“The hipsters hate me”…REALLY???

pittsburgh 2


By Kenneth Justice

I just the vibe that they aren’t interested in clicking with me at all” he said

~ This past weekend I visited Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the most recent stop of my Drinking in the Culture Tour. Pittsburgh is a fascinating city. Prior to going I had imagined it was a city that had long since seen its glory days; a steel town whose best years were behind it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the picture I had in my mind of the city was entirely wrong.

Pittsburgh is a thriving city. Set in the backdrop of early 20th century brick architecture, new construction has popped up all over the place and the city is bustling with energy and excitement. It’s a fun city to drive around in thanks to it being situated in the mountains and surrounded by three massive rivers; beautiful bridges, awesome tunnels, and coffee shops are around every turn.

One of the people I met at coffee over the weekend is a New York transplant; a young man in his early thirties he’s been living in Pittsburgh for the past 3 years because of work,

I really enjoy this city” he said, “Before I moved here I had a pretty negative perspective of what the place was like, but once here I was excited to find out that many of my thoughts about Pittsburgh were simply wrong. It’s not a cold place void of culture; it’s actually got a great music and arts scene and the bar district in South Side is one of the coolest places the hang out on a Friday night” he said

But all is not rosy with the young man’s experience of living in this Rust Belt city, “my only complaint is that the overwhelming majority of young adults in this city are hipsters; and they are not the most welcoming group of people. The hipster pretty much hate me because I don’t fit into their cliques” he said

If you’re not familiar with the modern vernacular description of hipster; think of other-worldly mustaches, beards, thick rimmed glasses, long sleeved flannel shirts, and the type of people who only like the bands ‘back before they became famous’ and now only listen to music you’ve never heard of before.

“I’ve always liked mainstream music” he told me, “but if I’m hanging out at a café or bar and trying to connect with strangers to make friends, explaining to them that I like Cold Play is pretty much the kiss of death in the conversation” he said

At one coffee shop I visited on the South Side the place was crawling with hipsters; retro skinny jeans, walrus mustaches, and uppity attitudes to complement their physical appearances. A couple middle aged women came in for lunch, and to borrow the colloquialism they looked like fish out of water. The two women tried smiling at a couple hipsters sitting in the corner but received nothing back but icy stares.

This is no new phenomenon to the human experience; people as old as time have banded together to form cliques. Often in the past it was a way of preserving their safety in the midst of war-mongering cultures. But now-a-days in a time when you don’t have to worry about an outsider sneaking up behind you with a wooden club and stealing your daughter away to be his wife; why the bloody hell we still form cliques is beyond my understanding.

Why are we so standoffish to each other in Western Culture? Why are so many people unlikely to open up to strangers? Are we cynical, scared, arrogant or simply stupid? Of course, my yearlong coffee house tour is in many ways the opportunity for me to highlight the positive elements of meeting strangers; so far in my travels I’ve met a lot of people and have heard many different stories. I’ve been surprised at how warm and friendly people have been towards me over the past few trips to Atlanta, Chicago, and now Pittsburgh.

But I wonder; how much has my experience traveling this year been connected to my own ability to talk to people from different walks of life? If I was more of a Sci-Fi nerd or dressed in a three piece suit or wore Wrangler jeans from the 1990’s; would strangers still be apt to talk to me and tell me stories about their city and life?

How much have my experiences on this coffee house tour been connected to my own ability at being open and transparent with strangers? The young man at coffee over the weekend explained to me that he simply didn’t know how to talk the language of hipsters, “I try listening to bands I’ve never heard of before, but when I try and talk about them with the hipsters I sound awkward and forced” he said

Do the hipsters hate me? I guess you’d have to ask them, but if they do hate me perhaps they could have a nice time talking making fun of me with the Orthodox Jewish man who turned his nose up at me over the weekend,

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,


Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

72 replies

  1. Great piece. I discussed something similar with a friend and we came up with the hypothesis that because of the generation Y ‘mentality’ ( a kind of modern nihilism, that nothing lies ahead but apathy and disappointment in terms of careers and advancement in society), the ‘hipster’ clique has turned to fashion/music/the past, in order to raise themselves beyond the ‘normal modern man/woman’. It’s more sad than anything else haha. Loved reading it and love your blog.


    • A lot of truth in what you say; many of the ‘hipsters’ I talk to share similar themes that you’ve touched up…… and I wonder; is it their cynicism/disappointment at not being able to get decent careers/advancement that causes them to be standoffish towards non-hipsters?

