These days, the term "hipster" has become so mainstream that it almost entirely lacks meaning, lost in a sea of skintight jeans, Flock-of-Seagulls haircuts, and cruelty-free almond butter. Even so, nearly every major city hosts a neighborhood where occupants are just a little too cool for their own good, and it's important to identify the key characteristics of such "freethinking" areas.
The next time you see anything remotely resembling the following 18 warning signs, don't panic. Just know that you're out of your element, and then run as fast as you can. Or, at least as fast as skinny jeans allow.
1. Beard oil and mustache wax are everywhere
The gentleman behind you in line can be heard bemoaning the fact that his favorite brand of small batch mustache wax was bought by “Big Pharma”, even though that makes no sense whatsoever.
2. Absurd alternative lifestyles are the norm
Between loads at the laundromat, you’re sucked into an in-depth conversation with a militant vegan couple about the merits of composting, and why cheese is murder.
3. Walkmen and dated technology are fashion statements
You meet a guy who's wearing those old AM/FM radio headphones, but only as an ironic critique of "the garbage they play on the radio these days".
4. Graffiti is ironic, not gang-related
You see numerous billboards spray-painted over with inane slogans like “DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE”, or “LOVE USED TO MEAN SOMETHING”. Obscure Beatles lyrics may also appear, depending on what city you're in. "OBEY" stickers and ironic "YOLO" tags are also distinct possibilities.
5. You don't understand the music
You pass by a cramped music venue where a dude wearing a flannel shirt and ultra-distressed jeans reads a passage from Moby Dick while repeating the same two mournful chords on his secondhand keytar.
6. Residents are overeducated and underemployed
Each bar has an A-stand outside with a misspelled Mark Twain quote written on it, likely paired with a crudely drawn PBR can.
7. Ridiculous bicycles glide down the streets
While attempting to cross the street, you’re nearly run over by two guys riding atop penny farthing bicycles. You hear one of them hiss something about “bespoke shoelaces”, before they both disappear into the night.
8. Children are named after tween novel characters
You meet a young couple pushing a stroller in the park. Their baby’s name is Shiloh, and they just heard a riveting report on NPR about the pork lobby this morning.
9. Men have cleavage
At the local coffee shop, you’re served an artisanal dark roast by a gentleman wearing a heather gray V so deep you can see traces of his belly button.
10. Abraham Lincoln's pastimes seem cool
It’s after 9pm, and the bar you’re in refuses to use electric lighting. You nearly drink the mason jar candle at your table, mistaking it for your mason jar cocktail.
11. Young people wear clothes even Liberace would shun
A gaunt young man stumbles out of a thrift shop, his arms heavily laden with vinyl windbreakers, argyle socks, and suede vests. He's got a brand-new iPhone pressed awkwardly between his head and shoulder, and mutters the words "I. Can't. Even." to whoever's on the other end.
12. No niche activity is too outlandish
You spot a dude using a typewriter in the park. That is all.
13. People go to bars to do stuff your grandma does
There’s a girl knitting in the corner of every bar, and nobody seems to notice or care.
14. Men's beards would make vikings envious
While standing outside a club at 2am, you meet a guy named Falco with what seems to be a complete Hot Wheels racetrack built into his prodigious beard.
15. Buskers play instruments you've never heard of
There’s a street musician on the corner with a sitar. Nobody’s ever seen him play it, but he spends at least 15 minutes every day tuning the damn thing. He also doubles as a subway kazooist.
16. Old warehouses are new penthouses
You’re surrounded by warehouses, none of which have seen any actual manufacturing since the Carter administration. There’s a really awesome organic market/smoothie shop inside each of them, though.
17. Band names are poetic and/or ironic
You overhear a group of twenty-somethings in the booth next to you crowing about how Fleet Foxes, Sun Kil Moon, and Neutral Milk Hotel are just killing it. Nobody would ever admit to liking groups like Poison, RATT, or Bon Jovi, even if they sing their songs in the shower every day.
18. In general, people just act like idiots
Despite the fact that it’s nearly 90 degrees and sunny outside, you spot no fewer than five people wearing keffiyahs and knit beanies.
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