hipster bike

The Cost Of Being A Hipster

  • Article by Amy Bradney-George
  • February 12, 2015 at 7:29 AM

With their tatty outfits, thick glasses, slightly rusty (but vintage!) bicycles and drinking jars on hand, hipsters have steadily infiltrated society to become part of a mainstream they claim to avoid.

Serious definitions of hipsters range from “a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) to “a subculture of men and women…that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter” (Urban Dictionary).

But for every one academic, insightful definition of what a hipster is, there is at least three more satirical, lampooning explanations. Take the definition offered by the Bondi Hipsters in their viral video hit The Life Organic, where they (rhetorically) ask: “What do you get when you take a hobo, add some emo, a touch of metro?”

Needless to say, hipster culture and hipsterspeak is everywhere these days, and most people have at least some idea of what it looks like (even if they are still not sure what it’s all about).

Since hipster culture has been exposed and embraced by mainstream media, represented in shows like Bondi Hipsters or Portlandia and adopted by more and more 20- and 30-somethings wanting to be “cool”, it has also infiltrated almost every facet of the commercial world.

There has been a rise in the popularity of vintage and second-hand goods, an increase in the number of fashion retailers offering new versions of these styles and thick glasses (lenses option) have all but become a uniform in some urban areas.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013, Sydney University Gender and Cultural Studies lecturer, Dr Anna Hickey-Moody, explains that the popularity and familiarity of hipsters has become a very marketable product.

“The hipster counter-culture has become increasingly commodified,” she says.

“A modern version of the 19th century Dandy, they have built an exclusive club based around the idea of thinking for yourself and are supposed to be connoisseurs for style … and brands such as American Apparel, Urban Outfitters [or General Pants in Australia] have developed themselves as hipster labels.”

It doesn’t stop with fashion, either. Stationery stores like Typo have a wide range of journals and other products catering to this subculture, online store Etsy has a whole section for “hipster accessories” and there are many smaller companies coming onto the market with products that probably wouldn’t make it if it wasn’t for hipsters.

Take, for example, Rainy Sunday – a “boutique drinking jar” company based in Australia but shipping worldwide – or the appropriately named Philadelphia-based homewares store Hipster Home, whose wares include quirky shower curtains, retro clocks and things you might never have thought you needed, like a ceramic egg rack.

Cashing In On The Hipster Culture

Whether you think the hipster style is cool or not, it is clear there is a market for these kinds of products. But how much does it actually cost to get the hipster aesthetic?

When you factor in the clothes, fashion accessories, homewares, tickets for indie gigs, music festivals, boutique coffee and sundry, the answer is quite a lot.

Blogger Red Debt Stepchild has weighed up the pros and cons of hipster finances in brief, explaining that there are potential savings on clothing (if it really is from a thrift store or op shop), water (because bottled water is eschewed in hipster culture) and “stuff in general”.

She notes hipsters will spend more money in three key areas: rent, Apple products and tea and coffee.

“Hipsters find refuge in large cities that offer both culture and acceptance of alternative and unique lifestyles,” she writes, giving examples like New York, L.A., Chicago.

“What do all those cities have in common? High rent and overall cost of living. Hipsters are doling out major bucks for their homes.”

Her views are backed up by other reports from the US that show areas with high hipster populations also tend to have higher house prices (and rent). A report from Forbes in 2013 shows that real estate prices in Williamsburg – an iconic hipster areas around New York – rose 23% in the year to July 2013.

“More interesting, as of June, the mean rent for a studio apartment in Williamsburg was $200 higher than for a comparable (albeit smaller) apartment in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village,” Forbes says.

Similar real estate hikes have occurred in other hipster areas around the US and locally, where inner-city suburbs previously considered gritty (such as Redfern in Sydney, Brunswick in Melbourne or Fortitude Valley in Brisbane) are now filled with hipster haunts like farmers markets and milk crate cafés.

Beyond rent or home loans, there is also the cost of the hipster diet and fashion. It’s been proven that organic foods, which are practically essential to hipster culture, cost up to three times more than regular options.

Craft beers and wines sipped by the hip also tend to cost more than “mainstream” options regardless of where they are consumed; likewise for tea and coffee.

While hipsters tend to shirk the idea of making money for the sake of it, preferring to stick to second hand styles, it is clear the costs of this “wholesome” lifestyle really add up.

And with more and more companies jumping on the hipster bandwagon because of its profitability – and people happy to buy new things because they seem to embody this style – the thrifty values of original hipsters are all but lost in a sea of irony and rebranded mason jars.


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