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I can remember the first time. In the middle school hallway, between periods, as my own sequestered "top-track" English class snaked its way toward History. There was a point where two hallways happened to merge, and it was at this intersection, bottlenecked, practically clinging to the wall, my fingernails digging into my Lamborghini-themed Trapper Keeper, that I caught my first glimpse.

He came stumbling out of art class. Green army jacket. Boots. And there, no more than ten feet away from me, it stood: a perfect blond Mohawk. Right here in South Jersey. Spellbound, I watched as this creature glided effortlessly down the hallway, no doubt on his way to some smoking break or weekly appointment with the guidance counselor. Carefree, without a thought or worry in the world. I stood there quivering.

The days that followed were more confusing than the time my friend Chris doubted his sexuality. I simply could not remove the Mohawk from my consciousness. Was he part Native American? Could he still wear a hat? What did his parents think? How did he decorate his bedroom? Did someone shave the hair for him, or did he do it himself? Did the feat require two mirrors? An electric razor? Would such an act require more coordination than, say, swishing a shot from half court, or less? How much time passes, precisely, from the moment he wakes up to the moment he realizes, "Oh yeah, I have a Mohawk"?

I was dying to confront him. Unfortunately, my overwhelming timidity and rigorous academic schedule forbade such a possibility. Besides, if I were really going to work up the kind of nerve necessary to execute such a gambit, it would surely be in the service of asking Karen Sloan for a dance at Friday evening's dreaded Valentine's event. Moreover, I had been on occasion privy to this pre-shorn personality's penchants for violence and irrationality. Once I had seen him kick (kick!) someone in the head. Another time I watched from a distance as he drank a can of wood stain in shop class while daring our hapless instructor to stop him. I'm not joking.

So began my affinity for sliding into the shadows. I started tailing him, listening from the next stall, "absentmindedly" falling into the free lunch line behind him, feigning bewilderment at my own sudden enrollment in the music elective. All the while jotting notes, hastily, crudely, my wrist sore from exertion. I could not satiate my curiosity. Who were these Dead Kennedys? Did the correct execution of an anarchy symbol require the use of a protractor? Did these guys love Webster as much as I did?

My consumption of Hipster culture soon knew no bounds. I wanted to immerse myself in the peculiarities of their day-to-day existence, to observe as they dyed each other's hair, wondering all the while what they had once been, and who. There was a period, before I became married to my work, when I even became emotionally attached to a specimen or two. I should have known that such things are not meant to be. But I was younger then, and foolish. I even had a goatee.

August 2003

Corporate Hipsters

exterior: Muscular, husky build. Dress similar to AlternaBoys or Indie Rockers. Denim jeans; trendy sandals; chunky dress shoes; vintage button-up shirts; tight solid T-shirt (blue, gray, or black).
accessories: Sunglasses (indoors or out); garish hat; sneer.
markings: Tattoos and piercings rare.
voice: Excitable, incessant chattering.

This species is noted for its mysterious ability to reside on the cutting edge of countercultural trendiness despite staunch pro-corporate and anticreative leanings. As role players and mimics, the species knows no equal. To the casual observer, Corporate Hipsters may at many times appear authentically alternative. They spend considerable effort, energy, and most importantly cash perpetuating this ruse and have grown quite adept at it.

The species funds its stylish lifestyle through a lifetime of non-creative and uninteresting work. As a result, these cretins are able to afford better goods and services than the actual Hipsters whom they strive to emulate. Like AlternaBoys [see entry], Corporate Hipsters have been greatly abetted in their mission by the advent of web design, a profession which allows them to remain employed by conglomerates, yet in a pseudoartistic, often "freelance" capacity.

As tourists in two distinct worlds (Corporate/Hip), they belong wholly to neither. Lacking the talent and courage necessary for pursuing a career in the arts, while at the same time retaining the delusions of creativity which obstruct a wholesale integration into office life, these Hipsters are relegated to a murky, confused, and ultimately pathetic mental state. As a result, they can be incredible bores at both parties and dinner gatherings.

The species is able to transform itself from Corporate to Hip at will. While experts estimate that this metamorphosis generally occurs between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, the process has never actually been observed in nature.

As noted above, the species appears Hip by assuming the aesthetics of certain legitimately Hip species, particularly those generally less flamboyant [see AlternaBoys, DJs, Indie Rockers, Starving Artists]. The seasoned observer need not be fooled. Several specific character traits reliably give the species away for what it truly is. They are:
1. An Ex-Frat-like love of weekends [see entry].
2. A penchant for self-promotion and resultant dismal creative advice giving [e.g., suggesting topics for a writer to pursue].
3. An inability to recognize the point at which one may be too accessorized.
4. An insistence on having the last word, regardless of expertise or even familiarity with the subject [e.g., publishing, politics, urbanization, infrastructure, cinema, et al.].
5. A continual cycle of self-rationalization and explanation [e.g., listing the various reasons why they have decided not to quit their job to pursue the arts].
6. A loud, booming voice.
7. Muscles.
8. An inability to compromise.

Mating Rituals:
In order to ensnare an agreeable female, Corporate Hipsters troll pools of slightly younger, noncreative Career Girls.* Often fresh off post-Graecus relationships, these victims are easily fooled and wooed by the comparably non-Frattish behavior of the Corporate Hipster, who treats them to a whirlwind of expensively chic and culturally advantageous outings [e.g., sushi dinners, outdoor concerts, Pygmalion-esque museum trips, etc.]. The female's simple relief at the break in her vicious cycle of sports bar alcohol slinging and late-night vomiting leads to a fairly high success rate.

By day, Corporate Hipsters are best viewed in well-populated lunch-break terrain. However, in such environments they are quite physically indistinguishable from normal Corporate Types.
By night, the species will only tread upon acknowledged trendy terrain. They consult entertainment guides [e.g., TimeOut New York] and the hip media [e.g., Vice magazine] with a fervor bordering on the religious and will only consent to grace an establishment once it has been identified as groundbreakingly hip.

In New York, NY:
Diner (85 Broadway Street, Brooklyn)-"Put this on my company card," request regulars at this Williamsburg hot spot who "apologize for being late, the train was horrible." Slip into your new "vintage military cadet shirt" before feasting on "burgers better than anywhere in Midtown," smoking a few "cigs," and regaling the table with "highlights from my new resume." While most enjoy "monopolizing the conversation," some "can't believe they stuck me in the back room."

Void (16 Mercer Street)-This "chill" lounge is dark enough to "publicly grope my girlfriend" while "explaining" the "experimental videos" being projected on the wall-size screen that's "bigger than my ego." Though some have "thought about making films," most are content to just "play a few games of 'Pac-Man' " and "critique the DJ" before "taking off" for some "late-night sushi."

In Boston, MA:
Enormous Room (567 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge)—More comfortable than "the Aeron Chair in my office," this loftlike space is great for "letting off a little steam" after a "really nasty board meeting" or "second-guessing" some of "Abel Ferrara's weaker efforts." Regulars enjoy the "performance art," though some feel "I did better work in my freshman improv elective."

Delux Cafe (100 Chandler Street)- "I used to come here with this French girl from college," claim "obnoxious" patrons of this bar/restaurant that's "pretty decent, I suppose" and "definitely much better than that place you guys wanted to try." The food, though delicious, reminds some of "my parents' country club." Presentation, however, never fails to impress, as the chef is "almost as creative as selling short/buying long."



A Field Guide To The Urban Hipster