Text & Photos: Alec Coiro
When you close your eyes and think of a “hipster,” big mustaches and fixed gear bikes and all the other cliches probably still come to mind. But in the everyday use, when someone talks about “the new hipster yoga studio” or “all the hipsters moving into the neighborhood,” they are not talking about waxed mustaches and fixed gears. What they are really referring to is what we used to call yuppies, just ordinary yuppies with normal gears on their bikes and hygienic shaving habits.
Take, for example, the strong association between hipster and something “artisanal.” Perhaps this connection originally derives from the hipster’s tendency to craft his or her own hipster accouterments: honey, mustache wax, double-decker tall bike. Currently, however, the yuppy-hipster is connected to things artisanal because the hipster shops at a place like the new Whole Foods which is about to open in Williamsburg. But, of course, what people who shop at Whole Foods actually are is yuppies, as yuppies have spiritually shopped at Whole Foods since before Whole Foods even existed.
To dig deeper into the artisanal confusion, we can look at the ultimate and, perhaps, original yuppy movie, Baby Boom. As you recall, Baby Boom is the story of uber-yuppy Diane Keaton merging her New York urbanness with idealized Vermont rusticness and starting a craft baby food business, which ultimately “disrupts” corporate America. Such a tale told in 2016 would of course be labeled the ultimate hipster crafting fantasy, but as we can see the roots of such behavior stretch all the way back to the very foundation of yuppy-dom.
So how did the hipster-yuppy confusion come to pass? The explanation has everything to do with gentrification. At our laziest, we describe gentrification as the hipsters moving in and jacking up the prices in the neighborhood. But the reality usually more multi-phased than that. The people who wind up in a neighborhood during the final phase of gentrification would definitely not have chosen to live in the same neighborhood during the first phase of gentrification. A couple who just bought an apartment at The Edge in Williamsburg are different from a group of art students going in on a loft in East New York. The couple moving into The Edge and hanging at Smorgasburg are obviously the Yuppies; while the first-wave gentrifying art students are probably more accurately dubbed hipsters. But when we talk about gentrification, we usually talk about it as one monolithic thing, so everyone just gets lumped in as hipsters, and the term yuppy gets forgotten.
Since this is all based on conjecture, none of it may be true, and I don’t know what the implications are for the debate over gentrification (I’m not actually a sociologist). My point is just that a lot of these hipsters out here are yuppies. And if you don’t believe me, just go ask Diane Keaton.