How to be a hipster

Feeling old comes in waves. I remember turning 23, repeating that classic, petulant Blink-182 lyric on repeat in my head and honestly wondering whether I was “done” because I didn’t feel like going to a party that night. Yikes. But in a way, I was. The styles I’d adopted up to that point became harder and harder to deviate from, the bands I loved then largely remain my favorite bands eight years later. Partly because hipsterdom won, and everyone dresses pretty nicely now. But the adage attributed to the late comedian Lenny Bruce, that “there’s nothing sadder than an aging hipster,” would start ringing in my head from then on. Don’t be that guy. But it’s tricky striking that balance between staying true to your cool self and not making a fool of yourself doing so.

There were other milestones of irrelevance to come: Being called “the adults” by a younger guest at a New Years party thrown by a friend and his 21-year-old sister; speaking to a teacher friend’s middle school class (a notch on the oldness belt itself) and being asked by a student why my shoes were dirty. “Umm, don’t let the J Crew button-up fool you. I am punk fucking rock, kid. I was banging out Buzzcocks covers when you were in utero—oh my God I’m that old guy now, fuck.”

And I’m far from the worst culprit in my cohort. There’s the aging skater still lurking around skate parks and dive bars hiding behind their beanie and Pabst. The aging biker spending too many weekends getting ‘grams in Joshua Tree with their rotating cast of would-be bandmates. Add to that the big city corpo guy with the ever-expanding record(/toy/video game/weed) collection and ever-shrinking pool of people with whom to enjoy them. Hell, one friend has belatedly fashioned himself into an ad hoc SoundCloud rapper, complete with color-dipped braids, and gets called “Lil Pump’s busted ass dad” all day on the internet now.

But who cares what all the cool middle schoolers think? (To be clear: Everyone.) James Murphy was 37 when Sound of Silver came out in 2007. Andy Warhol was 34 when The Factory opened in 1962. Killer Mike and El-P were 38 when the first Run the Jewels album dropped. Lenny Bruce may have been right that it’s harder for the hip at heart to age gracefully, but then, what if they don’t age at all? It doesn’t matter that James Murphy is pushing 50 until he stops making wonderful art. We’ll go see a 52-year-old J Mascis shred out a Dinosaur Jr. show with long hair and Vans, no questions asked. And make no mistake, all of these icons could never have been so cool in their twenties. It took experience to get there. There may be nothing sadder than an aging hipster, but there may be nothing cooler either.

So no, you’re not too old to be cool, but you may be too irrelevant to be cool. If you’re not backing up whatever fashion statement you’re making with an equally contrarian lifestyle—be it in your day job, your side projects, your activism—you’ll end up being that thing the real cool kids can sniff out like a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos: a poseur. But to be honest, even cool middle schoolers probably didn’t understand James Murphy or Andy Warhol at the time. They probably got Run the Jewels because everyone understands good hip-hop, but you get the point. There are cool middle schoolers everywhere in life telling you your shoes are too dirty or you need to dress your age, to stop pretending you’re a DJ or stop wearing Vans. And maybe they’re right, but they’re just afraid of the proverbial high school to come, that they too will age out of coolness, maybe before they’ve even found it.

Show them there’s nothing to be afraid of. Be that guy and be him proudly. Or if your getup is feeling a little infantilizing, switch it up for a more classic look. It’s the second guessing that’ll do you in. Don’t take it too seriously and keep having fun, and you might even end up being that other that guy: the Cool Old Guy. Could be worse.

The heart of the matter, says Brett McCracken, is “whether or not Christianity can be, or should be, or is, in fact, cool.”

Author of Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide, McCracken is a self-proclaimed “Christian hipster.” In a book and website, he explores the “complex, vast, chameleonic nature of hipsters” and how this classification of person — embodying a very particular cultural identity — can interact with the Christian faith.

How to be a hipster

Living a hip lifestyle can be really cool, he says in our interview, “but what is more cool is the message of Jesus Christ. That’s really cool.”

But What Is It?

