Culture Vultures

Are Hipsters Stealing Gay Style? Or Something Else?

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I would rather be on a bus in the Gaza Strip than anywhere in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

When I entered college in 2000, “hipster” was solely a reference to the beat poets — not some white, faggoty-looking-but-straight Hampshire College graduate with a penchant for the visual arts and film. I recently asked a 20-year-old self-described hipster what makes him a hipster. He said: “You know, the music I listen to, the clothes I wear.” Really. Deep. Shit. It might have even held up to some relaxed litmus test, except as any real hipster knows, you never admit to being one.

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In Time Out New York‘s “Why the Hipster Must Die,” Christian Lorentzen eloquently defines hipsterism as being the “province of whites, its acolytes raid(ing) the cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity in the pot. Similarly, they devour gay style…these aesthetics are assimilated—cannibalized—into a repertoire of meaninglessness.”

I would add: Hipsters are emulating queer style, not gay style. To me, “queer” implies a resistance to assimilation which is ironically (and you know how much the hipsters love irony!) the very thing hipsters are doing: assimilating.

You can’t just reap the benefits of the queer struggle, you over-privileged white man — not without some payment. If you want to continue copping my queer style, I want blow-jobs from you on demand.

I have straight male friends who transitioned from appropriating black style to appropriating queer style overnight. They literally went from throwing up gang signs in every MySpace photo and trying to spit freestyles while passing a champagne flavored blunt to attending gallery openings and wearing Buddy Holly glasses. Are these Christopher Columbus culture vampires incapable of an original thought? Must they usurp from every fringe identity?

Queer style, of course, was around back in the day, and it took balls to carry out. We liberated and inspired our terrified gay brothers by being visible and expressing our intrinsic, precious queerness through our style. There were physical and emotional consequences to our unabashedness. Now that we’re mainstreaming queer style, the straight hipster boys are (as Lorentzen points out), devouring it.

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In 1968, Quentin Crisp wrote that the symbols he adopted 40 years earlier to express his sexual type had become the “uniform for all young people.” And that’s exactly what the male hipster look is: a uniform, a costume, something out of a plastic bag from Hollywood Toy and Costume that comes complete with tight pants, a hoodie, and white Ray-Ban Wayfarers. (Instead of Herb Ritts taking your photograph, it’s The Cobra Snake.)

I look at these boys in Williamsburg, Silver Lake, the Mission, and I think to myself, “YOU BETTER BE GAY.” You can’t just reap the benefits of the queer struggle, you over-privileged white man — not without some payment. If you want to continue copping my queer style, I want blow-jobs from you on demand. Then we’ll be even. Choke on my dick and you can keep the suspenders and the Members Only jacket. Eat my ass and you can keep the fanny pack.

Hipster or Gay is a blog that contains an archive of photos of maybe/maybe-not-gay male hipsters plucked from across cyberspace. Photos + captions = Instant relevancy and authority. The site poses important questions like, “Is there a difference?” and, “Does it matter?” The site’s anonymous creator says no, the difference between hipsters and gays is dissipating and it doesn’t matter.

I disagree.

There is a major difference between hipsters and gays and to overlook it would be dismissing a courageous, vibrant history of a people that fought for autonomy at all costs. Hipsters are defined by a vapid, superficial purely external identity that could emanate from an Excel spreadsheet. Queers are organic, whole, and raw: the expensive fruit at Whole Foods. Our style is a by-product of something innate and more important than our physical appearance — our queer sensibility. And you can’t buy that at American Apparel. It doesn’t even come in a waif-thin small.

Matt Siegel is a private liberal arts college-hopper who began at Sarah Lawrence, left his stain at Eugene Lang and finally finished at Hampshire. His unwillingness to commit now resides in L.A., where Matt has unsteadily worked for a random assortment of prominent folks, including Adam Carolla, Jill Clayburgh and Arianna Huffington. Other of his writings can be found on his blog The Unabashed Queer. Siegel previously filed from the set of the Absolutely Fabulous remake.

(Photos: Hipster Or Gay)