    • Well in truth I think that although the cynicism/disappointment might be one cause, the very fact that ‘an outsider sneaking up behind you with a wooden club and stealing your daughter away’ is unlikely to happen, causes people to find new ways to be territorial; Fashion, music and essentially being ‘cool’ or ‘unique’. While this is not a bad thing in essence, in fact it is one of the greatest human aspects in my opinion, to my mind it is the equivalent of a dog urinating on a tree to mark its territory….essentially pointless and yet will not stop anytime soon haha.

    • So your thinking its engrained in our dna; the territorial element of human nature and wanting to protect ourselves from those outside of the pack. You could very well be right; in college we studied many elements of what your talking about (I was a psychology major), the whole ‘preserve the herd’ concept.

    • Possibly DNA, but more solidly on your ‘preserve the herd’. I mention that it is sad because (like you said) it cuts one off from the rest of the world, almost like a shrinking Gene pool… Creating borders within communities is one of the saddest things this generation will witness. (And I’m a part of it, alas!)

  2. Peter Gabriel said it succinctly: “How can we be in if there is no outside?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbwQ0Wy3ljQ

  3. Age old issue. The biggest difference now is that there are so many hipsters – that alone would have been the kiss of death in the past. 😉

    • Mikels, I’m so glad you said this; it BLOWS MY MIND at how many hipsters there are now-a-days. Its literally crazy as to how many of them there are and the very fact that there are so many of them completely goes against their philosophy of being ‘indie’ lol. Its a contradiction for them to be hipster because being hipster now-a-days is actually beginning to be mainstream! lol

  4. You are like me, I have friends of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation and styles. I guess that I don’t identify with my clothes or my music. I am always looking for people to learn from. If they are on to something so great, why not share?

    • Absolutely Ellen, I actually prefer meeting people from different walks of life; there’s no fun in only being friends with people who look and act like me…. although hopefully nobody acts like me because the world probably couldn’t’ take another annoying person like myself 😉

  5. hipster
    look down on

  6. the simple truth almost seems that we dislike those who are different.
    That we band together does not make a community just makes a group of people who look down on others. for in their minds not understanding them.

    Makes you wonder who the crazy ones really are or maybe like you said we are just an arrogant selfish bunch. when grouped with like minded people.

    Cheers on the coffee.

  7. The problem with the society nowadays is that everyone is trying to fit in when most of the people were born to stand out and few live inside a box and they think people who don’t fit into their box are weird.
    Must be interesting for you to view, compare indescribable human reaction. 🙂

  8. I understand why this happens as teenagers and school age kids as they try to find their place in the world, but Ive never understood the cliques in adults. I too talk to a variety of people that have very different ways of life. I never think about it though until someone brings it up to me…Until someone actually says “why do you talk to them”, as though there is a true reason why I shouldnt. Recently a long time friend of mine shot me a text that said “That friend of yours that went on vacation with you, does not have the face of a person that I picture you hanging out with”. Really, I found it a little disturbing. Is there a face, or a type that we lure in? Perhaps these adults that are still forming cliques or that desire to be in one, are still trying to find a place to fit in.?!

    • “That friend of yours that went on vacation with you, does not have the face of a person that I picture you hanging out with”. Really, I found it a little disturbing. Is there a face, or a type that we lure in?”

      Wow! That is weird…. I’m not sure what I would think if someone told me that

  9. Oh, dear. For me, outright hostility to those they won’t ultimately accept would be preferable to what I’ve run into most often: superficial friendliness that stops at a VERY superficial level. I’ve always been open to many kinds of people, so I follow the apparent lead of that friendliness. But it stops short of anything beyond the merest acquaintance, for the most part. Therefore, I have very few friends. I’d much prefer the more honest wall of hostility if there will be a wall ultimately anyway.

  10. I have to say that I thought about you this weekend – well, not you specifically, but community. Mr. T and I were in line at our food co-op and someone came up behind us and made a comment, and I replied, and then went back to my own little bubble. She said something else – an obvious effort to engage, that I now recognize, and so I adjusted and started talking to her. I’m not one to talk to strangers standing in line with me, it freaks me out – but I did it! 🙂 Not for long, and it wasn’t full of insight, but it was meaningful to me because there for a moment, I was part of the community, I was participating.
    So, thank you for bringing these thoughts to life in your blog and sharing your version of community. Maybe we’ll all open our arms and embrace community and the cliques won’t be so rude!

    • Kate, its always nice to be thought about ;0) lol

      Great example though; I’m glad you ended up talking to the lady….i’ll be honest there are plenty of times when I blow people off while standing in line who want to talk to me; sometimes it can be overwhelming…. but I probably should be more friendly in those situations like you were.