Hipster Christianity has been touted in a variety of places — from the Wall Street Journal to Details magazine. As a student of comparative religion — and an intern at NPR — I have been intrigued by the intersection of society and faith. So I set out to explore the question: What exactly is hipster Christianity?

“I think we all know what hipsters are,” McCracken says. “In the last decade, the word and phenomenon of hipsterdom has taken a hold on the culture. Hipster Christianity is the Christian manifestation of that — people with esoteric interests going against the grain.”

One of the hallmarks of hipster Christianity, he says, is a conscious separation from the connotations of traditional fundamentalism and evangelical Christianity. “You often see these hipster churches have a deliberate distancing,” McCracken says. “The music that is played is not your grandmother’s hymn; it’s like indie rock or whatever. It’s not hard to find a hipster worship that sounds more like Arcade Fire than a hymn.”

And there is a “renewed emphasis on aesthetics and beauty and culture,” he says. “As Christians, we should be advocating for the best fashion and the best art. If it’s good for everyone, we have to embrace it. There’s an integration of that into church and worship.”

Hillsong Church NYC

Perhaps the epicenter of what McCracken terms hipster Christianity is Hillsong Church NYC in downtown New York City. Services are held every Sunday in a rock ‘n’ roll concert hall, often with queues of hundreds tucked around several blocks. One of the church’s “bouncers” told me that sometimes they don’t have enough space to accommodate everyone for worship.

How to be a hipster

Carl Lentz Hillsong Church NYC hide caption

Hillsong Church NYC

At the two services I attended recently, the crowd was racially diverse, tattooed, pierced and looking as if they belonged in an art gallery or punk-rock band.

One of the main pastors at Hillsong NYC is Carl Lentz, a 35-year-old former college athlete who sports leather jackets and tattoos and is known to be close to several celebrities, including Justin Bieber.

When asked about McCracken’s terminology, Lentz bristles a little. “Can you help me know what a hipster is?” Lentz asks. “I can more accurately answer if I knew — I don’t think I am a hipster, and I don’t think my church is a hipster church.”

He adds, “If by hipster you mean young, funky, artist-y people, then, sure, that’s there. . Our church is an example of a new way of articulating something in a way that people can understand.”

For one thing, the dress code is casual. For another, the church looks a lot like a night club — because it is one. “It’s a rock ‘n’ roll venue,” Lentz says, “so the look of the church is natural. It’s a mixture of being a celebration and an encounter. And most people in New York feel most comfortable in a nightclub anyway, so why not?”

On occasion, the church promotes “beer summits” to bring believers together. “We have connect groups that meet anywhere,” Lentz says, “maybe a bar, at someone’s house, there’s different ways — a church is a way for people to go out, not just come in.”

Christmas In New York

And the holidays are treated a little differently at Hillsong NYC. “Our carols are way cooler than you’ve experienced,” Lentz says. A visitor is “more likely to hear Mariah Carey . than carols by candlelight.”

For Lentz, the seasonal message is this: “Everything we do during Christmas, it shouldn’t just be at Christmas. Go to where the hurting people are, go to the suffering, and help them. We do give-away. We cook dinner and eat with families. We have coat drives, soup kitchen, a lot of outreaches. I pray our church isn’t that different at Christmas than any other time.”

Churchgoer Dionne Dilks says she likes the way Hillsong has turned the idea of Christmas giving into “giving back to our community.”

She points to the toy drives and prison ministry. “Hillsong, I really do feel, is about helping and growing the community in a positive and continued growth — in spreading the word, love and support.”

Hipster Or Not

Maybe, in the end, it doesn’t really matter if Hillsong’s brand of Christianity is hipster or not.

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Feeling old comes in waves. I remember turning 23, repeating that classic, petulant Blink-182 lyric on repeat in my head and honestly wondering whether I was “done” because I didn’t feel like going to a party that night. Yikes. But in a way, I was. The styles I’d adopted up to that point became harder and harder to deviate from, the bands I loved then largely remain my favorite bands eight years later. Partly because hipsterdom won, and everyone dresses pretty nicely now. But the adage attributed to the late comedian Lenny Bruce, that “there’s nothing sadder than an aging hipster,” would start ringing in my head from then on. Don’t be that guy. But it’s tricky striking that balance between staying true to your cool self and not making a fool of yourself doing so.

