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Are hipsters secretly stuffy?
You made me LOL at your August 29th article where you said most people do not have room to park in their garages that are filled with boxes, many untouched for over ten years. That was a great observation for a hipster, and you could probably do an entire article about why most people do that. Maybe you can find out the real reason for that, and the reason behind storage facilities filled with even more old stuff. Why do people want to hold on to the past so much?
— Bill, Palm City
Stuff. Clutter. Junk. The average American, particularly in a place like California known for materialism, loves his stuff. It fills his house, overflows into his garage, then, the stuff must find a home in a self-storage unit somewhere. The stuff builds up to the point where it dominates; where it becomes, like a shady Wall Street investment firm in the later-aughts, too big to fail.
We vigorously defend our stuff; its existence becomes a point of pride. We say, “I’ll use this someday!” We say, “It’s too important; we can’t discard the past like so much trash, because it isn’t trash, it’s our stuff, damn it, and stuff is who we are. It is who we have been, and, if we’re really being aspirational, it’s who we hope to be again.” Why else do we save the bike and wetsuit from the one time we did that charity triathlon? Why else might we refuse to part with the old clothing that fit our younger, skinnier selves? Holding on to the past is often a vain promise for the future.
Elsewhere, it has become easy to mock the minimalist hipster aesthetic, epitomized in such places as Dwell magazine; in offices where people bring their portable dogs to work and enjoy kombucha on tap; or basically any coffee shop where young, hip people linger over flat whites as they eke out a living doing freelance graphic design because they were unable to score jobs at the aforementioned contemporary office complex.
Yeah, it’s easy to poke fun at people sitting in a room with little more than a single beanbag and a couple air plants, but nobody can deny it cuts down on stuff. Hipsters have broken this obsession with the personal, material past. They stay more present, or at least it seems that way from without. No matter who you are, you have to envy that, and to admit there is something inspired about shaking off the weight of so much stuff.
Yet, hipsters also love the past. Witness the constant resurgence of retro-chic everything. The constant plundering of a former era, where all that was gets repurposed into an updated version of what now is. For all their anti-materialistic freedom from the chains of their own consumer past, hipsters are and always have been obsessed with pop culture history, as if cultural treasure lies buried deep within society’s memory, and hipsters are the ones who will dig it up and marvel at how, considered through the lens of our perfect hindsight, the primitive cultures of the middle-third of the 20th century were actually pretty darn advanced in some ways.
This illuminates a trenchant difference between the nostalgia of the American mainstream nuclear familyperson and that of the modernist hipster: the former holds tremendous nostalgia for his own past, while the latter only glorifies someone else’s. Whatever else that leads to, it makes for much more room in hipster’s garages.