Aesthetics Wiki

Hipster is a broad subculture that is stereotypically composed of young adults who reside primarily in gentrified neighborhoods. It is broadly associated with indie and alternative music and genres, such as jazz, folk, indie rock, and electronic rock. Hipsters also frequently flaunt a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, wearing vintage and thrifted clothing; hold pacifist and green views; are often vegan; consume organic and artisanal foods, and craft alcoholic beverages; and live alternative lifestyles. The roots of the hipster aesthetic date back to the 1940s, but the modern-day version did not reach the height of its popularity until the late 2000s to early 2010s.[1]


1940s and 50s - Jazz Era and the Beats[]

The term "hipster" originated in the late 1930s and was popularized in the early '40s to describe jazz fans, a variation on the earlier "hepster" or "hep cat." Cab Calloway's A Hepster's Dictionary was published in 1938 as a guide to jazz slang. A mention of the musical superstar's book in the New York Amsterdam News, in which it was misprinted as A Hipster's Dictionary, may have popularized the spelling with an I.[2]

Hipsters of this era were stereotyped as white fans of jazz music produced by Black artists, which led to their adopting terms and styles from African-American jive culture. These hipsters were notable for preferring styles like hot jazz, cool jazz, and bebop, popular among Black audiences, over the big band swing music that was more popular among white audiences. This division shows an early form of the line between the "cool," "hip," "indie," or "alternative," and the "mainstream" or "square," a line which would become crucial to understandings of hipster identity then and later. '40s hipsters sometimes sought to emulate their heroes and further reject mainstream white American culture by embracing a relaxed attitude, bohemian living, liberal sexuality, and drug use.

Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg described the hipster culture of their era while writing in the late '40s and early '50s. Their writings would play a part in the creation of 21st-century hipster culture.[3]

1960s - Hippie Counterculture[]

Though the term "hipster" fell out of fashion with the decline of the jazz era and increasing mainstream mocking of "beatniks," the hippie (linguistically derived from hipster) counterculture of the '60s proved influential to the 21st-century hipster. Inspiration came from the Beats of recent decades, as well as the psychedelia and Eastern philosophy advocated by writers like Aldous Huxley and artists like the Beatles. Hippies embraced alternative lifestyles, drug use, free love, and an attitude of protest against the conservative American and British establishment. Many 21st-century hipsters draw aesthetic or philosophical inspiration from the hippie movement. Many musical artists such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Doors, and The Velvet Underground, who shared associations with the psychedelic, pacifist, and protest-oriented hippie movement, would become anemoiac favourites of later hipsters.[4]

1991–2004: Grunge Era and Early Indie[]

The contemporary hipster subculture evolved somewhat out of the Grunge subculture. Grunge featured an anti-consumerist drive to defy orthodox fashion by embracing cheap, well-worn, and untailored clothing. Grunge declined in the late 90s as it was commercialized and many of the bands at its centre dissolved, but this ethos would carry on into the roots of hipster culture in the early 2000s, cementing eclectic, anticonsumerist thrift fashion as a core tenet of the hipster aesthetic. Flannel shirts, a central part of any grunge outfit, would endure as a hipster favourite. The indie rock and folk music of the hipster movement also owes its often intentionally unrefined and authentic rough quality to its roots in grunge, although the more acoustic or electronic sound may be very different from grunge movement. Also around this time, Indie music began emerging such as Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Radiohead which could be considered a precursor to modern hipster.

Somewhere around the late '90s and very early 2000s, late Gen X grunge adherents gave way to early millennial hipster pioneers. It's been said that where grunge was a reaction against the yuppie culture and conservatism of the Reagan-Thatcher era, early hipsterism was a reaction to the Bush era, rising in the United States as a reaction to conservative trends following the 9/11 attacks.