There were other milestones of irrelevance to come: Being called “the adults” by a younger guest at a New Years party thrown by a friend and his 21-year-old sister; speaking to a teacher friend’s middle school class (a notch on the oldness belt itself) and being asked by a student why my shoes were dirty. “Umm, don’t let the J Crew button-up fool you. I am punk fucking rock, kid. I was banging out Buzzcocks covers when you were in utero—oh my God I’m that old guy now, fuck.”

And I’m far from the worst culprit in my cohort. There’s the aging skater still lurking around skate parks and dive bars hiding behind their beanie and Pabst. The aging biker spending too many weekends getting ‘grams in Joshua Tree with their rotating cast of would-be bandmates. Add to that the big city corpo guy with the ever-expanding record(/toy/video game/weed) collection and ever-shrinking pool of people with whom to enjoy them. Hell, one friend has belatedly fashioned himself into an ad hoc SoundCloud rapper, complete with color-dipped braids, and gets called “Lil Pump’s busted ass dad” all day on the internet now.

But who cares what all the cool middle schoolers think? (To be clear: Everyone.) James Murphy was 37 when Sound of Silver came out in 2007. Andy Warhol was 34 when The Factory opened in 1962. Killer Mike and El-P were 38 when the first Run the Jewels album dropped. Lenny Bruce may have been right that it’s harder for the hip at heart to age gracefully, but then, what if they don’t age at all? It doesn’t matter that James Murphy is pushing 50 until he stops making wonderful art. We’ll go see a 52-year-old J Mascis shred out a Dinosaur Jr. show with long hair and Vans, no questions asked. And make no mistake, all of these icons could never have been so cool in their twenties. It took experience to get there. There may be nothing sadder than an aging hipster, but there may be nothing cooler either.

So no, you’re not too old to be cool, but you may be too irrelevant to be cool. If you’re not backing up whatever fashion statement you’re making with an equally contrarian lifestyle—be it in your day job, your side projects, your activism—you’ll end up being that thing the real cool kids can sniff out like a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos: a poseur. But to be honest, even cool middle schoolers probably didn’t understand James Murphy or Andy Warhol at the time. They probably got Run the Jewels because everyone understands good hip-hop, but you get the point. There are cool middle schoolers everywhere in life telling you your shoes are too dirty or you need to dress your age, to stop pretending you’re a DJ or stop wearing Vans. And maybe they’re right, but they’re just afraid of the proverbial high school to come, that they too will age out of coolness, maybe before they’ve even found it.

Show them there’s nothing to be afraid of. Be that guy and be him proudly. Or if your getup is feeling a little infantilizing, switch it up for a more classic look. It’s the second guessing that’ll do you in. Don’t take it too seriously and keep having fun, and you might even end up being that other that guy: the Cool Old Guy. Could be worse.

How to be a hipster

How to be a hipster

99% of all facial hair is grown to cover up a weak chin.

Some physicians even regarded beards as form of male menstruation.

Some folks still do.

dothemath: Nah, im good.

99% of all facial hair is grown to cover up a weak chin.

Or to hide weight gain. I went clean shaven in 2015 when I had less jowel to cover up. COVID is causing me to rethink that strategy.

dothemath: Nah, im good.

99% of all facial hair is grown to cover up a weak chin.

Sounds like someone can’t grow a beard.

How to be a hipster

mattgsx: dothemath: Nah, im good.

99% of all facial hair is grown to cover up a weak chin.

Or to hide weight gain. I went clean shaven in 2015 when I had less jowel to cover up. COVID is causing me to rethink that strategy.

My personal reason is sheer laziness. Had a summer job in 1986 that required me to shave every morning. The last thing I want to do at 6 am is hold sharpened steel up to my face. I’ve only shaved a handful of times since.