    • I don’t recommend it…

      LOL. There is only so much social I can be! (Yes that’s not a real sentence!)

  11. I remember you saying this trip was away from the norm/expected places. Sounds like a good decision. You brought back an interesting piece – and a new word for me “hipsters” (only known them as a cut of jeans before).

  12. We lived in the poorer part of town, east side, before it became gentrified. A friend of mine moved into a co-op on the outskirts of chinatown, it was the thick of skid row which is fast becoming prime real estate. Hence the poorest and richest of the city pass each other on the sidewalks. One night he found his daughter pitching grapes off their roof. When he asked her what she was doing she replied “playing hit a hipster”.
    I think its our nature to form communities with those we share common ground. At the sametime, a little openness and dialogue can lead to the revelation that we have more in common than not.

  13. I think that it takes two to communicate, and there may be a bit of discomfort with both parties when it comes to communicating.

    I remember busking (performing) in the streets in the 90’s in San Francisco, and I learned to treat the many homeless there as regular human beings. I would say “hi” and they would return the niceties. Contrast that to the many complaints I get from people who find them disgusting, treat them that way, and then wonder why they are so rude and vulgar.

    Perhaps there is a need to connect with people on a one to one basis – and sometimes there is no connection. But we can still try. Not all hipsters are alike – no more than I am like anyone else.

    Nice observation Kenneth.

    PS – I have been giving much thought to which Santa Cruz and nearby coffee shops I will suggest you/we visit when you get out here later in the year.

  14. I had some anthropology study (formally) in my heyday, and it’s fun to read your blog….would hipsters hate an aging Asian lady entering their stronghold? I probably would not go near where hipsters gather of course. I wish there was a blogger hangout, to actually exchange notes on the difficulties of blogging. Sorry going off topic. I enjoyed this piece.

  15. Love this post! And you’ve even made me want to go to Pittsburgh, a place I never thought I’d like to visit 🙂 As far as hipster culture goes, I think some of the reputation is deserved. Some people really do want to feel like they’re better than others, more unique or edgy or whatever. But of course you can’t judge by external appearance- I’ve known plenty of people who share some hipster traits (dress, musical taste) who are kind and lovely people. My son and his friends all dress like hipsters but they hate the word and the way it’s used pejoratively, and they’re far from standoffish and cold. Sometimes it’s just a style thing…
    But cliques are a problem everywhere. I’ve written about my experiences trying to fit in with other homeschoolers in a new place, some of the women just haven’t been very friendly. It stinks that people are like this 😦

    • Pittsburgh is definitely worth a weekend trip. I was really impressed with all that is going on. However, downtown Pittsburgh practically closes up at 5pm, all the stores and even some of the restaurants close and the scene shifts to South Side, Squirrel Hill, and Lawrenceville. Ya also probably have to enjoy the hipster/eclectic/beer scene to get the full ‘Pittsburgh experience’ since it seemed to me that is a big part of hanging out there 🙂

  16. “Why are we so standoffish to each other in Western Culture? Why are so many people unlikely to open up to strangers? Are we cynical, scared, arrogant or simply stupid? Of course, my yearlong coffee house tour is in many ways the opportunity for me to highlight the positive elements of meeting strangers; so far in my travels I’ve met a lot of people and have heard many different stories. I’ve been surprised at how warm and friendly people have been towards me over the past few trips to Atlanta, Chicago, and now Pittsburgh.”

    I think mostly that people are afraid. The fact that you have been able to talk to so many people shows that you have a gift of communication. I have been trying to learn this way. There seems to be a sense that goes beyond anything I can explain. People can feel who is safe to talk to or not.

  17. I’m glad I’m not a Hipster” like that man over there Lord. Then a “Hipster” in the back of the coffee shop looking down in tears said, Lord forgive me, I’ve been so wrong. Which man went away fulfilled and truly happy?

  18. This is hard… I’ve had similar experiences. I think when it comes to coffee shop (grocery line, pick up kids from school on the playground with other parents, at the park… wherever you are with other people) conversation – when we initiate conversation, generally people join in and open up. However, are the people you meet in the coffeehouses, or anywhere else, the same type of people you would normally hang out with in your free time, spend holidays together, go on vacation together? I think it’s apples and oranges…

    • ” when we initiate conversation, generally people join in and open up. However, are the people you meet in the coffeehouses, or anywhere else, the same type of people you would normally hang out with in your free time, spend holidays together, go on vacation together”

      Wanna hear something crazy; I’ve gone on vacations with more than a DOZEN people I’ve met at coffee shops!!!! lol… is that nuts or what?