2004–2008: Revival and Indie's Mainstreaming[]

For a time, the term "hipster" referred to people in different urban subcultures, including fans of vintage fashion, punk, and other groups that were simultaneously attractive and too niche for the mainstream. However, what distinguishes the hipster from a person who is a part of these subcultures is the lack of values and instead a preference for the aesthetic elements, in effect being posers[5].

The term "hipster" rose to prominence a second time in the mid-late 2000s to describe liberal and artsy residents of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Robert Lanham's 2003 book The Hipster Handbook popularized the term. It spread rapidly, and was soon used to describe similar residents of London's hip, gentrified Shoreditch neighbourhood, and similar neighbourhoods in such hipster hotspots as Berlin, Seattle, Vancouver, and Montreal. New movements of the 2000s became tied into the hipster subculture. Craft or "micro" brewing grew quickly from the mid-2000s to early 2010s, displacing mainstream "macro" beers as the drink of choice for young adults in hip areas. At the same time, the craft cocktail revolution and a greater interest in all things "artisanal" and hand-crafted became prominent.

A boom in indie music such as Modest Mouse and The Killers, speculated to be related to the financial struggles of larger labels due to internet music piracy, provided an eagerly embraced soundtrack to the culture. Movies with an "indie" aesthetic achieved mainstream recognition such as Garden State, The Life Aquatic, and Superbad. Growing social movements of the 2000s such as the gay pride movement and environmental consciousness were embraced by hipsters as a means of demonstrating their progressive ideologies.

The idea of the hipster was codified and homogenized through the decade to feature interest in vintage fashion, indie music, fixie bicycles appropriated from bike courier culture, and craft beer. As these signifiers grew more identifiable, they became the main things associated with the hipster label.

2008–2013: Recession-Era Popularization and Indie Sleaze[]

A thesis statement of late Hipsterdom could be taken from The Suburbs, a very hipster-associated 2010 album by very hipster-associated band Arcade Fire: "When we watched the markets crash/the promises we made were torn/ (...) Some people say we've already lost/But they're afraid to pay the cost"

In other words, the Great Recession of 2008 provided fertile ground for the popularization of hipster thought. Millennials frequently found themselves disillusioned with ladder-climbing capitalist attitudes in the wake of the recession. Instead they rejected corporatism and sought out more natural, timeless aesthetics. The Indie Sleaze era was popularized through artists like LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire. New hipster meccas like Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas emerged where low rent allowed purposefully lower-paid Millennials to live more bohemian lifestyles and enjoy artistic pursuits. The dream of the 90s, they said, was alive in Portland.[6]

As the hipster aesthetic grew, its signifiers began to enter mainstream culture, with "hipster" becoming a codified and recognizable costume. While this encouraged more people to enjoy the aesthetic, it may have been the cause of its end. An aesthetic founded on defying the mainstream, after all, is at an impasse when it becomes itself the mainstream zeitgeist. Google Trends shows that searches for the word "hipster" between 2004 and the present peaked in 2012 in the United States and 2015 worldwide.[7] [8] However, articles with titles like "What was the hipster?" were being published as early as 2010.[9]

2013–2017: Commodification and Indie Folk[]

The exact decline of the hipster era is difficult to delineate. As "the hipster" became a codified costume and aesthetic, it grew distanced from its former political associations of socially liberal causes. Criticisms of white-centric, male-focused, and culturally appropriative aspects of the aesthetic emerged. In many cases, hipster signifiers didn't necessarily fade from culture, but faded from positions of unique cultural significance.

Indie music grew so produced as to blur the line with pop, as artists like Lorde achieved huge commercial success in what would formerly have been considered an indie sound. In the mid-2010s, Indie Sleaze gave way to "stomp clap hey" Indie Folk such as The Chainsmokers and The Lumineers. Being so promoted in the mainstream, this could hardly be called hipster. Craft beer eclipsed macro brands as the ubiquitous choice for drinkers around the world. Facial hair, bangs, flannel, skinny jeans, large glasses, and other anachronistic or counter-cultural styles became more accepted as business casual looks. When everyone became a hipster, perhaps, that meant that no one was. Any aesthetic which prides itself on being distinct from the cultural sphere would inevitably face a crisis of identity upon becoming a central focus of that sphere.

