What happens when you de-claw a hipster? Contemporary Conformist.

April 17, 2015

Do you live in a city but strive to look as though you live in the country?

Does your apartment or coffee house or bar of choice use reclaimed wood, bare brick walls, or Edison light bulbs in quaint fixtures?

Do you drink ‘craft’ coffee or beer? Eat ‘artisanal’ bread?

Do you consume curated experiences?

Does your workplace let you wear ‘workplace casual’ clothing?

Do you consider yourself grown out of youth culture, but above or apart from the mainstream?

…Then you may be a Contemporary Conformist.

This new term for the upwardly-mobile, tech-literate, middle-class, urban, declawed-bohemian lifestyle or scene or aesthetic or whatever it can be said to be is the brainchild of Carles, the man behind Hipster Runoff, a now-defunct blog that still attracts a modicum of interest.

His critiques had me hooked on several levels.

First off, I fit pretty squarely within the contemporary conformist on several levels. I enjoy slow food, gourmet food, craft beverages of various kinds. I like music festivals, street fairs, urban farming, flannel, Mason jars, awesome bands from my city, I think of myself as educated, and indeed I hold a liberal arts degree. Most damning of all, I am often tempted to take comfort in the idea that these things, among others, set me apart from the masses, who eat at chain restaurants, watch banal television, drink domestic macro-brewed beer and swill Maxwell House or Folgers coffee without a second thought.

Having no name for my cluster of tastes in things from clothing to decor to literally vegetables, I gave in to the temptation to think of myself as an outlier, a man apart from the zeitgeist and the celebrity chatter and the mass-media heart attack machine, who could sip a French Press fair trade certified coffee while looking with detached sympathy at the simpleminded mainstreamers anthilling their way through busy days and blase nights. I was ready to ignore how busy some of my own days were, and how blase some of my nights could be, and the fact that sometimes, after a hard day, my girlfriend and I are just as happy to get half-priced appetizers at a chain restaurant as we would be in some swank tapas bar. ET TU, KALE?!?!?!?

The new aesthetic caters to a class of suburban folks rediscovering urban life, but eager to avoid what they consider the ‘dark,’ ‘seedy,’ ‘sketchy,’ or otherwise icky bits of living in cities. The aesthetic is bleached of fannishness, its color palette is muted, its ethos, when confronted with the horrors of an indifferent world seems to range from ‘meh’ to ‘somebody should do something.’ One of the major things that made other Bohemian aesthetics gain traction, from German naturmentschen, flappers, hipsters, beatniks, mods, rockers, hippies, punks, goths, and what have you, is their dangers, or perceived dangers. Poverty, drugs, violence, unconventional sex, the possibility of running afoul of dangerously unhinged people, ‘black’ magick, all of these things were attributed, with varying degrees of accuracy, to the Bohemian set du jour in the popular media of the time, and this gave each scene an edgy allure, a sense that you were taking some risk being a part of the scene, and that these risks made the rewards of that scene more valuable. Not so with the contemporary conformist. The middle-class sensibilities of the contemporary conformist scene guarantee that the try-it-in-college-then-grow-out-of-it guideline towards all manner of deviance and debauchery reigns supreme. It’s as if the corporate world scooped up Brooklyn, Portland, Austin, Northampton, and other Bohemian bastions, and six to eight hours later, pooped out the contemporary conformist lifestyle, artsy, ‘natural’ yet ‘put together,’ non-threatening, and ready for market.

Noxiously innocuous. Almost offensively inoffensive.

The reality is, of course, that we are turning the same economic hamster wheel no matter whose pockets we line, and that hamster wheel is facilitating the ever-faster consumption of resources. Any lifestyle based on consumerism is still running us faster and faster toward a world unable to support humanity as we know it. We know that this is so. Indeed, few of my friends would deny it and yet so many of us – myself included sometimes – feel powerless to scale back our consumption. There are so many buzzwords for products that take issue with some aspect of the market – fair trade, organic, local, artisanal, carbon-neutral, recycled, upcycled, reclaimed, zero-emissions, but these all seem like band-aids on a stomach ache. Is there a way, perhaps, for radical deep ecology to harness the power of ‘cool’ and get more people on board with actual resistance to consumerism instead of empty aesthetic movements that ape those goals without actually reaching for them? I don’t know.

While we squabble over cultural ephemera, this is happening.

Maybe, in our search for perspective on consumerism and the lifestyles it engenders, we have to look from outside the economy all together, outside all of our games and roles that feed the economy. Taking a hard look in this way, and then taking action in line with our findings, only then do we stand the chance of being truly sustainable, and possibly coming closer to authenticity than we could inside any system. Contemporary conformism is another mask for those that profit from ecological ruin and economic exploitation, and even those of us who happen to fit the profile owe it to the world to peel back every mask we find, even if its made of reclaimed wood and vintage lace…

For more on this from the source, try Carles’ new online presence.


One Response to “What happens when you de-claw a hipster? Contemporary Conformist.”

  1. bandaloopdeloop Says:

    Reblogged this on Archimedes' Fulcrum.

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