The Original Hipsters Were?
Answer: Jazz Aficionados
In today’s vernacular the term “hipster” broadly refers to a subculture composed of predominantly white millennials, concentrated around urban areas in gentrifying neighborhoods, who have a focus on non-mainstream media and fashion. It came into its current use in the 1990s and has recently peaked in popularity thanks to significantly increased social commentary and cultural attention (the popular TV show Portlandia, for example, is based entirely around the premise of poking fun at the hipster subculture).
While the term in its present state might have come into its own during the 1990s, it actually dates all the way back to the 1940s. In the mid-20th century, “hipster” was coined during the rise of Jazz music and is a derivative of the word “hip” as used to describe aficionados of the growing musical movement. Use of the word hip to describe someone cool and in the know was used as early 1902 (hep and hepster were also used up through the late 1930s). Hip quickly gained a -ster English suffix, much like gang became gangster, and was in widespread use by the end of World War II.
At first glance, the two cultural movements may seem distantly separated, but there is a not insignificant overlap in elements of both the 1940s and millennial hipster movements including a strong emphasis on underground or counter-cultural music, a general appropriation of cultural elements and artifacts outside the participants primary culture, an emphasis on eschewing dominant culture in favor of a more relaxed lifestyle not centered on traditional American cultural goals, and a search for what the participant views as the authentic elements of culture that exist behind commercialism and mainstream ideas.
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