney or Peckham.

As the Economist says, “Part of the frustration with hipsters seems to be that they say something very complicated about privilege”. They argue that many hipsters are working in low income jobs, living in low income areas, but supported by family money.
And they are often well-educated and clearly concerned by being near the symbols of cultural consumption. They want to locate close to artists and ‘edgy’ areas, and they also chase ‘authenticity’ so want to live near existing, often working class communities.

Because of this, they are often second-wave gentrifiers. While previously poor areas attract low wage artists who do it up, give it a buzz or vibe, hipsters are the next group to move in. They move into the now-animated areas, following the artists. Artists often make the move unwillingly, because they earn low wages themselves and have to find somewhere cheap, but hipsters have more of a choice.

This in part explains their insensitivity, where a college-style, party-hard atmosphere and colonisation, and very visible presence can often clash with existing communities, and often those who resent the increase in prices at cafes and pubs and loud noise late at night.
If, as academic Sharon Zukin says, artists are the “shock troops of gentrification”, then hipsters are the second wave of infantry. No wonder, then, that they annoy people.

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And you, dearest Callum, are an embedded reporter.


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