Conforming to Non-Conformity: The Decline and Fall of the Hipster Generation

It is a simple fact – internationally acknowledged – that trends work in circles. Something which gains popularity until it becomes considered as “cool” will inevitably become so cool that it will regress into becoming “un-cool”.

The explanation is simple: people who reach beyond the norm and embrace things which are considered unpopular tend to slowly build up the popularity of that thing – be it clothes, activities or simple tendencies – until it reaches a pinnacle of “coolness”. It then begins a slow decline as people realize that it is awfully un-cool to be following trends. Said un-cool thing will then lie dormant for an appropriate number of years – usually a decade or two – before being picked up and reformed into something cool again.

Consider the hipster subculture, which consists of, to quote Wikipedia, “white millennials living in urban areas”. Over the last few years it has gone from one of the trendiest and most interesting subcultures to one of the most hated. The word hipster has migrated to the cool side of the spectrum to the un-cool side – and very quickly.

Spending time in an major city is always a bit like playing spot-the-hipster. And they’re not hard to find. Take a stroll down Long Street, considered the one of the most central hubs of Cape Town, and in no time you will find yourself dodging eighties-clad, nose-ring-sporting skateboarders. The smoothie bars are packed to the rafters with rustic silver jewellery, Dr. Martins, fraying vintage clothing, visible ankle socks and eighties bomber jackets – because of course, healthy is the new rage. And as admittedly beneficial it is to be stuffing yourself with superfoods, remember to do it for yourself – not to mindlessly integrate yourself into what everyone else is following.

There is nothing particularly wrong with tattoo chokers and tented clothing. It is simply the fact that, while hipsters’ primary aim is not to conform to what modern society sees as acceptable, they are all, in fact, conforming to the same non-conformity – and thus have accidentally created an acceptable metaphor for all the ironies of modern life.

There is a fine line between being different by being yourself and being different to be just like everyone else, and we all stand guilty of lapsing into the latter. In a world where everyone is judged by somebody, right down their brand of their underwear, it is nice to find a subculture which seems to be all encompassing of people who supposedly want to be different. But at the same time there is a highly specific way in which you must be different in order to fall into the category of a hipster.

To be honest, I am really not up to mission of meticulously coordinating my wardrobe to carefully create an allegedly careless look which costs either £2 or £200 – depending on what sort of hipster I want to be. And while it might be nice to enter into a world in which oversized jeans are welcome, trend reversal is always imminent and there will always be the risk of having to entirely change your views when a trendier subculture comes into the picture.

Society can be brutal. It switches sides in the blink of an eye, and before you know it the social trend worshipped a week ago has now been burned at the stake.

Don’t get me wrong, I find non-conformity an extremely courageous direction to move in. But next time, when you make the decision to shun all labels, make sure you don’t create one of your own and all begin conforming to your non-conforming movement.

Words by Skye Mallac

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1 Comment

  • Good article. I Completely agree with your insight. It was easy to read, good flow, and interesting material.
    There are some typos in the text that I would LOVE to correct so that they don’t detract from your essay. Nothing mispelled, just articles either left out in some places or not needed in others.
    Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more of your stories in the future.

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