The Authentic Hipster, A Manifesto

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It’s an over used word, I know.


I have friends that refuse to use that word anymore.

They feel like it’s a word that has lost its inherent counter-cultural value because of its now globally popular use.

Now-a-days, for the right price, anyone can be a hipster.

Seems as if hipsters have become commonplace.

Ironically, to be a hipster is now a popular trend and it’s packaged and sold in mega chain stores like Urban Outfitters and Target, across the globe.

I find that it is more common now than ever that hipsters are often confused for what I generally refer to as the real thing.

Like any real thing, you know it when you see it.

Nick Cave is the real thing.

Tom Waits.

Jim Jarmusch.

David Lynch.

A tree.

Sonic Youth.

However, it seems as if it is harder to tell with a hipster whether or not she or he is the real thing or just in it for the vanity.

When I meet a hipster who is really hip I often say something like, “so nice to meet someone who is the real thing.”

For purposes of this manifesto rather than using what I realize is a somewhat trite phrase (the real thing) to designate that which I feel is authentic, I am just going to use the word authentic.

The use of the word authentic is just an easy way to cut to the bone.

It gets right to the point.

I understand my friends (two in particular) rejection of the word hipster and I realize that this rejection is precisely what makes them so hip.

The word hipster seems to have lost all connection with the word authentic.

At their core, these two friends of mine are the very embodiment of what it means to be an authentic hipster (more about them later).

I, however, do not mind the use of the word hipster.

I also realize that many people have a problem with the word authentic.

They feel it is too general and is filled with spiritual and psychotherapeutic self-help undertones.

Ok, maybe so, but for the purposes of this manifesto I will use the term authentic hipster only because, like I said, it gets to the point.

Recently, I have been making a concerted effort to use the term authentic hipster more often.

When I use the term authentic hipster it always starts some kind of conversation.

What is an authentic hipster? people tend to ask.

This is my doorway into their perceptions.

For this reason I use the term whenever I can: family gatherings, social engagements, one-on-one conversations, art exhibitions, when volunteering at the homeless shelter, at work and even when engaging with my server at a restaurant.

Granted, maybe I am over zealous in my use of the term authentic hipster, but there is a manifest reason why I am using this word so much.

In the same way that a political activist is passionate about letting people know about what is going on in say Gaza, I want to let people know about the difference between a hipster and an authentic hipster.

It’s important to me.

Until now, I have not taken the time to write a manifesto about the authentic hipster (maybe this is because I am lazy or maybe because I feel a bit too unhip to write a hipster manifesto), so talking about it was my way of making manifest my inner beliefs.

Until now I would talk about the authentic hipster, enlighten people about what it actually means to be an authentic hipster, instead of writing it down.

This manifesto was born out of all those pleasant and sometimes unpleasant conversations.

Throughout my readings and conversations, I have found that the majority of people have very little understanding about what it means to really be a hipster.

They think of Urban Outfitters and rich parents.

Or they think of white pretentious people with mustaches, beards, an American Express card, tomboyish women’s clothes and bad attitudes.

They think of a group of overly stylish people who think that they are better than everyone else.

Admittingly there are indeed elements of all of these traits in the authentic hipster.

The difference is that the authentic hipster, the real thing, is not a person who is just a consumer and a follower of popular trends.

The authentic hipster has constructed a life out of a love for things creative, counter-cultural, underground and artisan.

They are the ambassadors of good taste (you can see this in their clothes, their food, their music, their homes, their cars, the movies they watch and on and on).

They are not in it for the money (vanity) so to speak.

They care about quality and independence.

They care about a radical revision of the way we live our often mundane lives.

When I use the word hipster, I am referring to what I believe is the essence or the root use of this mainly Americanized word (it is also used in England a lot).

I am going back to the beats and using the word hip in the same spirit that they used the word beat.

To be beat was to be cool.

