Sadly, I did not attend the N+1 throwdown over the nature of the hipster, but the Observer’s Reid Pillifant did.
The story brings to mind a question of some local interest: Does D.C. even have hipsters? This question is the subject of not infrequent discussion amongst city residents who may or may not be hipsters. It’s almost universally true that the more likely someone is to deny that D.C. has hipsters, the more hipsterish he or she is. It’s difficult, usually, to get anyone of a hipsterish bent to name someone who might actually qualify; if they do, it’s usually some unnamed fellow originally from New York who has already discovered and discarded out of boredom every band currently playing shows in the United States, and has just moved to a cabin somewhere outside of Portland in order to eat sprouts and make a series of records (vinyl only, dudes), each of which consist of a dozen singles that make use of only one note. “It’s going to be really pop, though. Or that’s what he says, anyway. I hear he’s working on B flat right now. I’m interested, I guess. But it probably won’t be as good as the third track on C Sharp.”
And certainly, no hipster will ever admit to being one him or herself. To do so would be to rock the foundations of everything that hipsterdom stands for. Yet the penchant for denial still seems somewhat curious to me: Perhaps hipsters increase their hipsterosity by denying their own membership? Perhaps it’s a form of penance for, say, failing to correctly identify an old Flying Luttenbachers song while listening to music at a friend’s apartment? Or perhaps it’s a secret-society sort of thing — denying in hopes of protecting the existence of the order. The first rule of hipster-club, etc. etc. “What? Hipsters? I don’t know. I’m sure they exist, but I’m not one. Not even close! I think I’m skipping the festival this year, by the way. I don’t want to miss my leather-working group, and, you know, it just seems like mumblecore is kind of played out already.”
At the same time, anyone who cops to being a hipster immediately attracts suspicion about his or her hipster bona fides. There’s a certain Alice in Wonderland quality to it all, really. Hipsters must refuse to acknowledge their own hipster status or risk losing that status. No one can ever admit to it, probably even to themselves. And no one can ever truly be certain of who is or isn’t a hipster. Which means that answering the original question is rather difficult. D.C. may have hipsters. It may not. I’m certainly not one, and it’s unclear whether anyone of my friends count, though I may have met one or two in my life. It seems mostly doubtful that a city so earnest and unstylish might produce true hipsters. Still, the city’s undergoing something of a renaissance, so one never knows: A friend took this picture of the crowd outside the bay window of rad local dive DC9 last summer. I’ve shown it to others in the past, and some say it’s proof that hipsters are here indeed, while others say it’s evidence that hipsters will never — could never — exist in this city. Make of it what you will.