2017–2020: Decline and Dormancy[]

As new aesthetics emerged in the late 2010s, the hipster as a distinct entity faded somewhat from the public consciousness. The 2016 election of Donald Trump and the 2017 finale of Portlandia have sometimes been cited as an end to this era.

2020–present: Nostalgic Revisitation[]

The 2020s saw a renewed nostalgic interest in the hipster culture of the 2000s and early 2010s, largely from Generation Z internet users who had been quite young at the time. Indie Sleaze was codified as an aesthetic summation of early-hipster party culture, though its accuracy has been questioned.[10][11] Twee aesthetics associated with hipster culture were remembered nostalgically. Tumblr users in particular began to reminisce about 2014 Tumblr culture, a young person's view of the late-hipster era, though as related above, core hipster culture was declining somewhat through a merger with the mainstream by 2014.


Hipster philosophy is centred around ideals of authenticity, artistry, independence, free thought, and rejection of mainstream commercialized mores of society.

The archetypal hipster rejects the idea that commercial success or capitalist entrenchment is an indication of a thing's quality, and may very likely hold the opposite to be true. The adherent of hipster philosophy would claim that quality and authenticity can only be achieved by breaking away from the limits of that which is produced by large corporations and a soulless capitalist society. That which is hipster theoretically exists in dichotomous opposition to that which is mass-produced, corporate, designed for mass appeal, and is therefore artificial. The hipster fundamentally believes that authentic human artistry, creativity, and soul imbibe a thing with inherently superior quality to objects of mainstream commercialism. This can be seen in the hipster love of indie and low-production music, film, and art, as well as in intentionally, anachronistic, tacky, or lower-end fashion, which shows rejection of mainstream fast fashion and corporate-driven trends.

Hipsters believe in being bohemian in lifestyle but nonetheless educated and worldly, in tune with the issues that face the planet. Travel, especially backpacking and hostel travel in which the traveller experiences what could be seen as a more authentic view of the world, is considered very valuable. Experiencing art, film, music, and writing which presents complex or challenging ideas is likewise considered important. Hipsters pride themselves on being well-read and are likely to gravitate towards creative and artistic fields. The hipster is fundamentally romantic rather than pragmatic, though it may be a form of romanticism hidden beneath a veneer of irony, which comes from a disdain for the less artistic mainstream.

The term "hipster" is often used as a pejorative, to denigrate a person seen as being focused on surface-level coolness and visible difference from the mainstream for ironic purposes. However, many of those proclaimed as hipsters in the pejorative sense would either reject the label or refute its aptness. As a rejection of mainstream society involves a rejection of labels, self-proclaimed hipsters are rare; though many may identify with the label, there exists a certain taboo among "hipsters" against stating one's own desire to be seen as a hipster, due to its commonly pejorative nature. Irony is common in hipster thought, but the degree to which irony dominates hipster thought varies among individuals and remains a source of debate. Some schools of thought hold that cynical irony is a hallmark of hipster attitude because it serves as contrast to the artificially peppy mood of mainstream corporatism and advertising.


The visuals of hipsterdom can vary broadly, as the term designates a philosophy and view of culture more than any particular visual aesthetic.

Contrasting colours, thrifted clothing, and intentionally unfashionable outfits mark the more punk, grunge, and indie-aligned aspect of hipster culture. Beanies, scarves, flannel, and ripped skinny jeans tend to be prominent in this look.

As lower production value and higher artistic integrity is valued by hipsters, the philosophy can be associated with lo-fi photography and film or the sincere simplicity of hand-drawn line art. Hipster value worldly education, so books, glasses, and art are prominent as signifiers of intellectual pedigree.

Coffee shops and book stores became associated with hipsters in part due to their historical status as places of intellectual discussion and art. Brew pubs were a more casual equivalent that still exemplified appreciation for that which was authentic and homemade.

