Question: Did the word “hipster” EVER have an actual definition in modern (re: last-ten-years-or-so) slang parlance? Or has it always been solely a way for nerds to call other nerds nerds?

31 thoughts on “Words

  1. Q says:

    Silence! You hipster peon. For I am the only true nerd here!

    You see, nerds read Marvel and DC.
    Hipsters read Jump.

    Nerds love parody.
    Hipster love satire.

    Nerds try to act cool by being Rambo
    Hipster try to act cool by being Neo
    *both fail.

    Nerds love the 80's
    Hipster love the 90's

    Nerds wear colors
    Hipster wear black

    And most importantly, nerds say to-MA-to while hipsters say to-Ma-to.

    I'm guessing Bob's answering the criticism to 'Scott Pilgrim'


  2. Bob says:

    Nah, I'm just honestly wondering. I hear this all the time now, and have used it myself, but it occurs to me that it doesn't seem to have a real meaning…


  3. Nojh says:

    Not that I've ever been up on the latest slang, but I was told hipster referred to a particular style of music geek. Certain style of fashion that looked like it wasn't fashionable, a preference for indie music, and general snobbish attitude.

    I think, anyway. I had to ask one of my more socially conscious friends what it meant and that was more or less her answer. She pointed out a few hipsters to me at an viz festival we went to.


  4. Sarge says:

    Excuse me nerds, but the distinction between Satire and Parody is that parody criticizes a text for failing to live up to the standards of real life, while satire criticizes real life for not living up to the ideals of art.


    –A Hipster


  5. Q says:

    Damn it, Bob, I was trying to be smog and presumptuous.

    Let's see here, Hipsters have mostly been characterized as having a more Eastern style and sense of fashion (mostly black and form fitting), an almost smog rejection of emotions, and a very ironic sense of humor.

    How's that?


  6. Oliver says:

    There has already been (in 08) a lot of discussion about this from various quaters.
    (here hare here)

    A geek has a ligitimate interest and a hipster is a dedicated (unthinking) follower of fashion. Basically nowadays a geek is the person speaking and a hipster is everyone else.


  7. James says:

    I always thought that hipster just meant self-consciously indie.

    Honestly, a better development than Bros (yesteryears frat boys). At least hipster music is better.


  8. Jabrwock says:

    My niece's friend basically embodies what hipster means to me. Always desperately trying to find the latest “anything”, so he could be first to wear X, first to watch anime show X, first to discover band X. And he would whine incessantly about stuff he liked “selling out” to become “mainstream”. This is why they focus on the obscure and the indie, the bigger chance of it being unknown to the population at large, inflating their self-worth for being a source of “new” and “trendy” things, even if this means resurrecting dead fashion statements, because they are no longer “mainstream”.

    The guy practically started crying when he found out that me and my wife, two 30+ year olds, had known about a particular anime series longer than he had. It was like we shattered his dream of self-importance.


  9. Axle says:

    Yeah I think Jabrwock nailed it. Being “indie” just for the sake of it, basing their whole worth on how much they aren't a part of the mainstream crowd. I never actually associated it with a type of nerd. Are you supposed to?


  10. Nojh says:

    Well if hipster is trying to be uber-indie, then yeah they're a kind of nerd. Nerds are, for the most part, forcefully indie because the mainstream labels things outside of it “nerdy”.

    'course there is plenty of indie stuff that isn't nerdy, so much as just not recognized by the mainstream. When recognized, the thing “sells out” like anime did for awhile, or a particular band.

    That make sense?


  11. jameshayes says:

    well, lets turn to the difference between “nerd” and “geek” in popular culture.

    i always thought “geek” referred to someone who had a sort of “obsession” over anything related to pop- (mainstream-) culture, whereas “nerd” referred to a generally uncool person, who may or may not attempt “coolness” of any sort.

    if those definitions hold, then, yeah, i think that “hipster” is totally a way for nerds to call other nerds nerds.


  12. Chris Cesarano says:

    Interesting. I've never considered nerdy and hipster to necessarily cross over except where Apple Computers are concerned.

    Whenever I think of the term hipster, I think of the sort of smug coffee shop person that thinks they are truly enlightened based on their fandoms and lifestyle choices. They aren't artists, they are arteests. Everything they love has a greater meaning to it! Or perhaps because they order some sort of cockacinno with ten different French names it means they're better than you.

    When it comes to distaste for things like, say, MTV, to me nerds and geeks will shudder but they'll make fun of it. A Hipster is going to retch and start listing off every band that they love because blah blah blah.

