Illuminated Mac screens dot the interior of Norman’s Gray Owl Coffee. In their glow, the outline of a certain breed of college creature comes to life.
It’s a sea of TOMS shoes, skinny jeans and plaid. Hard to define, but easy to spot ” these are hipsters. And this is just one of their home bases, with its mismatched seating and abstract art.
Just across the street is Opolis, where obscure bands and techno beats lure the same crowd. A block over, those same folks will get their fill of organic produce at Forward Foods.
It’s a hipster paradise.
“Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counterculture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence and witty banter.”
So reads one of many Urban Dictionary definitions for this elusive species.
Gray Owl patron and University of Oklahoma employee Dave Hoecker put it more simply: “It’s a style, but it’s also an attitude,” he said.
Hoecker had a hard time defining what he calls a culture of “hipsterism” — from the skinny jeans to the slouchy hats and the “different feeling.”
And there may be a good reason: The first rule of being a hipster is don’t talk about being a hipster.
A Psychology Today article titled “The Sad Science of Hipsterism” cites an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research as proof hipsters don’t want to identify themselves as such. Study authors interviewed so-called hipsters who admitted to traditionally hipster behavior, but shunned the title.
So just who are these mystery men and women? The term “hipster” first appeared in the 1940s and was laid out in Harry Gibson’s 1944 album, “Boogie Woogie in Blue.” Depicted in tracks like “Handsome Harry, the Hipster” and “The Hipster’s Blues, Opus 69,” these cool cats were all about the jazz scene’s swinging vibe and its copious excesses.
But that was then.
At Gray Owl, they’re the 20-somethings who mix peasant skirts with sweatshirts and work boots with suspenders. At other times in other places, they’re the ones listening to bands the masses have never heard of, and drinking teas they can’t pronounce.
Urban Outfitters and Salvation Army clothe them. Pabst Blue Ribbon and vanilla lattes nourish them. The Internet makes caricatures of them.
“I’m in the midst of skinny jeans, vintage boots, Cosby sweaters, and nerd glasses … #hipsters,” reads one plaintive tweet on Twitter. Another read, “There are three jean jackets in front of me in this class #hipsters.”
The faces that launched a thousand memes, hipsters have inspired Hipster Hitler parodies and gone prehistoric with “The Hipster Dinosaur Coloring Book,” in which Brontosauruses debate the value of Wilco’s last album with a mustachioed T-rex.
And there’s always the less-lovingly stated “Look at this fucking hipster” website, which encourages visitors to submit their own photos and videos.
But this mocking has done nothing to thwart the culture. The ironic facial hair and granny glasses still spread along college campuses and fill local coffee shops and dive bars.
So don your best plaid button-down, grab an iced chai and revel in the glory of all things understated and outdated. They’ll leave the fluorescent light on.
DRESS LIKE A HIPSTER
By their very definition, hipsters spurn categorization. But there are a few staples of any hipster wardrobe. Most are unisex, save for the facial hair, of course.
Ironic mustache: For the hipster male, even one’s facial hair must make a statement. Styles may vary and can be anything from the simple Col. Sanders ‘stache to the full-force Grizzly Adams beard. Whatever your choice, make sure the mustache is finely tuned, while any beard growth looks unkempt and out of control ” like kudzu for your face.
Oversized glasses: Cancel that Lasik appointment. Or better yet, correct your vision, because glasses without lenses are much more deck (i.e. hip or cutting-edge, per the online Hipster Handbook). The bigger and more outdated, the better. Find Gramps’ old bifocals, pop out the lenses and get ready to attract a mate.
Slouchy hat: Trucker hats are out; deflated mushrooms are in. True hipsters want a flaccid head-topper. For in order to be nonchalant, your hat, too, should hang in apathy.
Skinny jeans: While it is important for your hat to hang loosely around your noggin, jeans are another story. In a distant time, hipster jeans referred to pants that rested on the wearer’s hips. Those days are gone. Today, it is of the utmost importance that hipster pants create that starving-artist illusion through skintight and ill-fitting styles.
“Vintage” sweater: Guidelines for the torso vary. A good rule of thumb is find something tacky or with a mind-boggling pattern. Cardigans, sweaters and button-ups are preferred, so long as they’re reminiscent of a 1974 nightmare. —Nicole Hill