The hipster subculture is a global phenomenon that seems to exist all over the world. No matter where you are, you’ll be able to find hipster cafés, bars, venues and fashion boutiques. Hipsters themselves may very slightly according to the country they’re in, but some things are seemingly always the same. What is it that makes this scene so popular and what’s made it so global?

What are hipsters?

Similarly to the word “hippie”, which was originally used in the 60s to describe people from possibly the first truly global sub-culture, the word “hipster” is derived from the word “hip”. Of course, was deemed hip in the 60s and 70s is quite different to what is considered hip nowadays. There are a few things that characterise today’s hipsters by means of being considered hip or cool.

What are today’s hipsters into?

Geek chic is a big trend when it comes to hipsters. Witty T-shirts, thick, nerdy glasses and fancy personal electronics are all part of being cool. Hipsters are early adopters of personal technology such as MP3 players, ebook readers, etc. They like to show off their knowledge of obscure, often nerdy and retro TV shows and books by wearing related fashion.

Hipsters don’t like overt consumerism when it comes to fashion choices. They will often prefer vintage clothes that make them stand out and appear unique and different or go for the complete opposite – well made, basic and nondescript clothing without obvious branding. While some brands are popular, big logos are often not, unless the brand in question is well known for being of high, lasting quality.

Hipster guys often sport beards, including quite long, elaborate ones. In fact, while hipsters are predominantly an urban phenomenon popular with metrosexual men, many hipsters go for the full “lumberjack look” with plaid shirts, tatty blue jeans, a long beard and muscles earned at a gym. This may appear fake to some, but a good explanation for this phenomenon is that hipsters are trying to reconnect with older styles of masculinity. Another option, of course, is that they simply just like the look of the style, which is a common feature of the hipster scene.

Both men and women often colour their hair, with bright colours of multicolours being the norm. While not as extreme as punks, hipsters do like to make an instant impression and there are many trends in hair design that are meant to give the wearer a completely unique look (until everyone else imitates it).

Although often misguided, hipsters generally attempt to be environmentally aware. They will often prefer tote bags to plastic bags, ride bicycles rather than drive cars and follow trends like juicing and organic living. They will often ignore the fact that many of their personal electronics come with a high environmental price tag.

Hipster superficiality

In fact, while appearance and style are extremely important to hipsters, there has been much criticism of the scene when it comes to actual substance.  Also, as most hipsters are millennials, they are often accused of selfishness and lack of global awareness, in spite of the subculture’s global reach.

The hippies had obvious ideals of personal freedom, free love and a certain return to nature. The punk scene was anti-establishment, while 80s goths came together as a subculture of depressed rejects. With hipsters, it’s hard to find a common thread that goes beyond the desire to be unique, stand out and consume popular culture. While it’s true that some great things have come out of the hipster movement such as shared working spaces, an emphasis on locally sourced artisan foods and crafts, etc. Much of it still comes across as a simple attempt to be cool.Hipster popularity

Hipster popularity

The Internet and the prevalence of American movies and TV shows featuring hipster characters has led to an explosion of this subculture across much of the world. Like with every other scene, what travels first is the look, followed by popular music and culture. Digital nomads are often hipsters, as this subculture is popular with the creative and digital crowd. As a result, you can find more and more nearly identical cafés, bars and restaurants around the world, all based on the hipster design. Like the fashion choices, this design is based on quirky, retro elements (often mismatched) or a modern, somewhat nerdy look with clean lines and witty, clever cultural references. Like the rest of the hipster scene, this homogenous look has raised some criticism. It’s part of the gentrification of many old neighbourhoods, as they turn into the favourite haunt of the arty, affluent crowd.