Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hipster Hatred and Conspicuous Consumption

Like many people, I'm not fond of hipsters.  To me, skinny jeans and Hitler mustaches look ridiculous, not stylish.  Which is why my antennae went up when I read about Brooklyn's (hipster ground zero) latest specialty store, the Brooklyn Porridge Company, which serves artisanal porridge.
http://bit.ly/18KgmEn

A bowl of gluten-free, non-GMO, porridge costs $7.95.  Porridges include "the Truffled Heart with shaved parmesan, artichoke hearts, and white truffle oil."  Self-importance sold separately.

But rather than dwell on the absurdity of artisanal porridge (what's next, premium butt wipes for men? Oh wait, we already have them: http://bit.ly/1fFqTjh), I'd like instead to scrutinize my own reactions and figure out why we hate hipsters so much, and whether that hatred is justified.

1) Running an artisanal, gourmet porridge shop seems like it's being cute for the sake of being cute.

It's important to note that artisanal porridge dish in a high-end restaurant doesn't seem as annoying to me; the goal of haute cuisine is to surprise and delight with unexpected juxtapositions.  But setting up a store to sell nothing but gourmet porridge seems like showing off, just like restaurants that only serve grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  The infantilization of diners by offering kids food as expensive cuisine is just the icing on (ironic) cake.

2) Eating at an artisanal, gourmet porridge shop seems like it's being cute for the sake of being cute.

My impression is that the people who eat at a gourmet porridge shop are the type of people who want to tell others that they ate at a gourmet porridge shop and then document the experience with a FourSquare check-in, an Instagram photo, and an arch Yelp review.

What the two points above illustrate is the distaste that I (and presumably others) have for self-conscious acts of performance art.  In neither case is the focus on creating or eating tasty food.  The story is more important than the substance, which rubs me the wrong way.  Storytelling is incredibly powerful in food, but I prefer it deployed in a sincere, authentic way, not for its own sake.

3) Artisanal, gourmet porridge seems like a wasteful indulgence.

This is one of my fundamental objections to hipsterism, which is the same objection I have to yuppies and frat boys.  When people spend money in ways I perceive as wasteful, it rubs me the wrong way.  I work hard for my money (not as hard as some, harder than others) and when people spend money in a manner that seems frivolous, it makes me feel like they don't appreciate hard work.

Many feel the same way when reading about the over-the-top conspicuous consumption of the mega-rich, even if they earned their money honestly.  For example, even well-liked billionaires like Richard Branson take flak for buying jumbo jets and private islands, or hiring famous rock stars to play a kid's bar mitzvah.  "Spend your money how you want," we seem to say, "But don't rub our nose in how much you have compared to us."

I also get a sneaking suspicion that spendthrifts have other sources of unearned money, be it trust fund or inheritance.  And if there's anything we dislike more than people throwing around earned money, it's people throwing around unearned money.

In summary:

A) Hipsterism seems like a self-conscious performance art which focuses on style, rather than substance. (And really, there is no valid justification for men wearing skinny jeans)

B) Conspicuous consumption is irksome enough when the deserving rich engage in it; it's even more annoying when we think someone is throwing around unearned money to show off.

In the end, it's justifiable in my book to be annoyed by hipsters, but hipster hatred seems like the same kind of over-the-top and inauthentic performance art that makes hipsters so irritating.

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