    I've never quite gotten a hipster vibe from Scott Pilgrim like other people have claimed since the music always seems to be done in a sort of background fashion, even though the band is a central part of it. Pretty much the closest thing to hipster is the characters making a Vegan Shepard's Pie to be “inclusive”. To me, though, a genuine Hipster is more like Todd. “He's a vegan. That means he's better than everyone else.”

    But it's stated in such a manner that it's like they're making fun of that sort of attitude, the Hipster ideal that you are somehow better and enlightened for your unpopular choice.

    But I've never found pompous coffee shop jerks to cross over with nerds and geeks, though. Maybe the real issue is that there IS no clear concept of what a hipster is.


  13. Margok says:

    The actual substrate of hipster culture changes faster than anyone can keep up with, but I think that the one constant feature of the idea of a 'hipster' is a perceived elitism, the idea that because you are able to appreciate indie movies/obscure bands/unusual fashions/philosophy/whatever, you are entitled to look down on the conformist 'sheep'. This is made especially grating by the fact that the majority of these 'hipsters' have contributed nothing visible to society at all – the general stereotype is of a scruffy unemployed snob who spends their time obsessively complaining about how all music/film/fashion sucks without ever contributing anything of their own.

    The reason Scott Pilgrim is seen as being a 'hipster movie' (other than Michael Cera), I think, is that it contains such a wealth of references and in-jokes that it's just the type of film that you can imagine one of these hipsters watching to feel superior to people who don't get all of the shout-outs. Never mind that there are hilarious accessible jokes in there too, or that the choreography is brilliant, or that the supporting cast is brilliant. No one likes to be looked down upon, justified or not.


  14. Tom Shapira says:

    I think the main difference comes where the two cultures intersect – the love of the unknown (out-of-mainstream):
    Nerds and hipsters both like things outside of mainstream – but nerds simply likes them for what they are while (part of the reason) the hipster loves them because they are out of the mainstream. When Star Trek: TNG (or The X-Files) was hugely popular nerds still liked it because it was of their interest – nerds wouldn't stop Superman if the comics became popular. But if something hipsters like ( I dunno – Godspeed You Black Emperor maybe? I'm really out on those things) becomes popular they are expected to shun it.
    Nerds are pushed out of the mainstream, the hipsters try to escape it.
    Now – I like (some) obscure things, and will seek out “strange” movies / books / music – but I do it because I can't always get satisfaction from what the mainstream offers me, if all my friends start quoting Bear Vs. Shark tomorrow I would be happy because now I share something I like with more people.


  15. Dav3 says:

    To me a “hipster” is any person who believe they're cooler than they are and demands that you agree with them. Similar to a yuppie, but with different tastes. Also, most hipsters are the offspring of yuppies.

    I define a “Nerd” as a person who A: knows more about the lives of fictional characters than they know about their family members, or B: Spends more than 80% of their time with inanimate objects (HAM radios, model trains, stamp collections, etc.)

    A “Geek” is different. To me, Nerds are intelligent, skilled, educated, and can even be athletic and popular (in rare cases)

    Geeks however, are defined by being unintelligent, unathletic, and unpopular. Basically good for nothing, but too dimwitted to even be aware of it.

    I think there is some overlap in these terms, but they're not synonymous.


  16. Joe says:

    I think I'm a bit too old to weigh in. My first encounter with the word “hipster” was in high school (FYI: 1993) from the lyrics to the Smashing Pumpkins' “Cherub Rock”, where it's used more or less as a neutral label, and subsequent interviews with Billy Corgan, where he claimed he wasn't one. I didn't hear the word again until about 2 years ago, when my job required me to care about current musical tastes again, and I started reading Questionable Content, which is apparently the ur-hipster webcomic.

    I still have no idea what the hell the term means, but I mostly see it used pejoratively. But being in my 30s, I see most of this bickering between music and fashion subcultures to be silly and pointless, especially since all new music and fashion is crap and can't hold a candle to the music I grew up with, and when we did it we had decent music to fight over, and by the way, stay off my lawn you punks!


  17. Bromez says:

    I live in San Francisco and we've got ourselves some hipsters out the ass. Telltale signs include:

    fixed gear bike
    Pabst Blue Ribbon beer
    Parliament cigarettes
    Listens to Animal Collective
    has a tumblr
    justifies weird choices in fashion with invoking irony
    self-important/self-involved attitude (Actual hipster quote that drives a friend of mine mad: “You see, the kind of person that I am…”)

    There are others I'm probably forgetting but that's a fair cross-section of things that you can tell someone is a hipster by. At least around here where everybody in their early-to-mid-twenties (like me) is some shade of the cultured and worldly liberal intelligentsia THAT IS DESTROYING AMERICA BECAUSE DID YOU KNOW THAT THEY HAVE GAYS THERE?