\that one time in winter, brr, never again

I can’t stand a beard. Once I get to about 3 or 4 days growth, it annoys me so much that I have to shave it off.

When I was much younger I grew a goatee and a mustache, and I had long hair, but I can’t pull that look off like Ian McCollum can.

Civilized Barbarian: dothemath: Nah, im good.

99% of all facial hair is grown to cover up a weak chin.

Sounds like someone can’t grow a beard.

Is this Eric or Don Jr.?

How to be a hipster

nyclon: I’ve grown mine during the pandemic, I mean, why not? I’m not going anywhere. Then while shoveling snow I was told I looked like Ivan Denisovitch.

A good non-douche beard is a thing to be proud of.

cowgirl toffee: [i.pinimg.com image 750×750]

This is why I don’t grow a beard, or even a douchestashe. I just run the clippers with the #2 guard over my face once a week.

/and shave the neck

dittybopper: I can’t stand a beard. Once I get to about 3 or 4 days growth, it annoys me so much that I have to shave it off.

When I was much younger I grew a goatee and a mustache, and I had long hair, but I can’t pull that look off like Ian McCollum can.

After a bit it becomes no more noticeable than any other body hair. But yes, the first days are really tough.

/Long time beard guy
//Not a hipster, just fat
///Plus Star Trek teaches us that beards make everything better

dothemath: Civilized Barbarian: dothemath: Nah, im good.

99% of all facial hair is grown to cover up a weak chin.

Sounds like someone can’t grow a beard.

Is this Eric or Don Jr.?

Umm. No on the weak chin thing. That’s not amongst my problems. And I’ve grown a beard until it was about 2 inches off of said chin. I just didn’t care then. I shave about once a week nowadays, because for me during the Covid shutdowns (and curfew where I am) it’s SUPER important to maintain one’s appearance. Especially seeing as I live alone, it’s winter, and the rules are pretty strict about visiting ANYONE.

nyclon: I’ve grown mine during the pandemic, I mean, why not? I’m not going anywhere. Then while shoveling snow I was told I looked like Ivan Denisovitch.

I’ve always let mine grow out during winter as it helps with keeping the blowing snow off of my bare skin while snow blowing or shoveling.

Plus, you end up with a cool (heh) looking snow beard after.

Hipster: “I love Mumford and Sons because they’re so different to popular music nowadays.”
A Million Other Hipsters: “I love Mumford and Sons because they’re so different to popular music nowadays.”
Mumford and Sons consequently becom a popular band because of their large hipster following of people who think they’re being different for listening to them.

(Note: this isn’t a hate on Mumford and sons, it’s just an example!)

How to be a hipster

How to be a hipster

How to be a hipster

Hipsters are a subculture of American consumer for whom the idea behind the marketing holds more value than the product being marketed.

The attachment of certain words, phrases or ideas to a product (e.g.; counter-culture, independent or “indie”, progressive, alternative or “alt”, organic, holistic, “old-school”, etc.) whether that product is music, fashion, technology, food, social media or real estate, is enough to connote to the hipster “authenticity” and value, regardless of whether there is any innate value to be found.

Ironically, the hipster perceives him/herself as the counterpoint to mass-culture and conformity when, in fact the ease with which hipster “culture” can be appropriated, repackaged and marketed makes them the ultimate conformists (e.g.; tattoos were once a sign of rebellion and a badge of one’s outsider status, now over 40% of all Americans under 50 have a tattoo, essentially making them all members of the same tribe.)

Definition #1 was clearly written by a hipster.

Gay porn used to feature nothing but hairless meth-addled circuit queens, now we have to watch skinny, bearded hipsters get facials.

Befuddled observer: “It’s 79 degrees out, why are you wearing a kitted wool cap?”
Hipster: “Because I reject the mainstream banality of weather in favor of an authentic expression of my inner self.”
Befuddled observer: “Oh, I thought it was because you’re a hipster douche-bag.”