  19. Have never heard of ‘hipsters’ until this post. It must be an American thing eh. Sounds to me like a “I’m going to go against the grain and be different” snobby sort of clique. Am I wrong?

    • Staci, it must have been a bit since you were back in the states? Hipster culture is dominating the scene in many of the major cities across the U.S. and its a very distinct style/trend….

  20. I’ve always been that person who could start a conversation with anyone, too. I think some people are just guarded and mistrustful of friendly people–like we’re selling something! 🙂

  21. Great post on an interesting subject on human nature. When we’re young and still searching for significance, we try to find our identity by being different. Of course,we all end up looking the same because we really want to belong. When I was very young, it was the hippIES. LOL! On that note, to quote Bob Dylan, I was so much older then, I younger than that now.

    • Love the Dylan quote… how can I not! And Francis Schaeffer would love you Mel; a pastor who could quote Dylan was tops in his book 😉

    • Well, it would be because of my older brother. He listened to Dylan day and night when I was growing up. It was Bob Dylan and Bugs Bunny for this kid. That explains a lot about me, I suppose… 🙂

  22. I am 99.9% sure you draw a lot of these stories out of people because of your own ability to communicate with others. You’re open to the idea of communication, but the average person who starts to talk to someone is likely as hesitant as the other to engage in conversation with a stranger. It’s a different story when at least one in the part is open to conversation.

    Also…. this hipster thing is real? I mean, I see memes and things for sale at Starbucks, but I guess I’ve never seen a real hipster. I’d be all for the clique if they didn’t shun those who though differently. I understand the idea of bonding with like-minded people, but that’s hardly an excuse for treating those differently from you rudely. It’s so elementary. I mean, that’s what children do to each other in high school. Adults should be above that kind of behavior.

    • TK, maybe/maybe not…. sometimes its about just being in the right place at the right time :0)

      I’m surprised you haven’t seen hipsters in Chicago land; Wicker park was full of em! Hang out in LIncoln Park or Wicker Park for the weekend and you’re sure to see flannel, thick rimmed glasses, and listen to what the 20 & 30somethings talk about; it will be totally underground music that you’ve never heard of before unless you are a hipster (or unless your a loser like me who has nothing better to do other than read about random subjects)

  23. The urban dictionary defines a hipster as: “Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.” I wish the definition ended there. I think if it did I wouldn’t be offended to be labeled as a hipster, if it did I think they’d be able to interact better with a wider array of people. Sadly the definition continues and gets much less appealing as it is more narrowly defined. I think that may be the root of the issue. Originally, a hipster was just someone willing to take the road less traveled. As more people wanted to travel those barely trodden paths they turned into well traversed trails which meant to abide by the ideals of hipsterism one had to go out and find new bands/topics/styles which started the cycle over and over again. If you look at it that way then it would make sense that the hipsters have tried to now close their doors to the general public so as to keep their beloved bands/topics/styles from becoming mainstream, to keep them within their hipster culture so they don’t have to outwardly shun things they internally love. Of course their misguided belief that by keeping non-hipsters from knowing about hipster treasures will help them out in the long run is about as absurd as a teenager thinking they’ll never get over their first breakup. If they want to sulk about with their absurd facial hair and questionable fashion sense let them, it’s their loss. A true hipster would be secure in their ideals and open to discussion with people from any walk of life, the hipsters that shun aren’t any hipsters I want to talk to anyway.

    • I’m glad you familiar with hipster culture; I’m actually surprised how many people on this thread have missed this whole scene. Although your in the Twin Cities right? And in Minneapolis hipster culture is alive and thriving. And your right on with this sentence, “Sadly the definition continues and gets much less appealing as it is more narrowly defined”

  24. I’m hip to the hipster. My brother in law’s one in Kansas City, MO. LOL He has the 411 on all the music , too.

    I can talk to anyone about anything. I’m pretty amazing and good to have around. I’m gonna have to go find that Oth Jewish man…he’s looking for a fight with a red head. 😉

    • Ha ha…he won’t fight w/ ya cuz he won’t talk with you cuz your not Jewish 😉

    • Oh…he’ll talk to me. 1. I’m cute when I’m mad. 2. I don’t back down. 3. I’ll follow him til he does. 4. I don’t give up. 5. I will charm him. 6. He’ll be your new best friend.

