I must admit, I never, ever thought I would ride a single-speed bike. I would spot the lithe and lean figures accessorized to the hilt, riding with a beyond safe narrow hand grip weaving and winding their way around Sydney with an unexplainable pout.

I rode a 27 gear, tough as nails Mountain Bike. I had commuted on this puppy for a decade, mostly with slicks,(thin road tyres), and I had never converted to the more aerodynamic and infinitely more suitable for commuting at the speed-of-sound road bike or its urban cousin, the revitalized track bike.

I was a hell of a lot less critical of my friends who rode them. But I still shook my head with a smile as to why they would sweat in skinny jeans for 30 mins on their way to work and not shower. I would also watch their legs pound at unimaginable speeds and would just think at what point do you actually realize you look like a goose?

That was 12 months ago now. 12 months after I bought my first single-speed and realized that I’d been the goose for judging them. I and the rest of the world that is.

Now, I don’t wear my grandma’s knitted jumpers and some pants that belonged to an iron welder who worked the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But I have adopted a certain style of rider who chooses to challenge themselves by riding with only one gear. I’m not a music buff. I don’t smoke. I don’t do a quarter of the things that the Hipster is pigeon holed for. But I bet you when I flash past on my bike I’m named as one.

So why has this caused such attention? Why does this particular style and personal choice draw the ire of others? Why are people criticized for liking something and showcasing it? Why are people angry at others who aren’t like them?

The term Hipster is derogatory as it implies that someone is just dressing or behaving a certain way because they want to be seen to be apart of a trend. In this vein, an Emo (remember them?), surfer, and a nerd can be too. But Hipsters for some reason are attributed a falseness for ‘a belonging to’, that these other human emoticons are not. If the Hipster fashion trend had a different name, I assume it wouldn’t attract as much criticism.

A quick Google reveals the origins, or proposed origins, of the term Hip. Here’s a smidgeon:

“Many etymologists believe that the terms hip, derives from the west African Wolof language word hepicat, which means “one who has his eyes open”… “An alternative theory traces the word’s origins to those who used opium recreationally in the 19th century. Opium smokers commonly consumed the drug lying on their sides (i.e. their hips). Because opium smoking was a practice of socially influential trend-setting individuals, the cachet it enjoyed led to the circulation of the term hip..”

Two inferences from this.

  1. Hipsters are still the first to pick up trends from the other side of the world. Trends in music, habits, speech and dress. i.e ‘eyes open’
  2. Hipsters certainly are still consuming drugs or are known to do things that the mainstream won’t i.e riding with skinny jeans on.

To be ‘hip’, has always meant to be cool. But is it because the Hipster fashion seems to go against ‘cool’ to achieve it, that attracts disdain? That is, the more one is at odds with fashion, the more cooler they become? Has this trend undermined the authenticity of the Hipster movement?

In May 2010, American Apparel (AA) revealed it would be unable to pay an $80 million loan. In August of the same year, Deloitte resigned as its Accounting Firm. For many observers, it seemed its business model of selling a worn looking, logo free product, had enjoyed a great run but that trends or a particular meme(s) were shifting. All of a sudden, to be seen in AA wasn’t cool anymore. AA had replicated what it sought to subjugate in the mainstream: It had become mainstream.

What is certain is that fashion emerges from people’s minds. Whether you’re an 80 something, white-haired leaner version of Bob Hawke, who wears a tuxedo and sunnies to dinner, or a grubby, twenty something bar owner for whom grey trackies and a flannie constitutes smart-casual, you’re both going to wear what you want.

The problem lies with us and how much we care.

A quick schooling in Hipster behaviours: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAO4EVMlpwM

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