Excerpted from The Hipster Handbook by Robert Lanham. Copyright © 2003 by Robert Lanham. Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Q: What is a Hipster?
A: Hipster is someone who is fashion conscious and a connoisseur of music, art, and fine cuisine. Though Hipsters have always been around (Flappers, Beatniks, and Hippies were earlier forms), today's Hipster experiences being bohemian by shopping at thrift shops, by denouncing something's credibility should it become mainstream, and by striving to be ironic. Hipsters generally consider themselves to be artists who lean to the left politically. Republican Hipster is an oxymoron. In a nutshell, a Hipster is someone who is up on all the latest trends.
Q: A girl walks into the room. What are three sure-tell signs that she's a Hipster?
A: Since Hipsters have so many different styles, it's easier to discern who is a Hipster by identifying who is not. If a girl walks into a room wearing a Tasmanian Devil sweatshirt and carrying a take-out bag of Popeye's chicken, chances are she's not a Hipster.
Q: How many types of Hipsters are there?
A: There are 10 main types of Hipsters and they are outlined in detail in the book. To name a few there are UTFs (Unemployed Trust Funders) who get a little cush from their parents and dress in second hand clothes to appear bohemian. There are Bipsters (blue collar Hipsters) who own pit bulls, work as bike couriers and carpenters, and have no patience with art school pretension. And of course there are Loners, Hipsters who are more interested in collecting imported German records on limited edition vinyl than in being social.
Q: Why did you write this book? Do Hipsters need a handbook?
A: I wrote the book for money and chicks.
Hipsters secretly read TimeOut and watch "Friends," though they'd never admit it. They'll do the same thing with this book. Preppies, princesses, and snowboarders have handbooks, so why shouldn't Hipsters?
Q: Are today's Hipsters different from past Hipsters? Who were some of the great Hipsters in history?
A: Today's Hipsters are obsessed with kitsch. They wear John Deere-style mesh caps and have Loni Anderson posters on their walls. This obsession with kitsch is unique to our time in history.
Some iconic Hipsters are Jack Kerouac who epitomized what it meant to be cool by making his own rules as an artist. Sappho was another especially deck Hipster in history. She was the daughter of royalty and had a trust fund that provided her the freedom to be an artist on the isle of Lesbos.
Q: Is deck really the new cool? What are the latest Hipster words we'll be hearing?
A: There hasn't been a good slang word for cool to come around since "fly", back in the eighties. The term "cool" just seems very Fonzie, so I was glad to hear people using the more current-sounding "deck" in casual conversation. Some other favorites are "frado," which is an ugly guy who thinks he's good looking and "piece," which refers to a Hipster's cell phone. Overall, Hipsters use a myriad of slang, mixing up kitschy words from the past like "dope" and "groovy" with more current terms like "deck."
Q: You live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one of the country's Hipster Meccas. What is it about Williamsburg that attracts Hipsters?
A: Hipsters began moving to Williamsburg, Brooklyn years ago due to a housing shortage and rising rents in Manhattan. The neighborhood is one stop away from the East Village and five years ago was an easy place to find a cheap loft space. Hipsters in Williamsburg now love to complain about gentrification while sipping coffee at the L Café. Unlike most neighborhoods, Williamsburg is amazingly without franchises. Hipsters feel at home living in a Starbucks-and-Barnes-and-Noble-free environment.
Q: Once a trend catches on, Hipsters flee the scene. Is Williamsburg still deck? Or is it over?
A: Hipsters like to claim that Williamsburg is passé, while looking though the classifieds for a Williamsburg apartment and drinking a pint at a Williamsburg bar. The bottom line is that Hipsters consider what is deck to be esoteric knowledge. Once something catches on, they are quick to diss it. Most Hipsters still dig Radiohead, but would never admit it.
Q: Outside of Williamsburg, where are there other Hipster hot spots?
A: Hipsters are everywhere, but here are a few of the hot spots:
Manhattan — Lower East Side
Seattle — Belltown
Richmond — The Fan
Washington, D.C. —The U District
San Francisco — Inner Mission
Cleveland — Coventry
Chicago — Wicker Park
Q: Can aging Hipsters still be deck?
A: As long as they don't work in a store that sells comic books and Lord of the Rings action figures or wear tight T-shirts with decals that say Porn Star.
Q: Music is an integral part of the Hipster's life. Who are the new deck bands?
A: I'm biased being from Brooklyn, but I think a lot of great talent is coming out of this borough. The Rapture, Metro Area, and The Liars are some of my local favorites. I secretly like Ryan Adams too, though I wish he'd stop doing Gap ads.
Q: What does it mean to be midtown?
A: In New York, midtown is filled with Starbucks, Disney Stores, and people who wear hairspray. To be midtown is to be the type of person who goes to TGI Fridays on the weekend to eat poppers and drink Bahama Mamas.
Q: Finally, people will want to know: are you a Hipster?
A: I consider myself more of an anthropologist. My next book will be a sociological study of white baby boomers who dress like Native Americans.
George Bush and John Ashcroft would probably say satire is un-American, so I guess I should avoid defining the book as such. But of course a true Hipster would never admit to being a Hipster.