Twee aesthetics were well aligned with hipsters. Movies like Little Miss Sunshine, 500 Days of Summer, and the filmography of Wes Anderson imparted a vintage-cute, somewhat nerdy and quirky aesthetic to the hipster style, especially for women. Sundresses, flower crowns, Peter Pan collars, film cameras, vinyl records, and fixie bicycles bridged the shrinking gap between the twee and the hip.

Later hipsterism associated with indie-folk and the Pacific Northwest, though it would spread beyond these origins, would embrace what was sometimes called a lumbersexual aesthetic. This featured visuals associated with woodsmen and mountain men: flannel, especially red buffalo check, suspenders, rough wood (or perhaps Ragged Wood,) coniferous trees, mountains, leather, acoustic instruments, and large beards or mustaches. Deer, bird, and other woodland animal motifs were associated with this style, which could be considered intersectional with Campcore, Cabincore, or Adventurecore.[12]


Hipster Fashion revolves around the idea of rejecting the mainstream trends and using unique or quirky items to define an outfit. This can range from hairstyles and facial hair to socks. Rejecting unsustainable and uninspired mainstream fast fashion, hipsters will often shop at thrift stores or make use of vintage items. Contrasting and layering items together, especially those that may be traditionally seen as being part of different styles, is the way to create a hipster outfit. Tattoos are popular.


Flannel shirts are an archetypical symbol of lumbersexual-style hipster outfits. More urban styles may go for vintage t-shirts, especially with unique or anachronistic imagery (vinyl decals, typewriter font, etc.) V-neck t-shirts have been associated with a hipster look. Vests, sweaters, suspenders, blazers, and zip-up hoodies could all be layered with these bases.


Skinny jeans are the standard hipster bottoms. If standard blue jeans, these are more likely to be a darker wash, though they can also be distinct and brightly coloured. Some hipsters, especially those inclined to something of the twee aesthetic, may be fond of sundresses and flowing skirts - the hippie inspiration factors in here.


Depending on the hipster outfit, different shoes may be an essential part. Men's patterned leather brogues, Converse-style sneakers, or leather desert boots can be worn. Unique, patterned, brightly colored, or mismatched socks can be worn with these shoes.

Facial Hair[]

Moustaches and full beards are considered a distinctive hipster marker.


It could be said that a hipster outfit is truly made by trimming it with unique and quirky accessories. These might include:

  • Beanies/toques (especially worn pushed back on the head in the slouchy style)
  • Newsboy caps
  • Fedora hats
  • Pocket watches
  • Horn-rimmed glasses
  • Round sunglasses
  • Bowties
  • Scarfs (worn inside and outside, all year round)
  • Cameras (often vintage/film)
  • Pipes or distinctive cigarettes
  • Messenger bags
  • Canvas bags


Media associated with and beloved by hipsters is wide-ranging and diverse. Many genres and styles may be represented. The common factor is that hipsters value art and media produced and consumed outside of the mainstream, which would be expected to show a stronger sense of authorship, less sense of being produced by a focus group for mass appeal, and therefore may not be as widely known in popular culture. Stories about outsiders or those who have trouble fitting into societal norms have built-in hipster appeal.


Certain authors are beloved by hipsters for their strong sense of style, offbeat worldviews and characters, counter-cultural ethos, or esoteric and artistic writing. By author surname, some examples might be:

  • Charles Bukowski
  • Albert Camus
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Bret Easton Ellis
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Jonathan Safran Foer
  • John Green
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Nick Hornby
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Jack Kerouac
  • Haruki Murakami
  • George Orwell
  • Chuck Palahniuk
  • Sylvia Plath
  • J.D. Salinger
  • Zadie Smith
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • David Foster Wallace[13]