To be beat was to be self educated and passionate about literature, philosophy, art, spirituality, poetry, sculpture, crafts, sexuality, fringe music, style, drugs, and leftist, anti-government political ideologies.

To be beat was to be counter-cultural.

To be beat was to be free of ordinary and often religious social restraints and to dress in a way that was evidence that you were not “one of them.”

Every time that I use the word hipster I am invoking the spirits of Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Patti Smith, Brion Gysin, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassidy, Diana di Prima and Herbert Huncke- for they are the original hipster.

Hell, I could go all the way back to Rimbaud, Keats and Blake but for purposes of this manifesto I will stay with the beats.

The beats really are the soil that the contemporary hipster grows out from.

Most people that I talk to about hipsters think that beat refers to something that happens in a song or in the heart.

Or if they have heard of the beatniks, their knowledge of the genre goes as far as On The Road (which, in most causes they did not even finish reading).

As I often say, it is impossible to understand what it means to actually be an authentic hipster without an understanding of the beat generation.

It is like referring to The White House without any knowledge of who lives there and what goes on inside.

It goes without saying that my two friends (who do not want to be named and who are a lot hipper than I am) were deeply influenced by the beats.

This is the main difference between an authentic hipster and all the rest.

The authentic, contemporary hipster is in some way, shape or form deeply influenced by the beats.

If you consider yourself to be a hipster and you have no or very little knowledge of the beat generation, I recommend that you start reading.

Without this knowledge under your belt, you are an imposter.

You just look good.

My two hipster friends will probably not even get this far in reading what I have written.

By the end of the first page they have probably been put off by my continual use of the word hipster.

Ok, so be it.

They probably think I am being corny by using the term authentic hipster.

Or maybe it is too painful for them to be accurately mirrored in the way I am attempting to do here?

Who knows.

The authentic hipster derives a great deal of his or her confidence from the fact that they are very unique and there are only a select few whom they share things in common with.

This is why often times the authentic hipster is a complete and absolute loner.

When they look around them at their fellow man and women they often feel isolated and disconnected.

This is why the authentic hipster dedicates so much time, interest and energy towards finding musicians, poets, writers, designers, artists and other out of the box creative individuals.

They are continually reaching towards finding some kind of specific connection with something or someone radically different to pull them out of what often feels like a vacuous, uninspired and soulless void.

The Urban Outfitters hipsters don’t even see the void.

They are too distracted by their Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter accounts (the authentic hipster often uses these social media platforms as well, but they are doing it for deeper connection and creative expression- not just distraction, frivolous socializing and vanity.

What my two hipster friends have indirectly taught me is that to be the real thing means that the authentic hipster is actively engaged keeping alive a particular underground or counter-culture that the majority of people in the world have no idea exists.

The reason for this lack of knowledge of this underground culture is because the majority of people do not care enough and/or are not educated enough to dig even a few feet beneath the level of information that is fed to them by popular media outlets.

The majority of people just take the few popular and almost always corporate (big business) options that they are given (what is accessible) and do not go much deeper than that (the majority of hipsters are victims of this corporate, ideological branding process that happens to most in America).

The authentic hipster, on the other hand, keeps the non-corporate, the independent, the counter-cultural alive.

They are heroes of the underground and they have a genuine and often inspired interest in cool niche things.

Most of the niche things that they are interested in are not even noticeable by the majority of people.

Like when the Native Americans could not even see the huge Spanish ships just off the shore because they had no reference point for these ships.

The majority of people have no reference point for the cool niche things (clothes, music, books, furniture, art, fashion, film, design, etc) that the authentic hipster is interested in.

Like the fleet of Spanish ships just off the shore, the majority of people don’t know what the fuck to make of these niche things so in their confusion and ignorance they call them pretentious.

What a tragic misinterpretation.

The authentic hipster is a master crafts person.

They craft their life away from the mundane norm and towards the beautiful, the creative, the organic, the indie, the cultured, the profound, the soul.

