It’s said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, and this is true not only in our culture, but in our countercultures and subcultures as well. Your Chop is 31 this year, which makes us just barely old enough to remember the best of the early Nineties. It also means we’re young enough to still be going out pretty often, and the more time we spend in bars and DIY spaces, the more we notice how much today’s Hipsters have in common with the Slackers of yore.
Today’s bright young things of 21-25 are definitely too young to remember most of the 90’s, especially the early part. Sure, they’re happy to ‘curate’ some of the indie touchstones of that period into their own lives; Nirvana bootlegs, Trainspotting, cassettes, eclectic fashion, The Basketball Diaries and organic coffee, but most fail to realize exactly how much they’ve got in common with the grunge rockers who were living in those same shitty apartments and loft spaces 20 years ago.
One of these photos is from a story on Lollapalooza 1991. The other is from a 2010 story on a Brooklyn loft space. You are free to guess which is which.
The ties that bind today’s Hipsters to their Slacker brethren run deeper than their pasty, tattooed skin. Beyond the PBR and the Chuck Taylors- and of course the blatant denials- it’s the things you can’t see with the eye that mark the Hipster as the new Slacker.
>>> An inflated sense of self-worth. Lots of people create art. A ton of people have read Chomsky and Nietzche the poems of Pablo Neruda. Building a bicycle or growing a vegetable garden or knitting a scarf are skills that many people have. They don’t make you special, Hipster. They put you on the level of basic human competence.
>>> A giant sense of entitlement. A job that you love and enjoy is not your due, Hipster. A job in your chosen field is not your due. A job is not your due. Doing something rewarding about which you’re passionate is what you get after you pay your dues. How do you pay your dues? You grind on in an ordinary job until you’ve learned all the things they didn’t teach you in college. If you’re lucky, it’ll take 20 years. Until that happens get off the fucking dole and go to work.
>>> A refusal of sacrifice. Is that iPhone’s unlimited data plan a want or a need? Is that out-of-town reunion show really a one-off must-see event? Is it actually so imperative that you treat Record Store Day as a national holiday? It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve heard anyone say “I can’t. I don’t have the money.” but we’re still often hearing stories of bar tabs and boasts of new purchases, along with complaints about credit card debt.
>>> Political martyrdom. The rise of grunge and Slacker culture in the early 1990’s had a lot to do with the first President Bush and his recession. The prominence of Hipster culture was directly proportional to the G. W. Bush economy of the late 2000’s, the effects of which we’re still feeling today. Combining your part-time service gig with an Etsy shop might seem like an ideal solution, but it fits a sixty-something better than a twentysomething. Believe it or not, cheap rent doesn’t last forever.
>>> Send in the Salvation Army. We will give some credit where it’s due. Slack-sters have always been masters of thrift. An underemployed twentysomething can cut expenses just about anywhere. We’re a great admirer of thrift, but there’s more to it than scoring an advantageous rental agreement, cutting out transport costs with a bicycle and using sales and coupons for groceries. The idea is to do something more productive with the money you’re saving than buying a nice bag of weed. Making ends meet is important, but until you’ve figured out how to make cash flow positive at the end of every month, there will always be a question of whether you own a lifestyle, or a lifestyle owns you.