For eight seasons, Portlandia put out an excellent sketch comedy show by making fun of Portland's rep as a hipster hub. And there's a lot to giggle about when hipsters take themselves too seriously. Hipsterism is a subculture, but one that adherents don't loudly proclaim membership to. A true hipster may detest the idea of being neatly tied up and put in a box. Hipsters like the idea of diverging from the mainstream and pride themselves on their niche taste. Perhaps guitar lessons are passed over for mandolin lessons, and reading or listening materials are more obscure than those in the average bedroom. Hipsters tinker with macrame and dabble in picklemaking. They are tuned into trends and love the word artisanal. So if you're looking for a definitive answer to the question "Are you a hipster?" you'll get one by the end of this quiz, or you may confirm that you're something else entirely.
The term "hipster," used in the 1940s, has a rich and intriguing history deeply intertwined with the jazz culture of the time. This subculture, primarily associated with aficionados of jazz, particularly bebop, emerged in the early 1940s and was characterized by a distinctive lifestyle that mirrored that of jazz musicians. The hipster's world was one of conk hairstyles, zoot suits with loud colors and baggy blazers, jive talk slang, and a penchant for tobacco, cannabis, and other recreational drugs. Their relaxed attitude and love for jazz or jump blues music, along with styles of swing dancing like the Lindy hop, set them apart.
The zoot suit, a symbol of the era, was a flamboyant ensemble featuring baggy blazer jackets paired with pants, often in bright colors and thick chalk stripes. Accessories like floppy hats, long chains, and occasionally a feathered fedora or pork pie hat completed the look. Jive talk, an African-American Vernacular English slang developed in urban African American communities, was a crucial element of the hipster vernacular, later adopted more widely in African-American society and then into the mainstream.
The origins of "hep" and "hip" are shrouded in mystery, with various theories proposed. In the jazz circles of the early days, "hep" was used to describe someone who was "in the know" about this emerging subculture. The term "hepster," used by jazz bandleader Cab Calloway in 1938 in his dictionary, defined a hep cat as "a guy who knows all the answers, understands jive." As "hep" became mainstream, jazz musicians shifted to using "hip." In 1944, pianist Harry Gibson coined the term "hipster" in his glossary "For Characters Who Don't Dig Jive Talk," defining them as "characters who like hot jazz."
Initially, hipsters were mainly middle-class European American youths emulating the lifestyle of African-American jazz musicians. They were more interested in bebop and "hot" jazz than swing, which was becoming outdated. The hipster subculture expanded post-World War II, with figures like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg capturing its essence in their literary works. As described by Norman Mailer, the hipster ideology was a blend of racial role reversal and a quest for authenticity, often expressed through music, language, and lifestyle choices that diverged from mainstream norms.
Charlie took to the written word like a fish takes to water. That is to say; they found themselves immersed in literature from before they were born. They've been known to tell their friends how they can still remember the passages their parents read to them when they were in utero - Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, and a bit of Hunter S. Thompson thrown in to balance it out. Charlie keeps their feet wet, whether they're whipping up pithy one-liners to tease your brain or busy working on their second novel (the first one is available on Amazon under a pen name they refuse to disclose). You’re sure to get a kick out of giggle-worthy explanations and outrageous hints, and still come away feeling like you’ve just expanded your knowledge base.
It's all a bit hippy-dippy, isn't it? While there's some overlap, the terms hippie and hipster have come to mean totally different things. These days, the word hippie is usually used to describe someone who participated in the 1960s countercultural movement—basically, a bunch of Boomers (maybe even grandpa and grandma when they were young) took it upon themselves to be rulebreakers. Some lived in promiscuous communes, went over to Indian ashrams, took psychedelics, or preached peace, diversity, and eco-consciousness. Some protested and contributed to the fight for women's rights and to the civil rights movement. It was a liberal age of long-haired men, miniskirted women, Jimi Hendrix, and the popularization of denim jeans. The word hippie is derived from the word hipster because hipsters or hepcats used to refer to fans of jazz and jump blues back in the 1940s. This largely African American subculture of conk hairstyles, zoot suits, jive talk, and swing dancing had a moment and then some.
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