  18. Harm-Jan van der says:

    In my language(Dutch) we don't use the word Hipster, we do however use the word “Hip”. The word basically means that someone/ some activity or something is considered cool and edgy by the participants but no one else can be bothered about it.


  19. H says:

    Dammit, Chris Ceserano! You're always voicing the same opinions as me before I can!

    But yeah, I've been confused by the overuse of “hipster”. If it means what I think it means (pretentiousness based on distance from the mainstream), Then I've always wondered why Scott Pilgrim is often labeled as “hipster”. Yeah, the series has a lot of appeal to hipsters, with all the “indie” music influence and video game stuff (and all the very gay-friendliness), but it's just being honest, as those things are big influences on the psyches of the series' target audience, folks who grew up in the 80's and 90's. And even then, it does seem to mostly make fun of those kinds of people who follow trends because they're “hip” and “alternative”. Not to mention the big bad runs a club that's basically a big sellout, yet swarms of hipster douches swarm to it. Let's face it, the “mainstream” market understands what appeals to these people, and you'd have to be stupid to not notice that affecting all sorts of advertisement. Miracle Whip comes to mind, though I pray they're just being cute.


  20. Keith says:

    I have the pleasure of being a nerd with hipster friends and can tell you the main difference that I can spot is that hipsters are growing up in an age where their particular type of nerdness is more tolerated. Other than that though there is barely a difference. The label of elitist can apply just as easily to many of my nerd friends. If you are not privy to the joys of a particular culture or sub culture it is much easier to label them as a collective and dismiss them. The vision of hipsters sitting around in a coffee shop discussing how out of the mainstream they are and how much better that makes them is the same thing as the vision of nerds fat, full of acne and sweat sitting in the basement of their mom’s house playing D&D.


  21. Dave Kraft says:

    I don't think the labels really matter. The point is the general concept of things. Within each of these parts of social strata lies smaller social cliques that don't necessarily get along with one another. For whatever reason, anime geeks and comic geeks have a hard time getting along with one another.

    However, I always did perceive hardcore American otakus as the yuppie equivalent of geek culture. When I went to college, a large number of them were quasi-bohemian white people mixing anime references, Japanese phrases, etc. into everyday conversation like it's the “shi-shi” thing to do. God forbid you don't get the in-jokes and references, they perceive you as being beneath them and exhibit superiority complexes…. this may not be a great generalization of an entire demographic due to the isolated sample population I'm referencing but I get the feeling you guys all have had similar experiences with otakus…..

    For the record, I loathe yuppies.

    Comic nerds have a different problem altogether, one which resembles that of gaming culture when it comes to the pejorative use of the term “fanboy”. I'm sure most (if not all) of us are fans of one facet of nerd culture or another, but I'm sure some of us have had interactions with fanboys who keep demanding stuff and don't seem to understand the thick of things. I'm not even talking about comic trivia, just some really basic common-sense things. Unfortunately, many fanboys a) don't read or haven't read more than MAYBE one book in the past year (and they think they'll be the next big writer….. lulz), b) don't really understand anything about production or the business ends of the industries, and c) create biases based on their fandom which clouds their ability to accept new and different directions, which they are often hostile to. Then comes the hypocrisy, in which something like Heath Ledger's Joker is initially decried when the photos were leaked and then universally loved when he hit the screen, and when more things like that are suggested (such as taking a bimbo character like Harley Quinn and making her a more Nolanverse-esque, Hush-like, plain-clothed psychotic psychiatrist as a literary foil for Batman and his final descent into his own psychosis) fans bash the very idea. Then again, if fanboys actually saw concept art for it or saw it when it hits the screen, then they might actually love it. Then there's the fan-casting, which leads to the rumor mill (which, frighteningly enough, many people believe to be truth), and many fanboys lack the capacity to understand why a variety of fan-casting choices for both characters and the actors to portray them would be utterly inappropriate for a certain director's creative vision. You see the same thing with gamers who beg for additional content a) which the games don't support, and b) which the developers may have already made statements about. I could go on for hours and hours about this, but I'm pretty sure you all get what I'm saying.

    Unfortunately, due to many more aspects of nerd culture than anime-related franchises being proliferated through video games, comic and gamer fanboys seem to be a much bigger problem than anime geeks, who seem content being secluded into their own little social groups where a) they don't bother anyone, and b) they can't be bothered dealing with others who may have an inferior understanding of obscure anime titles that have yet to come to the US.

