Hipster can be a confusing term, since it has several meanings when discussing counterculture trends. One meaning connects back to the jazz movement of the 1940s through the early 1960s and before the term hippie was popularized. Another definition references a more modern use of the term hipster, as it might be used in common language today.
Initially the words hipster, hip, hep, and hepster might all have been used to describe certain folks who emulated a certain type of lifestyle, particularly connected to jazz music and the musicians who performed it. Special kinds of slang were used, and people who described themselves as hipsters tended to be sexually promiscuous, interested in using marijuana, and in general promoting a lifestyle that was easy going, relaxed and unrelated to the main culture. It’s thus considered a counterculture movement.
Some hipsters were specifically interested in jazz, but yet another definition was added with the writings of Beat Poets. In particular, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road can be seen as a depiction of many who lived this type of life style. To a certain degree, this form of hipster might be less interested in jazz, though music could be important. More importantly, Kerouac’s novel emphasizes some of the language and attitudes of a vibrant counterculture.
These early definitions are in great contrast to the way the term is currently used, though some of the attitudes remain similar. Since the 1990s, the hipster, who may also be called a scenester, is potentially middle to upper class with an interest in a variety of counterculture or alternative movements. These may include vegetarianism, extremely pro-green policies, and post-punk and alternative music. Hipsters of today could be classed as having an interest in things that are definitely not traditional or mainstream.
Some call the modern movement specifically inauthentic. Fashion trends for instance may dictate finding retro or thrift store clothing, but hipsters may well be able to afford new clothes given middle class or upper class status. Some people argue that the lifestyle doesn’t come from true conviction but a desire to identify with what is popularly different at the time, and that makes hipsters fairly predictable in what they will embrace.
No doubt plenty of people who identify with this movement would beg to differ with this assessment. The accusation that a modern hipster stands on the shoulders of counterculture giants like the hippies or the first hipsters and doesn’t have firm convictions also bears some scrutiny. Many hipsters have found logical and spiritual homes in counterculture movements of the past. They may choose a lifestyle that is specifically different since it makes global sense to avoid eating meat, or bike instead of using gas to get to work. It would be a mistake to claim that all people who could be classed as hipsters today do not have serious convictions that inform their decisions.