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Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath nostalgia: a bitter man’s pastime

I’ve lived long enough to see history repeat itself

Were those the days?
Were those the days?

Dear Hipster:

Please help me with something that has been puzzling me of late. I think we can agree the whole “retro stuff is super hipster” thing is established beyond dispute. Nevertheless, I have noticed hipsters aren’t usually very nostalgic. If anything, they tend to be more forward thinking — always concerned with the “new hotness” even when whatever happens to be new and hot is actually just a reincarnated version of something old that may have once been hot (and was decidedly not hot for some period of time, potentially a long one, thereafter). Sometimes, I almost think hipsters aren’t even aware of how retro some of their stuff is, but I admit I might be thinking about young people generally. I’ve lived long enough to see history repeat itself a few times, and often the people doing the repeating seem blissfully unaware of it. Anyways, how is this contradictory state of things possible? It doesn’t make sense to me.

— Ray from Ray St. (or therabouts)

I tend to agree with you. Hipsters aren’t prone to nostalgia. If you want proof, go “watch” your favorite Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath song, or any other “old white dude” tune for that matter, on YouTube. Scroll down and read till you find the first comment saying “Now this is real music!” or something to that effect. I’ll wait. Found it? 10/10 times that’s some grouchy, non-hipster, stuck-in-the-past dude who never got the memo about Radiohead, or much else for that matter. Nostalgia is all too often a bitter man’s pastime, and the hipster ain’t got time for that.

Nevertheless, hipsters are susceptible to nostalgia, although they put a ghoulish twist on it. For example, if you wanted to stage a road trip to visit creepy, abandoned amusement parks, you could actually choose multiple itineraries curated by hipster tour guides. Perhaps you want a purely domestic voyage, visiting the creepiest abandoned parks in the United States. If you have global aspirations, there are international hipster lists of abandoned parks you might trespass upon. Hipsters love abandoned things. You might be thinking, “maybe I should compose a photo essay of the abandoned Borscht Belt resorts in the Catskills,” but I hate to break it to you that some other hipster already got there (and it’s fabulous photography, as you might expect). Almost-abandoned stuff is just as good. Up until a few years ago, one could stage a roadtrip to the last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in the country, but those days have passed. For hipsters, being able to experience cultural death is, for whatever reason, the definition of a good time.

You are correct that, because the hipster nostalgia streak is narrow, the well-known hipster love of retro stuff is expressly not triggered by fond memories of the days of yore. Hipster nostalgia is all about experiencing some kind of cultural twilight, which is antithetical to the Renaissance mentality of your various comebacks, revivals, and resurgences. By way of example, your average hipster lines up for a seat at some tiki-themed pop-up crossover “project,” not for the sake of a wistful amble down memory lane to a time when any city worth its Mai Tai boasted a Trader Vic’s or Don the Beachcomber; but because retro tiki joints were popping off on Instagram that week.

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Were those the days?
Were those the days?

Dear Hipster:

Please help me with something that has been puzzling me of late. I think we can agree the whole “retro stuff is super hipster” thing is established beyond dispute. Nevertheless, I have noticed hipsters aren’t usually very nostalgic. If anything, they tend to be more forward thinking — always concerned with the “new hotness” even when whatever happens to be new and hot is actually just a reincarnated version of something old that may have once been hot (and was decidedly not hot for some period of time, potentially a long one, thereafter). Sometimes, I almost think hipsters aren’t even aware of how retro some of their stuff is, but I admit I might be thinking about young people generally. I’ve lived long enough to see history repeat itself a few times, and often the people doing the repeating seem blissfully unaware of it. Anyways, how is this contradictory state of things possible? It doesn’t make sense to me.

— Ray from Ray St. (or therabouts)

I tend to agree with you. Hipsters aren’t prone to nostalgia. If you want proof, go “watch” your favorite Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath song, or any other “old white dude” tune for that matter, on YouTube. Scroll down and read till you find the first comment saying “Now this is real music!” or something to that effect. I’ll wait. Found it? 10/10 times that’s some grouchy, non-hipster, stuck-in-the-past dude who never got the memo about Radiohead, or much else for that matter. Nostalgia is all too often a bitter man’s pastime, and the hipster ain’t got time for that.

Nevertheless, hipsters are susceptible to nostalgia, although they put a ghoulish twist on it. For example, if you wanted to stage a road trip to visit creepy, abandoned amusement parks, you could actually choose multiple itineraries curated by hipster tour guides. Perhaps you want a purely domestic voyage, visiting the creepiest abandoned parks in the United States. If you have global aspirations, there are international hipster lists of abandoned parks you might trespass upon. Hipsters love abandoned things. You might be thinking, “maybe I should compose a photo essay of the abandoned Borscht Belt resorts in the Catskills,” but I hate to break it to you that some other hipster already got there (and it’s fabulous photography, as you might expect). Almost-abandoned stuff is just as good. Up until a few years ago, one could stage a roadtrip to the last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in the country, but those days have passed. For hipsters, being able to experience cultural death is, for whatever reason, the definition of a good time.

You are correct that, because the hipster nostalgia streak is narrow, the well-known hipster love of retro stuff is expressly not triggered by fond memories of the days of yore. Hipster nostalgia is all about experiencing some kind of cultural twilight, which is antithetical to the Renaissance mentality of your various comebacks, revivals, and resurgences. By way of example, your average hipster lines up for a seat at some tiki-themed pop-up crossover “project,” not for the sake of a wistful amble down memory lane to a time when any city worth its Mai Tai boasted a Trader Vic’s or Don the Beachcomber; but because retro tiki joints were popping off on Instagram that week.

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