When I was a young, we had a joke on my favorite post-riot grrl message board that the surest sign of a person being a hipster was the strength of their denial that they were a hipster. The stronger you fought it, the more it indicated you were one. My antipathy towards the label was only increased when I would read one of my guilty pleasure blogs back then: Look at That Fucking Hipster. It was a blog of NYC party photos, a scene in which I had no desire to participate.


Side note: the thing that stayed most anchored in my memory from that blog was “Blackface Jesus,” and not for good reasons. That dude, a recurring character, was as offensive as the name implies.


They were Gen X hipsters, and as my early cohort of Millennials crashed into the cultural shores, we defined ourselves in opposition to them, the people we saw as believing in nothing and encroaching on everything we held dear. And for a while that anti-hipster posture held. But then something strange happened. Hipster became a term used to tar urban Millennials for basically anything we did. It stopped having meaning, and turned into a fnord that oldsters could throw at youth culture whenever we behaved in a fashion other than being perfectly submissive to their social order and economic priorities.


That’s when I realized that, to the broader world, hipster had become as meaningless as hippy: a term meant to display societal contempt of the counter-culture. That was when I started to identify as one.


Once you get over the knee-jerk reaction to the hipster label, you start to see that the examples haters hold up as indicative of the whole culture are outliers. Blackface Jesus was a mess, a trash person who delighted in a racism that was far less ironic than he likely thought it to be, but there were a thousand other people who showed up on that blog, most of whom weren’t anthropomorphized garbage fires. Yes, there are hipsters gentrifying parts of Brooklyn, but your average hipster is just trying to find a home they can afford, like everyone else living in Brooklyn. And sure, hipsters have a tendency to obsess over niche shit. But so do nerds, feminists, artists, and basically anyone with passion.


And hipsters have passion. What I found, in my circles at least, was that most hipsters were hunting for authenticity in a world in which whole swathes of the culture have been commodified. Our plastic society has made sincerity into an uncool pose, so many hipsters phrase this hunt in terms of irony when pressed on their reasoning. But irony alone doesn’t explain how many hipsters develop subject matter expertise, whether on a crafting process (like the homebrew movement), on an art form (like many indie musicians), or even on a game. A game like Magic: the Gathering. Hipsters seek the same thing as all other humans, at the end of the day: a frame through which the arc of our lives makes sense and has meaning.


After spending our childhoods inundated with the message that earnestness is corny and individuality a sign of deviance, is it surprising that we have a relatively defensive way of expressing those urges to the outside world?


Here at Hipsters of the Coast we love Magic: the Gathering. The game is great, sure, but so is the community. The culture of the game. The way in which metagames grow and evolve. The design decisions that underpin the cards we end up seeing. The false drama of spoiler season and the real drama of information control failures and cheating investigations. We love this stupid hobby in its entirety, and that’s why so often we push to make it the welcoming game and community we know it to be.


So, yeah, I’m a Hipster. I put thought into my presentation, whether or not that’s readily apparent to others. I have a hobby I am vaguely embarrassed to speak about in polite company, but will light up and evangelize about when I sense the slightest interest. I am sarcastic and urban and alternative. But it’s because I’m a hipster that I think it’s so important for this site to be a welcoming destination for anyone and everyone willing to play by the values of respect and empathy.


The world tries to divide us on all sorts of fault lines, and stereotypes are one of the main engines for this anti-collectivist push. I mock them every time I stand up and proudly say, “I am a hipster.”


Jess Stirba is a hipster.

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