3 books on hipsters

By Stephen Lowman
Friday, December 3, 2010; 2:29 PM

Calling someone a hipster has become a shorthand way of dismissing them as obsessed with appearing cool. Their affinity for tight jeans, shaggy hair and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is easily mocked, but the principal criticism is that they're frauds. Hipsters, the thinking goes, love an indie band until it becomes popular. They care about art but don't have the talent to create it. They spend a lot of money to look broke. Is that all there is? The following books unpack the hipster aesthetic and ponder the consequences of this particular urban species.

1. WHAT WAS THE HIPSTER?: A Sociological Investigation, edited by Mark Greif, et al. (n+1; paperback, $10). The heart of this slim volume is the transcript of a panel discussion about hipsters organized by n+1 magazine and held in the spring of 2009 in New York City. Hipsters' origins, motivations and fondness for mustaches are mulled over. But it gets headier. Participants connect hipsters to post-colonialism, the philosophy of Slavoj Zizek, and the U.S. debt held by China. While the book can sometimes feel like an overreach, its delightfulness comes from the seriousness with which it takes its subject.

2. HIPSTER CHRISTIANITY: When Church and Cool Collide, by Brett McCracken (BakerBooks; paperback, $15.99). Brett McCracken, a young guy who admits to having hipster tendencies, isn't a curmudgeon. But he believes that Christian hipsters at "wannabe hip churches" led by pastors with spiky hair who talk about the latest episode of "Mad Men" in their sermons are increasingly getting their inspiration from pop culture rather than scripture, shifting the emphasis from God to consumption and image. He spends a good deal of the book telling readers how to identify Christian hipsters and declares that Washington, D.C., is the third most popular city for them.

3.STUFF HIPSTERS HATE: A Field Guide to the Passionate Opinions of the Indifferent, by Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz (Ulysses Press; paperback, $14.95). "Hipsters are largely negative creatures who gain power and authority by putting things (e.g., music, living situations, apparel, you) down," write the authors. In short essays, the authors tell us what hipsters hate, including: bras, television, being conventionally attractive, knowing their bank balance, making the first move sexually, and when their friends go to law school. The horror!

- Stephen Lowman


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