How to be a hipster

“Hipster” refers to those who are adopting an exaggerated form of ‘Indie’ style purely for cultural acceptance, whereas the indie style consist of those who are genuinely just ‘INDIEpendently’ minded and it just happens to show through their image and outlook.

There needs to be a realization that ‘Hipsters’ and ‘Indies’ are two different cultures.

‘Jack’ likes a band called “Maps & Atlases”, so he wears their T-shirts. Jack wears straight legged jeans because he doesn’t like the way baggy jeans feel on him, and wears bigger glasses because he likes being able to see more. Jack genuinely thinks, listens to music, dresses, and acts outside of what is ‘popular’, because that is just who he is. Jack is an independent thinker, or “Indie”

‘Nick’ wears a “Maps & Atlases” shirt, straight legged jeans and bigger glasses because he saw it on Jack. Nick envy’s people like Jack. Nick tries to copy their style of dressing so that he can feel more like Jack. Unfortunately, Nick can’t realize that there IS NO style of ‘independent thinkers’, and that as a result of his trying to be ‘indie’, he has bastardized the entire culture. Nick is a hipster.

How to be a hipster

A conversation outside a hipster bar in downtown NYC:

Frat Boy #1: Dude, are you having any luck picking up chicks in there?

Frat Boy #2: Man. I haven’t experienced anything like this before. These chicks are totally rejecting me and going for all these hipster guys in tight pants and shaggy hair instead.

Frat Boy #1: Maybe we should head back up to that bar in Murry Hill where you hooked up with that drunk b*tch from Alpha Sigma Phi last week?

Frat Boy #2: Yeah. I don’t think we have what it takes to compete with these guys in here. These hipster chicks won’t even give us the time of the day!

(Photo credit: José Goulão)

Regardless of the task at hand, the people you work with make all the difference. But when the task at hand is your own take on world domination, a crack team of highly skilled commandos is the difference between limping to the finish line and a ticker tape parade down 5th Ave.

This March, at SXSW, Rei Inamoto, the chief creative officer for AKQA, shared a nugget of wisdom that I’ve observed to be true: “To run an efficient team, you only need three people: a Hipster, a Hacker, and a Hustler.” When I look at the better teams I’ve been a part of, this has absolutely proven to be true.

The Hipster: Usually working their way into the mix as the designer or creative genius, they’ll make sure the final product is cooler than anything else out there. But, not only that, they’ll ensure the shade of blue used to accent the font really brings out the subtle homage to an artist from the ’70’s you’ve probably never heard of.

The Hacker: The one most likely to sit quietly through a board meeting until uttering the three sentences that answers the all important question of “how?” the new idea or initiative can be brought into reality. Resembling MacGyver with their ability to wield various lines of code or programing languages, you’ll get dizzy trying to keep up with their keystrokes.

The Hustler: They have the tendency to be the most misunderstood member of this trio. The Hipster is likely to accuse the Hustler of having sold out to the man because of their constant question of “It’s cool, but is it something our partners and clients want?” The Hacker is likely to do their best to avoid one on one conversations with the Hustler as a result of jock vs. geek episode back in high school.

But, when the Hipster brings the creative design and cool factor, the Hacker brings their utility belt of technology solutions, and the Hustler finds the right way to package it all up and take it to the masses in the form of sales and partnerships, it is a combination that is tough to beat.

The only question is, does your team have all three?

For more thoughts on being the Hustler on a team and the art and science that goes into doing it well, you can follow me on Twitter: @andyellwood Also, tomorrow, Thursday the 23rd at 12:00pm EST I’ll be a guest on The Social Capitalist talking about everything “From Cold Calls to Cocktails.” You can register for the live podcast HERE.

I was trained in finance, tested in private aviation sales, and was a part of Gowalla being acquired by Facebook and Waze being acquired by Google. I now am the…

I was trained in finance, tested in private aviation sales, and was a part of Gowalla being acquired by Facebook and Waze being acquired by Google. I now am the PresidentBasket, the company building the shopping list that tells you where to shop. If you’re interested following along on this wild ride, you can actually Follow Me on Twitter

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