The Evolution of Hipsters

Here’s a little-known fact: hipster culture started long before the mid-2000s. The term “hip,” meaning “to be in the know,” was used by African-American musicians as early as 1902—“Hipster” was coined during the 1930s. In that day and age, to be a hipster meant to follow black jazz artists and culture in order to discover a vibe that was lacking in their white bread world. These bohemians thrived on a diet of clove cigarettes and philosophical dissent.  Truly, the counter-culture movement can be traced back to Bohemia in France in the 1800s.  Bohemia was all about living a life for, and of, art. That sounds pretty damn hipster to me. 

Back to hipsterdom. 

In the 1950s and 60s, America’s economy boomed and suburbia thrived. Cookie cutter houses were filled with the latest gadget-o-matics, TV dinners, and oppressed housewives. In a time when “stuff” ruled, two voices begged to differ. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, pillars of the Beat generation, demanded there was more to life than material goods.

“Hipness was about more than just a toaster. It was about expressing your uniquely marvelous self.” 

What opposed this materialistic movement? Hippies. I would call this the pinnacle of the 20th-century Hipster movement. Hippies were against The Man (mainstream, authoritative culture), and for counter-culture experimentation to the extremes. Just look at Woodstock, Rainbow Gatherings, and anti-war protests.

Then, silence: the 1980s. Madonna ruled. Times were dark. 

Thank god for Nirvana, Soundgarden, Sleater Kinney and the entire grunge movement. This brought hipsterdom back in full swing. Hipster hubs, like Seattle and Portland, blossomed, as they became centers of grunge enthusiasts and riot grrls alike. Stuck in the perpetual cycle of middle-class American, the hipsters of the 1990s strived to break the status quo by taking a Nihilistic view of life. Their grassroots approach to the music scene made every band on the Olympic Peninsula the band to listen to. 

The 2000s brought as much change in a decade as nearly a century did in the 1900s. There were so many sects of the overall hipster culture that started and thrived in the 2000s. Let’s power through this. 

Emo: Grunge transformed into pop-punk, that morphed into another dark age: Emo. Characterized by thick eyeliner, MySpace profile photos taken at an absurd downward angle and neon fishnet being used for everything.

Mountain People: Bears. Beer. Beards. This almost ironic blue-collar fashion created a strange dichotomy between Hipsters and Homeless. Is that the smell of dirty clothes or the odor of their homemade deodorant?

Retro Rockabilly: Think The White Stripes meets Grease. The Rockabilly trend brought out cat-eye glasses, higher and higher waisted shorts, and all the red lipstick. Clothes were worn to compliment the numerous tattoos people dawned. Rockabilly Hipsters rushed to second-hand stores to drape themselves in clothes your grandparents wore and buy vinyl records. 

Uninspired Hipster: This is probably what comes to mind when you think of a current day hipster. Unfortunately, this is where the whole fedora and tiny scarf trend appeared. This hipster could often be seen riding a single-speed bike with slip-on Toms. 

We’ve made it to 2010s!  And really, these new genres of hipsters are more refined versions of their predecessors.  

Pretentious Granola: Kale here, kale there, kale everywhere! This breed only buys fair-trade organic tea, shops solely at the Farmer’s Market and believes in living an authentic lifestyle. The beard has come back in full swing and the man bun emerged. They thrive on a diet of polaroid film and knowing more than you.

InstaHipster: This whole genre encapsulates the hipster who travels to gorgeous locations, who show off their immaculate home, who is an aspiring chef, etc. etc. The common thread they all have is this: all their IG photos are “candids,” posed in an idyllic setting. I’d say early InstaHipsters straddled the line of cultural appropriation for their personal gain (think headdresses at Coachella), but thankfully that issue has been mostly(?) resolved. 

The Trendy Minimalist: This hipster ventures everywhere with their MacBook, a $20 cup of black coffee, and most likely has a degree in architecture or graphic design. They call themselves an *insert alcohol here* enthusiast (personally, I’m a margarita enthusiast.), dawn tattoos of miscellaneous geometric shapes, and own a record player they occasionally use. You will most likely find them at a local coffee shop and trust me—these hipsters know about everything before it is cool. 

I can say the evolution of a Hipster Having a Bad Day is not quite as extensive but has undergone some serious stylistic changes since 2015.

Evolution of Hipsters

Evolution of Hipsters

Evolution of Hipsters

What started as a showcase of my terrible drawing skills, has turned into a showcase of my illustration style which proves to just as quirky as the hipster movement itself.


/ / Sources / /
The Hipster: An Old Term That’s Taken on a Whole New Meaning
The Evolution of Hipsters Through the Years