They look aesthetically refined because of the careful choices that they make.

Their attention to detail, durability, quality and style in all that they wear, eat, watch, listen to, talk about and on and on creates a way of living that is closer to a work of art than it is to anything else.

Here is a good example of some authentic hipster looks:

Oscar Wilde said that an artist’s greatest work of art is themselves, and the authentic hipster has mastered this way of living.

Everything from their food to their hair to their watches, belts, socks, t-shirts, socks is refined, independently made, artisan and attended to with a concern for detail.

Have no confusion about it- the authentic hipster is much more alive than most people are.

They are engaged with being alive in ways that most people are not.

Life and art are one and the same for them.

In listening to say a piece of experimental music on vinyl, or in reading a highly literary book by an obscure counter-cultural author, they are communicating with a radical energy that is often liberating.

This is why if we can all get beyond our judgments and inferiority complexes (which is natural because authentic hipsters make everyone else acutely aware of just how unhip they are), there is a lot that we can learn from the authentic hipster.

They can teach us things that will enhance our quality of life.

They can teach us about quality and independence.

They can teach us about doing things ourselves (DYI) rather than asking others to do the work for us.

They can teach us about creating our own identities rather than going along with what is socially acceptable and commonplace.

They can teach us about the finer things in life- excellent quality food, smells, sounds and visual imagery.

They can teach us about how to make creativity into a way of being in the world.

In short- they can teach us about how to live independently.

Of course my two hipster friends would not admit to any of this.

If they are still reading this they probably think that I have gone off the deep end.

They might agree that they are deeply interested in niche things.

They might even also admit to having deep reverence for anything underground.

But like I said before, the very thing that makes my two friends authentic hipsters is that they do not see themselves in my description of what it means to be an authentic hipster.

They have an innate aversion.

Only the imposter hipster is like Narcissist who sees his own reflection on the surface of the water and writes all kinds of status updates about it on their Facebook accounts.

These imposter hipsters have done a great dis-service to each and every authentic hipster.

It is mainly for these imposter hipsters that I am writing this.

Please see the errors of your ways and try to correct them.

Stop being just a consumer and learn about the deeper history and meanings behind the very way of being that you have so mindlessly embraced.

Authentic hipsters avoid all things large scale and corporate.

You will not find them at Target or Urban Outfitters (well maybe sometimes).

You will not find them at the new big blockbuster movie (well maybe).

You will not find them on CBS, ABC or NBC (well, you might).

Educate yourself about the counter-culture, artisanal movements and the underground.

Years and years can be spent learning about these things.

There is an endless amount of information and experiences out there but you will find none of it in your local mall, those giant festivals, in the news or on TV.

Just imposters.

Lift yourself out of your limbo so that you can become more informed and move more towards embodying what it truly means to be an authentic hipster.

This is the only way that lasting counter-cultural movements can occur; when the majority of those involved are more than just a look.

When they have depth, purpose and a collective vision.

When they are authentically finding ways of being in the world that have not been flattened by the hands of corporate, common place America (work, house payments, kids, Madmen and weekend sporting events).

This is when a radical movement can be born.

But this is the fatal irony inherent in what it means to be an authentic hipster.

An authentic hipster is by their very nature an outsider.

They live on the margins of society because they do not want to have much to do with society.

They could give two shits about politics and starting radical, counter-cultural movements (some however do care about creating small, independent communities).

The authentic hipster is too in love with their books, music, clothes, coffee, food and general way of life to really care too much about larger social issues.

The way they live their life is their act of political protest.

I suppose this is why I have written this brief manifesto.

I just wanted to let you know about what is going on in the fringe areas of major cities and in the less affluent parts of suburban towns.

The authentic hipster is out there.

They are not all imposters.

Next time you judge one, hopefully you will be able to tell the difference.

And if you are an imposter- hopefully you will find some inspiration in these words and deepen your knowledge about what it really means to be hip…..