      🙂 Works every time. LOL (a bit of confidence this morning. Maybe too much. Worth a try. You paint them in a horrible light. Now I want to fix all O. Jews. A terrible way to live if all they do is pass people by…)

  25. Since I am in my 60’s, I hope no one expects me to know anything about hipsters. 🙂

    As a military brat, I learned the folks in the north tend to be less open and friendly than those in the south. Why? I can only guess, but I doubt it has anything to do with hate. We learn our social skills from those around us. Because we are more comfortable with the known than the unknown, we also prefer to connect with people like ourselves.

    I mostly raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When I lived in Connecticut, I had trouble making friends. Was it because the folks in Connecticut were less friendly or they just did not know what to make of me? I expect it was probably a little bit of both.

    In order to have friends, you must first be one. — Elbert Hubbard

  26. I’d never heard of hipsters before this either although I suspect my nephew is probably one. Of course I live in the sticks of nowhere. The coffee shop here is the local diner where the tables get shoved together in one big lump and then occupied by the old farmers between planting and harvesting seasons. You always know where to eat though, just follow the pick-up trucks.

    I’m someone who can talk to anyone too, but I suspect that you don’t get ignored or “hated” because you aren’t living there for an extended period of time nor attempting to “fit in” and make friends that you can chat with over coffee everyday for he foreseeable future. It makes a difference in attitude, me thinks anyway.

    • Diners in ‘the sticks’ can be awesome places to talk to people. My father when he was alive loved takings to those kind of diners and restaurants and he would always meet the most fascinating people.

  27. Did you retouch this photo? that moustache is a boon. VW

  28. Living in Berlin, the “hipster capital of the World”, I don’t even go to bars and clubs anymore. It’s just painful when people will blow their cigarette smoke into your face as they condescendingly tell you just how bad the stuff you like is – especially when you know they’d love it if it were less popular. Being arrogant and a tad stuck-up when you have accomplished something in life is one thing – being arrogant while on public benefits because your African cultural history or modern feminism degree is useless is a whole other deal and rejecting art superficially while complaining about other people’s superficiality? That’s just low.

    • ” It’s just painful when people will blow their cigarette smoke into your face as they condescendingly tell you just how bad the stuff you like is ”

      Too funny! You totally described EXACTLY what the hipster crowd is like….I’ve had many experiences like that….. but I’m a bit of a nut; cuz I will play the game with them and start mentioning even more off-the-wall music that even the Hipsters have never heard of (I even make up names sometimes to catch them off guard!!! lol)

    • Oh, I love doing that! It can get really hard not to start laughing into their faces when they pretend to know the band you just made up!

  29. KJ Tribute, with love, private or public, is okay, affectionate fan fiction

    He wore the old familiar lederhosen, the leather shorts, a blazer, boots and the monocle, out there, out there upon the trail, and he preached down the rustic, the out the way coffee houses, nationwide:
    ‘Arbuckle for the road, Grandma,’ said the KJ.
    ‘There ye go reverend,’ said the old woman, ‘it’s on the house.’
    KJ collapsed into the fine leather armchair. Again this morning he whistled ‘Yellow’ and shuffled the spread pages of the Pennsylvania Review. How he relished this brief opportunity for pleasure, a moment alone perusing the obituaries and the service timetables for the week to come. He sipped his coffee.
    ‘Delicious’ he said to no one in particular, whilst inevitably he would tutor a misfit that afternoon, yet here, now he sensed no eyes upon him and heard only the low rumble of twitter on the i-phones, the slurp of mocha in the cups. Only, over at the corner table the steam punks stared, their slack jaws dripping muffin crumbs and they littered the deck.
    ‘Who da fockin square,’ said Red hipster, downing the frappuccino in one swift movement. He thumped his tall glass upon the wood, and the table shook.
    ‘Excuse me?’ said KJ, squinting across his paper, across the room.
    ‘Some kinda hippa,’ said Ratboy from underneath his bushy tache.
    ‘I hate dat fockan hippa,’ said Red, and he laughed.
    All at once the preacher reached into his top pocket and flicked the Gideon across the shop. Its sharp leather edge scraped the laughing punk’s stubble.
    ‘I remind both you punks to watch your language with ladies in the house,’ said KJ.
    ‘Yes sir,’ said the punks in unison. They lifted their skateboards from the corner. ‘Let’s go volunteer,’ said Red.
    Outside, sunlight broke through the clouds flooding the interior of the coffee shop in a golden light, and KJ drank his coffee.

  30. I suppose another way of looking at it could be, why do I feel such a great desire to be loved by people, who appear to hate me? He should ask himself this: Do I ask myself the same question about Hells Angels? old, grumpy ladies, or US military personnel? Lateral thinking is a good way of finding answers to your own questions and revealing a lot about yourself.

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