Understanding Hipsters: An Undercover Operation
Somewhere in America right now a Religious Studies graduate in white shutter shades is sucking the Pabst Blue Ribbon from his wispy mustache while listening to a pig-tailed girl offer her position on Metamorphosis. They are hipsters. I know this because I met them. They hang out in front of a Coffee Bean. They are Aubrey and Aubrey and they live for the moments when strangers suggest that name ought to be gender exclusive. They work part-time gathering signatures for obscure causes and spend the rest of their time arguing about Sartre and Derrida and who borrowed whose pants. They are preparing for a revolution, slowly.
For some, posing comes naturally.When I first met the Aubreys, they carried clipboards and told me that if I wasn’t furious then I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t furious at the time, I was embarrassed. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be furious about, which started to feel like furiousness and that seemed like a pretty good start. "The American consumer is the raping and murdering foreign cultures," mustached Aubrey told me while jabbing a finger in my chest. He was pale and even behind his glasses I could see that he was ugly. He had the kind of face you could believe was cooked up inside a human body, not like the usual miracles you see running around. "Who do you think made those sandals you’re wearing?" he spat. "Those cutoff jeans? That
Horrible? Or adorable?The other Aubrey flicked the butt of a cigarette somewhere and told me I was a docile lamb in the slaughterhouse of capitalism. She pushed the clipboard into my arms and held out a pen. "Sign it. It’s a petition to end sweatshop labor in Monaco." "There are sweatshops in Monaco?" I asked. She ripped the clipboard from my hands, stared at it for a moment and shoved it back. "Morocco," she said. "There is blood on your hands if you don’t." They were right, they had to be, they were so angry. I wanted to be angry too, I wanted to feel the fire of insurgency in my stomach. I signed the sheet, a heart above the "i" as always. I have forever declared myself an advocate of popular dissent, but now it was true. Also, I felt pretty good about my odds of sleeping with the female Aubrey. "What else can I do? Is this the type of problem I can throw money at?" "C’mon guy," mustached Aubrey said, "you don’t care about this stuff like we do." "But I want to. How can I help? Should I assemble the people? Can we riot or something?" "Nah, we get off in like 10 minutes, and I’m a backup DJ for show tonight, so…" He took off his beanie and wiped his forehead. I saw his hair for the first time, he had it on sideways.
Aubrey was good at discretely taking his own photo."Is that haircut intentional?" I asked. Aubrey rolled his eyes. "It’s ironic." "Do you mean sideways?" "I hope that question is ironic." "It is," I lied. He was so cool. Breasted Aubrey suggested I come to the show. "It’s a musical experimentation with socialist undertones. I mean, if that’s a cause you feel passionately about." I assured her it was. I used phrases like "classless order" and "collectivism" but in no particular order and without the context of an actual sentence. It was enough. She agreed to drive me but we would have to stop by mustached Aubrey’s parent’s house to pick up his vinyl. Ten minutes later we crawled into a Lincoln Navigator and were off. In the car I had an opportunity to look her over. She wore her hair in tiny, unnecessary pigtails and I could just make out the ink behind her ear. "What does your tattoo say?" She touched it and smiled, "It means ‘Peace.’ Or like, ‘Vitality,’ I can’t remember. It’s Tibetan I think."
Somewhere, someone is very proud.Mustached Aubrey didn’t speak the whole ride but his sophisticated music pallet forced him to sneer or click his tongue every time a new song came on the radio. I started doing it too until he glared at me for hating the same music as him. His parents’ house was in a gated neighborhood. As Aubrey loaded milk crates of records into the trunk, I watched migrant workers tend to bushes and flowerbeds in the front yard. I had a great idea. "We should invite them." "Who?" "Those toilers. I bet they’d be willing to rally behind a cooperative management of their production yields. Let’s bring them to the socialist concert!" The Aubrey’s stared at me. "Eww," said breasted Aubrey. "Yeah, you don’t get it dude," mannish Aubrey told me before shutting the trunk. It was true. My understanding of this revolution was shaky. I dedicated myself to listening and learning for the rest of the car ride. I loved the discussions the Aubrey’s had; they experimented with big words in unique and exciting ways, like a baby playing piano. They treated a debate on Trotsky with the same severity as a conversation about vests. The topics collided into one another with no starting or stopping point and no resolution, just vague knowledge on the subjects and extreme but generalized opinions seemed to be enough for them. I desperately wanted us to be friends. The show was not what I expected. There were no speeches, no chants. People just stood around drinking beer. A hammer and sickle flag hung above the stage and two people played distortion into a microphone at different volumes. Mustached Aubrey pouted on his record crate. The first-choice musical group was, unfortunately, healthy and present.
Nothing says youth in revolt like earmuffs.I noticed several people wearing coon-skin hats and my heart swelled: The educated youth announcing themselves as the pioneers of a new America. The crowd swayed in unison to a beat I couldn’t hear, tuning themselves to the winds of a revolution. The spring coiled. "That will be 11 dollars pal," the bartender said. I looked at my High-Life and back at him. "Eleven dollars? For this?" "Yessir." It was time. "Fuck your bourgeois system!" I shouted and slammed the bottle down on the edge of the bar. It refused to break and I only managed to spill some beer on my converted jean shorts.
"Did... did you just piss yourself?""Get out of my bar," the Man said. "It’s not your bar anymore," I said. "It’s the people’s bar now!" I screamed it loud enough for all the hipsters to hear. A silence followed. I filled it with the first few claps of what I hoped would be an ovation for me. I’m not sure how thunderous it ended up being, I was thrown out before anyone else joined in. I’ll never know how substantial the insurgency was that night, but I take solace in knowing that I lit the fuse. On the bus ride home I caught eyes with a group of guys in skinny jeans and headbands. I put my fist high in the air. "You are the future," I said. They smiled to one another knowingly and took pictures of me with camera phones, presumably to silk screen onto T-shirts some other day.
The future, in the capable hands of a hipster.
Read more from Soren Bowie. You can also watch him get intimate over a bucket list or piss off magicians.