Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Berlin Hipsters: Another Prick in The Wall

“Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”

“Hipsters are a pretentious group of tiny little waiflike creatures (male and female) who dress the same, look the same and act the same—much like any other group of fashion victims.  Upper middle class white kid + liberal arts education + thrift store chic = DOUCHEBAG.”
- Dunkin’ Berliner

O hipster: shall I compare thee to a lump of shit?  Thine large glasses offend me; rip them off and stomp them!  Thou art dressed in skinny jeans which sag at the back!  Contradiction?  Juxtaposition?  Room to carry a load of dung when startled suddenly, timid creature?

I kept hearing the term ‘hipster’ bandied about in Berlin.  It took me a while to give a shit, since all I care about is Berliner jelly donuts and Berliner spaetis.  But then I heard that they are arriving in droves and driving up Berlin rents with their trust funds and ‘lofty’ real estate aesthetic.  So, looking for a new scapegoat for gentrification other than yuppies (who have lawyers, thus making it harder to perpetrate hate crimes with impunity), I decided to research and investigate this neo-nuisance with all the voracity of one who can devour 6 Berliner jelly donuts in one sitting and never even THINK of fitting into skinny jeans.

Classification of the creature Hipsteris Urbanitis is easy when beginning from the top down:

- Cap:  the hipster usually wears heavy wool winter caps that are two sizes too large.  When the temperatures surpass 80 F, the hipster’s movements slow to a crawl.  They often sit in parks with dull smirks on their faces as the burning sun and the thick wool slowly turn their lazy brains to mush.

- Eyewear:  the larger, thicker and blacker the glasses, the better; most of the time the glasses aren’t even prescription.  To a hipster, looking dorky is part of the fashion irony.  Perhaps they think that nobody will hit them if they wear glasses.  Heh.

- Beards:  often a hipster grows a beard to differentiate themselves from the gays and the metrosexuals, who merely have skinny bodies and perhaps only a thin Freddy Mercury moustache.  Hipster beards fall into one of two categories:  Category one: scraggly, unkempt and sparse.  The youngest, skinniest white kids aren’t often able to grow beards and therefore get an A for effort in this category. Category two: heavy, dense and long.  The jury is out on the reasons for this heinous hair growth on such a skinny creature.  Some say it is an ironic attempt at mimicking the hillbilly look.  Perhaps it is a throwback to the Ginsberg days.  Personally, I simply believe they are members of Al Qaeda.

- Smirk:  they think they are smarter, hipper and cooler than everyone else, so they generally are seen with the tiniest of smiles while walking down the street.  To the casual viewer, they may appear to be slightly mentally retarded.

- Torso:  hipsters are all about obscurity in the bands they worship (so I’ve read), so a common hipster t-shirt is adorned with crude artwork and band names like ‘Sonic Death Monkey,’ ‘Squirrel Bucket,’ ‘Trench Coat Weasels’ or ‘Temple of Pooh.’  Many of the band names on their ubiquitous iPods were formed by combining electric guitars, small, furry animals and common home and garden implements.

- Pants:  skinny jeans.  These tight jeans look spray painted onto the hipster’s scrawny frame—except for the ass end, which appears to sag way out of proportion with the rest of the ensemble.  Either they are wearing colostomy bags or they collectively suffer from Diminished Gluteal Syndrome.

- Shoes: don’t get me started. BRIGHT FUCKING ORANGE??? REALLY???

I once sat in a pub in Prague in the late 90s discussing how to tell the hookers from the ordinary Czech women.  The fad at the time was knee high leather boots, high heeled. The jury agreed that the hookers had stiletto heels on their boots; the ordinary Czech girls had blocky high heels.

I once sat in Mauerpark with a group of Germans and one Irish friend.  The German gushed guttural and nonsensical to me, but the word ‘hipster’ kept popping out of the mish mash.  They were pointing out the hipsters.  I was new to this game.  At that time EVERYONE who hung around Mauerpark was a feckless douche.  My damn self included.

Recently I saw an old acquaintance of mine at the Carnival of Cultures.  His previously-braided goatee had burst from its tether and bloomed into a wild and wooly spectacle of chin bush.  I cornered him and said ‘ARE YOU A FUCKING HIPSTER?’ pointing at his wild goat and horn rimmed glasses.  He countered with ‘No! You are!’ while pointing at my sparse, salt-and-pepper gray/black goat.  We took turns accusing each other of being hipsters and heaping bags of douche (in a friendly sort of way).

The word around the campfire is that hipsters don’t know they are hipsters (or won’t admit it), much in the way that serial killers and politicians tell themselves they are answering a ‘higher calling.’ As my psych prof called it, ‘sailing down that famous river in Egypt, Denial.’

Yes, I have black rimmed glasses.  They are not huge.  They are normal sized.  Yes, I have a goatee, but not a beard. And there is no fucking way I can fit my Vegas Elvis ass into skinny jeans.  My head sweats in winter if I wear a standard, garden variety skull cap.  Plus I’m twice the age of the average hipster.  Innocent, Yer Honor.

I still don’t know what the hipsters are up to.  They are probably just the most recent harmless manifestation of pretentious fashion victims who believe that they are iconoclastic when in fact they are doing the same damn thing everyone else born in their circumstances is doing.  They are rather skinny, timid and silent when I spot them.  No need to tear them apart, physically at least.

Unless I find out they are responsible for the rising rents in Berlin and/or gentrification in general.  Then I’m a goin’ huntin’.


  1. I am a Brit in Frankfurt. I have two comments on this.

    1. When my family came to visit Frankfurt, we sat in the main shopping street while my sister got her picture painted and played "spot the hipster" with my mum. She had no idea what a hipster was, and telling the difference between a hipster, a gay person and a regular German was very difficult.

    2. Hipsters are a lot more prevalent here in FFM because of the banks. They like to protest a lot, and they set up camp under the big Euro sign for the better part of a year. My own flatmates are varying stages of hipsterness, from just enjoying poetry slams, to others who smoke weed most of the time and join in with the Blocupy protests. None of them admit to being a hipster.

  2. Bankfurt hipsters? Damn, the trust fund rivers run deep indeed.
    Thanks for the comment.