Are Hipsters just licensed yuppies?
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Let’s examine these terms. According to the Oxford English Dictionary – unlike as I think that you’d be forgiven for thinking – ‘hipster’ is actually the older term, originating in the 1940s. It is simply defined as “a person who follows the latest trends and fashions”.
Interestingly ‘yuppie’ is specifically referenced as being ‘derogatory’ for “a well-paid young professional working in a city”. This term predictably originated as recently as the 1980s.
To me, the latter is almost a metaphor for the trend of greed being good and a crass representation of having bought into the status quo’s advertisement of wealth being what ought to be sought.
The top fifth of the UK’s richest now constitute 40% of our wealth. Thatcher’s neo liberal revoking of a post-war consensus throughout her fierce reign between 1979 and 1990 can be witnessed explicitly through the fact that alone top 1% of our wealth constituted just around 8% of our population in the late seventies; now it is below 3%.
So with the numbers of those falling within the top percentage of the UK wealth now being closer to trebling rather than just having doubled since the monetarist revolution began, lead by you know who in 1979, there has to be some inevitability that we have all become a more materialistic society.
This is impossible to fully escape. Over the past 30 or so years, competition has growingly leaked into even the most sacred areas of our society, such as our beloved NHS, social housing and education.
Whilst I should not have any implicit qualms in being labelled a ’hipster’, my major concern with this rests in exactly what is being inferred. What do hipsters actually stand for?
The issue perhaps is that it doesn’t mean anything in itself. In a sense, hipsters almost seem to have become something of a by-product in the licensing of the brutal gentrification that has become of many urban areas, and entrepreneurs are not that stupid; they have tapped into this and lanced into something that the can exploited to serve their interest.
Youth rebellion has always been something to be revered and is instrumental in creating the changing trends and pace of a day. Swathes of people have belonged to the empowerment of the sexual revolution and being able to express this in expressions through being say a hippie or punk. These movements were created by the otherwise disaffected for the disaffected.
Despite also being largely middle-class in their origin, with ‘flower power’ had its reversion of any harm being inflicted upon anybody and disestablishmentarianism. Even if the movement is more aggressive, with everything being defaced along with rebelled against, there was a clear message.
Whereas a hipster seems to have been a phenomena dictated by the ruling class to serve the needs and purposes of those wishing to make money i.e. capitalists.
As with yuppies, there was a clear pursuit of individual interest and is hipster not just this sugar coated and watered down version of something indigestible through being transformed into something palatable?
Overall, you need some wealth behind you get behind a hipster lifestyle. For example, you probably need to come from a home that had a record player, so that you would be familiar with or know how to cotton onto the right ‘obscure’ music tastes along with pay paying above the odds for your grocery shopping in buying all ethical and sustainable produce. And manage not to choke on your quinoa if you’re lucky!
Yuppies were a nasty breed, responsible for being inconsequential concerning the people that they were trampling on in their decisions. Easton Ellis’ Patrick Bateman in American Psycho springs to mind.
It may be something of a chicken or egg question in terms of whether hipsters came as a consequence or were a response to capitalism. Either way, I do not feel that it is fair to tarnish them with the same brush as a yuppie.
Both hipsters and yuppies are an obvious echo of the society that they inhabit. However, you do have to have a certain amount of wealth behind you to fall into either category. To the latter, this is seen as the positive thing in itself, whereas hipsters are more a representation of millennials being a first generation to be less financially stable than their parents and are more in craving of experiences that are at least not so directly materialistic. This gives their supposed want of instant gratification some kudos at least.
If hipsters can exploit their position and question, rather than solely consume, society’s practises, we can use our minds to pool our resources and work collectively for the good of society and eventually break class and cultural lines.
The hipster just needs to act for something, that doesn’t solely involve the material, if it is going to become anything more than an indulgent sentiment to define the privileged young.
In my eyes, the ugliest side to the term of hipster resides in the fact that it reeks of the rampant – along with ever increasing under a Tory Government – inequality that is becoming increasingly commonplace and accepted in our ever more divided society. The term has almost been used to justify our growing inequalities in setting a benchmark label for how you can belong, without specifically believing in anything.
It is not as though I believe that hipsters themselves have done or are doing anything at all wrong. It is almost as though the popularisation of the term has become a licensed way to define the disgraceful element in our supposedly first world society; there are those that HAVE and those that HAVE NOT. These being encouraged and accepted sounds like the mark of a dystopia.
Hipsters are widespread, perhaps I fall loosely into the category (perhaps having being born and bred in London is admittedly a rather limp get out clause…) and if the force is channelled in the right way, I believe that hipsters can represent capitalism with a conscience. Paying what you can afford, wearing second hand clothing and re-using things are all positive things, surely, so instead of stigmatising hipsters, perhaps we need to embrace their trajectory and use it to bring about positive change.
If hipsters can focus on their ability to think and neglect their seeming urge to consume somewhat, maybe the world can be a better place!
 Institute for fiscal Studies