    Also, I think comic and gamer nerds may overall have a greater desire to feel accepted in the greater culture. All the anime geeks I knew in college seemed pretty content as they were, and even moreso when we studied abroad in Japan.

    But again, that's just my view on things, which is somewhat restricted due to the smaller population I'm sampling here (unless, of course, others here have had similar experiences).


  22. Marsailis says:

    Come on guys, we all know only hipsters like shit films like A Serbian Film. Speaking of which, everyone who commented should watch A Serbian Film, chalk full of MovieBob's favorite delights…

    Sex, graphic violence and deeper meanings?!?!?!?!


  23. Chuck says:

    I dunno, I hear hipster and I think of Say Anything's “Admit It!” — “Despite your pseudo-bohemian appearance and vaguely leftist doctrine of beliefs, you know nothing of art or sex that you couldn't read in any trendy New York underground fashion magazine.” In that, the very first line you hear in the song, I find a slew of things that nerds, don't, actually, partake in. Granted, just a few words here and there could be substituted to make the statement apply to nerds, but as the song stands it's aimed squarely at hipsters.
    The “hipster vs. nerd” argument I think is a matter of whether one defines a nerd as someone with an obsessive passion towards ONE aspect of nerd culture or ALL of them, a concept made quite difficult when you see that “computer nerd” and “computer geek” have been interchangeable for the past 15 years.
    And you thought the English language was always evolving. Piffle.
    The idea that hipsters want to be included but nerds wanna be all lone wolf and shit is starting to no longer apply, as personal observational experience — at least on campus, no greater hive of scum and villainy — tells me that nerds are starting to enjoy the same pastime of hipsters, that of the War of Meaningless Factoid Minutiae, while hipsters are so fed up with their own subculture they retire to their basements. The pendulum it swings opposite.


  24. Hyrabethian says:

    Bob, hipsters are just today's generation of insecure teenagers that over compensate by acting cool according to what's considered “cool” right now.

    I mean you know the history.

    In the sixties you had kids wearing t-shirts demanding they free Huey when they didn't even know who Huey is, a generation of unwashed so and so called political activist that talked about changing the world by…having lots of sex and not getting a job??

    In the 70s you had a generation trying to recuperate from the 60s, then finishing the decade off by creating disco. In the 80s you had any kid that though a mullet was a good hair style, and the 90s (our generation) you had us, a group of grungy misfits that thought being cool was all about not giving a shit and acting like and angsty prick all the time (also we had the black counter part of being a “gangsta” and wearing pants 3 sizes too big).

    Hipsters are just today's answer to all that stupidity, a generation of kids that like to divide the entire world into two categories of either FAIL or EPIC and the occasional PWND! To them being cool is all about how many meme/internet/video game references you can dish out in a minute. For them, real exposure to the world is accomplished through their cell phones even when they're messaging the person standing right next to them.

    They don't have an original bone their bodies, and a personality is something very very alien to them.

    Of course you can't blame them for the same reason you can't blame any person that been through that age.

    They're teenagers! Inexperienced! Or another words, stupid!….=/


  25. caostotale says:

    Hipsters and nerds are two very different things. Nerds are anti-social types who get really mentally-invested in their hobbies and interests. Those interests could include action figures, TV shows, video games, mathematics, chess, science, sci-fi books, comics, etc… but the most important defining aspect is that these are active interests that usually operate outside of overarching social influences.

    Hipsters, on the other hand, are completely driven by social motivations, albeit social motivations that add up to a sort of anti-establishment counter-culture. Rather than pursuing actively individual interests like nerds would, they take the “mile-wide-inch-deep” approach and accumulate tons of references, internet memes, etc… and care more about carving out a social existence built on a language of those things.

    There's good reason for these juxtapositions to boil their way to the top in light of the Scott Pilgrim movie/graphic-novels. All the video game references and indie band namedrops are couched in a collection of characters that were created to glorify and celebrate the pithy and immature hipster lifestyle, to the point where the whole thing seems whorish and cheap. Whereas a lot of people can identify with that group's slacker behavior and ironic dialogue, there's plenty of other people from the gaming world who think that those people are pathetic, worthless, lazy douchebags who are a drain on society and have nothing to offer the gaming/music/art/literature worlds in return.


  26. Mischlings says:

    I don't know if you're likely to see this, Bob, but I saw a definition of hipster (on Cracked, I think) that explained it perfectly: “A hipster is the guy who thinks he's better than you because he's so aggressively different.”

    That's basically all it is. Now, there are certain common elements beyond that (a fetish for Apple, PBR, fixed gear bikes, music/movies not even you have heard of, etc.), but all that really matters is that they're aggressively different to the “mainstream” because it makes them feel like they're better than you.


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