  • Any movie directed by:
    • Woody Allen
    • Wes Anderson
    • Zach Braff
    • Tim Burton
    • The Coen Brothers
    • Daniels
    • Greta Gerwig
    • David Lynch
    • Martin Scorsese
    • Quentin Tarantino
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • Adventureland
  • Almost Famous
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • Begin Again
  • Jane Wants A Boyfriend
  • Amelie
  • Donnie Darko
  • Submarine
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Her
  • Juno
  • Drive
  • Tiny Furniture
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Lost in Translation
  • Napoleon Dynamite[14][15]

TV Shows[]

  • Arrested Development
  • Community
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Freaks and Geeks
  • The IT Crowd
  • Portlandia
  • Twin Peaks


Music is one of the most fundamental parts of the hipster subculture. As hipsters value artistry and uniqueness over commercially produced mainstream music, "hipster music" could include a broad spectrum of styles, though certain genres rise to prominence in association with the archetypal hipster of various eras. Hipsters stereotypically love vinyl records, and prefer to listen to music live or in analog formats. A surefire source of hipster cred is an association with music, the more offbeat the better. Hipsters like music, but the hippest hipster knows all about the most unexpected and strange subgenres. Hipsters may play music, but the hippest hipster may play strange and unexpected instruments like the singing saw or hurdy-gurdy.


The term "hipster" originally described jazz fans of the 1940s and 50s. Modern hipsters may share a love of the genre, or else appreciate it for its role in the origins of hipster counterculture, or for its vintage associations. Hipster-beloved jazz artists might include Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, or Louis Armstrong.

Indie Rock[]

As hipster subculture took a new form around the turn of the millennium, it became associated with late 90s and 2000s indie rock scene. Offbeat and unusual rock bands signed to smaller record labels defined the musical hipster as known today.

Neutral Milk Hotel's lyrically esoteric and anachronistically-instrumented album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea has been described as "The Bible for hipsters."[16] Other artists producing diverse sounds and moods formed a broad canon of hipster indie rock. Artists of this genre beloved by hipsters could include:

  • Arcade Fire
  • Beirut
  • Belle and Sebastian
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • The Decemberists
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Modest Mouse
  • The New Pornographers
  • Radiohead
  • The Shins
  • Sufjan Stevens
  • The Strokes
  • Vampire Weekend[17] [18]

Classic Rock[]

The 21st-century Hipster revival and its love of all things vintage and genuine also saw hipsters scouring used record shops to discover artists prominent in past decades whose music had overall or in part been overlooked by the canonization of mainstream classic rock. Hipster classic rock, by definition, isn't what would be heard on a commercial classic rock radio. A hipster's classic rock playlist might include overlooked 1960s-80s deep cuts by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Talking Heads, The Smiths, or Sonic Youth.

Indie Folk[]

The growth of hipster subculture in the late 2000s coincided with the growth of indie-folk music, which blended folk traditions and acoustic instrumentation with hipster-beloved indie rock style, sometimes differentiated as "hippie-sters."[19] This style has also been jokingly referred to as "stomp clap hey" music. Early innovators in the subgenre like Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Iron and Wine gave rise to more mainstream "folk-pop" acts like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, The Head and the Heart, and Vance Joy. As this music period featured the greatest merging of hipster and mainstream styles, these artists are among the most visible representations of hipster music from an outside perspective, and therefore are often cited as representative of the entire very diverse set of styles. It could be argued that as the term "hipster" usually defines an exception from the mainstream, especially in music, then a highly visible, commercially promoted, and accessible hipster artist represents an inherent contradiction.[20]

Activities and Locales[]

Hipster aesthetic grew out of young urban alternative communities, and so activities suited to that lifestyle predominate how hipsters spend time.

Making or listening to music, especially live in small clubs, cafés, or festivals, or in jam sessions at home, is a very hipster activity. The more the attendee can brag that not many people would know about an venue, artist, or event, the more the experience aligns with hipster ideals. If live music isn't available that night, then listening to vinyl records is the next best thing.

