To the extent you can say any group believes one thing, hipsters aren’t opposed to capitalism. They’re opposed, I suspect, to rabid, deadening, exploitative capitalism. And now we can see, 15 years after the supposed advent of the modern hipster, that the biggest effect the cohort has had on the system hasn’t come from stealing cars or forming communes or smashing the state, but by practicing conscientious consumerism and extolling the virtues of local business, craft, and quality. It's not revolution, it's incrementalism. We were expecting Joe Strummer, and instead we wound up with Ron Swanson -- in different and slightly more tailored clothes.
None of this stuff originated with today's hipsters by any stretch, but they’ve taken it up, as previous generations did with jazz and folk, and rock, and hip-hop, and, via media trend-mongering, helped push it into the mainstream. Laugh all you want about the hipster barista, but coffee has never been better. Or smirk at that asshole with the mustache and suspenders at the cocktail bar with the ampersand name, but cocktails have never been so reliably good in so many places around the country. Liquor is better and more interesting. Food is better and more interesting. Restaurants are more creative, and more likely to support local farmers (even if the chefs do have stupid bacon tattoos). There are more indie designers making clothes in the US. Their stuff costs more, but at this point we all know full well that it takes a chain of human rights violations in order to make a $30 shirt. Jeans fit better. Beards are socially acceptable. Glasses are socially acceptable. You can wear chambray with a suit. You can publicly nerd out without fear of social banishment. Etsy saved me from having to buy a laptop case from Apple. (Hipster!) The list goes on.
Is it all good? Of course not. Like everything else in the world, 90% of the hipster’s cultural influence probably ranges from negligible to crap. Are a lot of them fakes? Probably, but have you met humanity? The whole enterprise is shot through with fraudulence. Is there a growing cloud of marketing bullshit and hip-washing quickly engulfing all of this? Of course there is. I just got an email from a publicist saying she represents the largest hotel in Manhattan “and would love to have you stop by to experience the authenticity and local flavors of their gourmet market.” I laughed, but I’ll take that market over what was there before.
And yet here we are, drinking our good coffee, eating good food, and making the same lame hipster jokes we’ve been making for years. Griping about “the awful cult of the talentless hipster” with his or her “mindless attitudinizing.” Griping about how they all dress the same, even though that’s what subcultures do, you nitwit. But like it or not, the modern hipster -- derided for having no real cultural impact -- wound up being a big bang writ small. And just as we contain stardust from the birth of the galaxy, we all contain hipster dust, down to a molecular level. Time to own it. Time to enjoy the spoils to the utmost. Time to retire the word.