Beyond hipster: The meaning of style in an elusive subculture

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By Keesje Heldoorn

There are many definitions of the hipster, however rarely do two writers agree. Most articles about hipsters provide a list of characteristics and interests. Fashion items such as thick-rimmed glasses, skinny jeans and trucker hats are mentioned. As are preferred modes of transportation (fixed gear bicycle and used sedans) and favoured beverages such as locally brewed organic coffee and PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon, a brand of beer). Based on these characteristics everyone seems to be able to point out a hipster when passing one on the street, but when asked to give a definition no one really knows. The hipster seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once. When turning to the internet for some clarification this is what I find: ‘Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence and witty banter’ (Urban Dictionary). According to Wikipedia, Hipster refers to a subculture of young, recently settled urban middle-class adults and older teenagers that appeared in the 1990s. The subculture is associated with independent music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, liberal or independent political views, alternative spirituality or atheism, and alternative lifestyles. Whatever definition used, when googling the word hipster it seems as if everyone agrees on one thing: they all hate hipsters. Continue reading

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Two cities, one genre, countless vibes: Exploring the hip-hop community in Amsterdam and Los Angeles

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By Ariella Abrams and Andrew Frantela

Growing up in Los Angeles has provided us with the ideal environment to be avid consumers of hip-hop music. Prior to exploring Amsterdam, we had never been exposed to anything but the American version of the genre. Conducting this research while on exchange in Amsterdam, it was intriguing to see a starkly different perspective of the hip-hop genre—the Dutch perspective, or ‘Nederhop’. Furthermore, we were particularly interested in the opposing concepts of ‘underground’ hip-hop and ‘mainstream’ hip-hop. The underground scene seemed more authentic to us, not to mention the fact that underground hip-hop is just cool. We delved into research that would enlighten us about what causes the differentiation and how the players in the scene interact with the genre. Since we both have our own experiences with the underground hip-hop scene in Los Angeles, we decided to compare underground hip-hop scenes in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. While approaching our research, we were mindful not to employ any prior biased opinions on hip-hop or particular artists. We allowed for our interviewees to come to their own conclusions about the purposes of the genre and the way they feel when listening to hip-hop. This resulted in many of them having very different opinions on the subject, and not hesitating to voice them passionately. Continue reading

‘You let me know like no one else, that it’s okay to be myself’: Youth and the emo scene

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By Michelle Neleman

Inspired by the letters received over the years, the Canadian band Simple Plan decided to write a song based on the experiences of their fans. On Twitter, they posed the question: ‘Can you tell me how our music has made you feel through the years?’, which launched the responses that ultimately would make up the lyrics of This Song Saved My Life:

I want to start by letting you know this
Because of you, my life has a purpose
You helped be who I am today
I see myself in every word you say
Sometimes it feels like nobody gets me
Trapped in a world, where everyone hates me
There’s so much that I’m going through
I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you

[Chorus]
I was broken
I was choking
I was lost
This song saved my life
I was bleeding, stopped believing
Could have died
This song saved my life
I was down
I was drowning
But it came on just in time
This song saved my life

Sometimes I feel like you’ve known me forever
You always know how to make me feel better
Because of you my dad and me
Are so much closer than we used to be
You’re my escape when I’m stuck in a small town
I turn you up, whenever I feel down
You let me know like no one else
That it’s okay to be myself

[Chorus]

You’ll never know what it means to me
That I’m not alone
That I’ll never have to be

I decided to open this paper with these lyrics, because many of the lines describe the responses of my interviewees spot on. Furthermore, the method of creating the song resembles the aim of my paper. Based on ethnographic research, this paper reveals the meaning of the emo scene as given by those who are part of it. Specifically, it will show how the scene contributes to the identity formation of the young participants, by examining the values the emo culture represents, the common features the emo youth share, and the meanings they attribute to the scene’s distinctive (music and fashion) style. Continue reading

Subbacultcha! – a fungi process: How space is experienced within a youth subculture

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By Marije Peute

‘It’s about this permeation of… light. A sort of irradiating and unstoppable expulsion of darkness, or something. I don’t think that the only way to read the world in 2014 is as a fucking endless cycle of doom. That’s not how I want to work, you know.’ (Ben Frost)

The best ideas occur on surprising moments. Like when I figured out the main concept to connect all the pieces of my research together. I was writing for this paper in a café in Amsterdam while observing the hipness of it. In this case hip means that the space was full of natural colours, garments and textures. Every object was something in its own, probably handmade or at least old. The lights were of a designer sort. A girl walked in and caught my eye. She was neutrally dressed but still fashionable and good-looking. Her hair was short like a nun and she just wore a short black skirt, a white t-shirt, some sneakers and a denim jacket. Her appearance was, despite the neutral look, very strong. When I left to do some shopping, I saw her again. This time it took me much longer to notice her. This wasn’t because of my absentmindedness, but because she looked different in this space than the one I had seen her in before. The first space seemed to contain certain hipness in itself and everyone who could look slightly hip or fashionable got an extra glow of hipness when entering it. Outside on the street, blended in with all kinds of different looks, this glow disappears and someone returns to being normal. My point is that on this afternoon I discovered how important space is in the way people look and feel. Space is defined by the meanings that are attached to it (Navaro-Yashin 2007). This is certainly so for the subcultural spaces defined by Subbacultcha! Continue reading