Attending protests or campaigning for causes can be considered "hipster," as hipsters are often socially active and aligned with progressive politics.

Riding bicycles is a stereotypical hipster activity. Cycling is a mode of transportation that's better for the environment and better for the social fabric of dense cities than driving and car-centric infrastructure, and allows for more independent travel than relying on institutional highways and transit. For these reasons cycling may even be a social cause in itself. It's also the perfect way to show off one's hipster outfits, cruising by upright on a fixie or Dutch-style bike.

Travelling is considered valuable to a well-rounded hipster lifestyle, especially backpacking, couchsurfing, hitchhiking, and such cheaper, more independent, and more "authentic" modes of travel. The hipster traveller is more likely to be found sleeping in dormitory hostels and eating in local markets than in all-inclusive resorts and high-end restaurants.

Hipsters love to eat and drink at hip restaurants, bars, and cafés. If those places have brunch or craft beer, all the better.

Hipster Neighbourhoods[]

Simply hanging out in some places could be seen as a hipster activity. Brew pubs, independent coffeehouses, hip hole-in-the-wall restaurants, record shops, thrift and vintage shops, markets, independent bookstores, or accessible parks and plazas can all be beloved hipster spots. Many cities around the world have stereotypically "hipster neighbourhoods" where many of these spots can be found, and where young artists and independent professionals congregate. Below is a thorough but certainly non-exhaustive list of examples.[21][22][23][24][25]

North America[]

  • Little Five Points, Atlanta
  • Midtown, Atlanta
  • East Austin, Austin
  • Hampden, Baltimore
  • Allston-Brighton, Boston
  • Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • Inglewood, Calgary
  • North Shore, Chattanooga
  • St. Elmo, Chattanooga
  • Southside, Chattanooga
  • Wicker Park, Chicago
  • LoHi, Denver
  • Lower Westheimer, Houston
  • Echo Park, Los Angeles
  • Silver Lake, Los Angeles
  • Roma, Mexico City
  • Wynwood, Miami
  • North Loop, Minneapolis
  • Mile End, Montreal
  • Warehouse District, New Orleans
  • Uptown, Oakland
  • Westboro, Ottawa
  • Northern Liberties, Philadelphia
  • Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh
  • The Pearl District, Portland
  • North Park, San Diego
  • Mission, San Francisco
  • Capitol Hill, Seattle
  • Queen West, Toronto
  • Mount Pleasant, Vancouver
  • H Street, Washington D.C.

South America[]

  • Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires
  • Barranco, Lima
  • Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
  • Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo


  • Amsterdam-Noord, Amsterdam
  • Gracia, Barcelona
  • Kreuzberg, Berlin
  • Elizabethtown, Budapest
  • Vesterbro, Copenhagen
  • Plagweitz, Leipzig
  • Shoreditch, London
  • Malasaña, Madrid
  • Bahnhofsviertel, Munich
  • Belleville, Paris
  • Pigneto, Rome
  • Södermalm, Stockholm
  • Langstrasse, Zurich


  • Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
  • Beyoglu, Istanbul
  • Tiong Bahru, Singapore
  • Florentin, Tel Aviv
  • Shimokitazawa, Tokyo


  • Fitzroy, Melbourne


  • Woodstock, Cape Town



Cutester is an aesthetic that invokes the feeling (or appearance) of being cute. This applies to people who wear child-like clothing, acts in a way that invokes cuteness or anything of the sort. This is what it looks like when one takes the Kidcore aesthetic and added a few dashes into the Hipster aesthetic.

Fixed Gear Hipster[]

A Fixed Gear Hipster (or fixie hipster) describes a hipster riding atop a fixed gear bicycle often termed as a fixie. Although, the heritage of fixed gear cycling dates to professional couriers, messengers, and track cycling. It is unclear how this style of cycling became popular with them. However, it is generally believed that owning a fixed-gear bicycle has been labeled "trendy" within hipster culture.


External links to help get a better understanding of this aesthetic.