I was having a discussion with a friend about Hipsters and Hippies today, as she was dismayed at the rate in which they have quickly populated much of the greater NYC area. My friend, a transplant from the cornfields of the far west, is very much a conservative (think perky, 1950s housewife, minus the Valium) and who has a great distaste for Hipsters and Hippies. She believes they have tainted her NYC existence, as her humble abode is now turning trendy and expensive. Her distaste has caused her to interchange the words Hippie and Hipster to define our 20-something peers. Being a somewhat reformed hippie myself (unbeknownst to her!), I have to set the record straight.
Profile of a typical HIPSTER: lives in Williamsburg, lower East Side, invading areas of Sunset Park, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Greenpoint, and Clinton Hill. Has a large trust fund to finance the apartment, which they furnish with “finds” from street curbs/craigslist, goodwill, vintage stores, or inherited from their parent’s third summer house. Wears tight pants, smokes, hates other Hipsters, and talks incessantly about art, creating art, displaying art, defining true and authentic forms of art, how other people’s forms of art as not true and authentic art. Most likely looking tortured, or paying a lot of money to look tortured. Personal hygiene is questionable (“I don’t have money to pay the bills” – a blatant lie! Water is included in most NYC rents, especially ones requiring parents to co-sign the lease, as well as partially or wholly finance). Exists primarily in NYC. Close relatives are borderline Goths and Indie Concert Nerds found in other parts of the continental US.
Profile of HIPPIE: lives in a rent-controlled hole in the Village if they are lucky, outer boroughs if not, hangs out in Union Square. Hippie ideals include going back to nature, and the old/primitive way of things. Wears all natural fibers (think hemp and linen), eats only raw foods, makes their own deodorant, likes to protest the big and minuscule, either abstains completely or smokes a lot of pot, does Yoga, takes vitamin supplements for added nourishment when eating raw foods is not enough. Drinks and eats many soy products. Personal hygiene is very questionable. Hair most likely in dreads or general disarray (carefully windswept with clay or wax-based hair products).
These two profiles seemingly have nothing in common at first glance; upon closer inspection, they have a lot in common, which leads me to believe that my friend was right in using the two words interchangeably. For example, both hippies and hipsters have questionable personal hygiene habits. The hipster because he supposedly can’t afford it, the hippie because they don’t want to bow down to social convention, or that they are too high on “herbs” to realize they smell like old cheese whiz. They also take themselves way too seriously – this is to be expected from Hipsters, but is a bit disappointing for the Hippies, as they are supposed to be accepting of diverse view points and all of that brotherly love stuff. In reality, they only love/screw those that support their particular view of life and try to shame others into believing what they believe is to be the only way to live life (of which I have been plenty guilty of, in my most zealous phases of my life, I admit).
Because Hipsters and Hippies have so much in common, they are bound to hate one another. One medium however, has brought them together, as I am finding out more and more: knitting, of course! It is very logical – from the Hipsters point of view, knitting is a form of art, and a FIBER art, no less. Hippies, on the other hand, who think they invented the Greening movement, knitting is the ultimate “Green” activity. What better way to sustain local sheep farmers, say f*** you to mass consumer culture and be at one with nature by touching soft, hand-spun yarn bought on prime real estate in Soho?
While the fiber art form of knitting bridges the difference between the Hipsters and Hippies, another thing will inevitably occur to converge the two cultures – old age. As the body muscles wear down, so does the will to live uncomfortably – walking everywhere loses its Greening appeal, and eschewing personal hygiene will be compromised for the banking/investment jobs needed to afford the trendy diggs. Yes – the hippies and hipsters of yesteryear will become the present day Yuppie. Soon enough, they will start to shop at whole foods (it’s organic!); buy items from Ann Taylor Loft, J Crew, and Brooks Brothers (they have wool and silk!); “interacting with nature” will equal sailing on a motorboat or kayaking near their long island summer home; “art” will take the form of ostentatious purchases in overpriced flea markets or foreign trips abroad. Sad but true. As I quickly depart my mid-twenties to approach my late twenties I feel am feeling the inevitable slide into yuppy-dom. No one can save me now.