Merchlewitz is a first-year writing major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
To those who are unfamiliar with the term, hipsters are loosely defined as a subset of 20-somethings who are interested in non-mainstream culture. These affections include but are not limited to: indie rock, Wes Anderson films, facial hair, flannel, public radio and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Growing up in a relatively small town in Minnesota, I never even knew what a hipster was or that being one could be considered a bad thing. Every warm weekend, my friends and I would ride our bikes downtown to drink coffee at a local café, then mosey on over to the thrift store to buy some ironic T-shirts (I still have one that says “Experience Nebraska”). We’d wrap up the day by pedaling over to the record store to pick up some classic vinyl. All of this was quite natural to me.
But my hipsterly experiences were limited mostly to my core group of four or five friends. Some of my classmates, however, would make cracks at me for being a hipster when I wore my Wilco T-shirt with my blue flannel.
“Whatever could they mean?” I thought. “Is it wrong to wear my ‘The Big Lebowski’ T-shirt with a sport coat and jeans?” (I still consider these two outfits to be the epitome of my personal style.)
My buddies, however, thought I looked like an idiot. It probably didn’t help matters that I trashed the music they liked. There were great debates wherein I mocked the likes of Jason Mraz, Sum 41 and Li’l Wayne among others, all the while stating that those who didn’t like Bob Dylan were dead to me. In one friend’s words, I was a “musical jackass.”
I clearly had minority interests and opinions in my hometown. My first real-life experience with hipsterdom at large occurred at the 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines. For those who do not know what 80/35 is, it is hands down one of the best things about Des Moines.
The two-day festival drew the groups Spoon, Modest Mouse, Yo La Tengo and a myriad of music fans from across the Midwest. Naturally, there was also a bevy of hipsters to be had. But I was a little fish in a big pond; these hipsters meant business. Fedora hats, skinny jeans, ear gauges, dark rimmed glasses—it was like the uniform of the apathetic.
I felt at home dancing and rocking out with these weirdos, and I never once felt the air of superiority that comes with being a so-called “scenester.” I imagine that Iowa hipsters are much more polite than Brooklyn hipsters. But like all good things, 80/35 ended, and I once again returned to the land of country stations and top 40 music.
Now I am here at Drake, and I am running into a lot of those same old problems that happened back home. I meet people who absolutely hated “Catcher in the Rye.” When I ask people if they listen to Dr. Dog or the Dirty Projectors, I get a polite “No, I don’t think I’ve heard of them.” It still baffles me that people aren’t willing to drive two hours to hear Jeff Tweedy do a solo show in Iowa City. Where are all of the hipsters that I was supposed to meet in college?
I’ve had to give up a lot of ground, manifested as an unflappable appreciation for the Katy Perry song “California Gurls.” I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut when my friends talk about Rascal Flatts. I pretend that I’m totally cool with listening to Michael Bublé again. Mostly, this has been good for me because I try to be less pretentious when people don’t have the same tastes as I do.
So, to all the non-hipsters out there reading this, we’re not trying to bring you down or make you feel worse. We’re just lonely out here with nobody to talk with about the new Decemberists album. It’s not you, it’s us. And of course to my fellow hipsters out there, keep fighting the good fight. If you see a guy wearing an Animal Collective T-shirt, say hi to him. And if you’re going to the Of Montreal show in Omaha, Neb., this May, can you give me a ride?