The apparently interminable and eternally bemused quest to understand the hipster—haha, what is it? Sartorial trendsetter? Early adopter? Idiot on a fixie? Indie tastemaker? Trailblazing consumer?—has now occupied our media for the better part of a decade. We’ve seen magazine cover stories, satirical books, pop sociological explorations, and, of course, enough blog entries to rival cute cat pic posts.
And everyone loves it all: to deride, to mock, to curiously peek at, to secretly feel inclusion with a social group that perplexes everybody. But whether we like it or not—and no matter that it’s been pronounced ‘dead’ more times than a member of Mötley Crüe—the hipster is still our prevailing countercultural signifier. Whatever it is.
So perhaps it will ease your mind to know that the various forces that gleefully and perpetually gnaw at the hipster idea are probably eternal ones. It’s obvious: Just as we relish debating the hipster, generations past have relished debating the punk, the hippie, the beat. And, you’ll be not surprised at all to know, they ask pretty much the same questions. Who are these young rich kids and what makes them so unconventional?
As evidence, I submit this video of William F. Buckley, Jack Kerouac, the founder of the Fugs, and some goofy sociologist. Enjoy:
So Kerouac is drunk, the sociologist is like a caricature of the hippie’s idea of a square, and Buckley’s going through the motions. But it’s kind of engrossing, and parallels to our current moment aplenty. I’ll leave them to you to pick out, but here’s a hint: it involves a narcissistic, drug-loving, politically apathetic, weirdly garbed countercultural movement spearheaded by disillusioned well-off kids.
Also, drunk Jack Kerouac is kind of an ass.
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