Saturday, October 29, 2011

What is Hip?

Hipsters (also scenesters) are a subculture of young, recently settled urban middle class adults and older teenagers with musical interests that appeared in the 1990s.  Hipster culture has been described as a "mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behaviors."

The term itself was coined during the jazz age, when "hip" emerged as an adjective to describe aficionados of the growing scene.   Although the adjective's exact origins are disputed, some say it was a derivative of "hop," a slang term for opium, while others believe it comes from the West African word "hipi," meaning "to open one's eyes."  Nevertheless, "hip" eventually acquired the common English suffix -ster (as in spinster and gangster), and "hipster" entered the language.

I have opened my eyes.  If hipster means that I embrace long-ago lifestyles, then no, I am not a hipster.  If it means, as I think it does, that I have "opened one's eyes," then I proclaim myself a hipster.  Case in point:  Music.  I was one of those kids who stood in line for concert tickets and records.  Huge portions of my free time were spent preparing to queue-up at the local record store for a ticket to the latest high-end rock show at The Spectrum.  Now, I can sit on my computer and, in a fraction of the time, get the same ticket to the same show.

We bought records that we would take home and place on turntables, hoping that they would "play." If they skipped, we had a myriad of solutions to make it work.  It was stressful.  Now, I can order an mp3 from several different web sites and know that when I "open file" it will indeed open, without any scratches or surface noise that I experienced (and expected) as a teenager.

If being a "hipster" means that I have embraced my new lifestyle, then I welcome the change.  I like being able to sit at home and order a ticket to a show, or download a noiseless file of new music.  I am an aficionado of the growing scene.


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