Love them or hate them, hipsters have become a ubiquitous part of the human tapestry in many urban destinations popular with young people—Brooklyn, Portland, and Oakland, to name just a few key hipster locales within the United States. This subculture (hipsters hate to actually be called hipsters) is made up of people who consider themselves outside of the mainstream, and who have embraced a distinctive array of accessories and activities to underscore this point. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said of the difficulty in defining pornography, “I know it when I see it,” and the same approach can be applied to spotting hipsters. However, there are some helpful cues—hipsters are likely to be found among indie band devotees and horned-rim glasses-wearers, and may be dressed like lumberjacks in places that do not require any demonstrable forestry skills.
Another way to identify hipsters is through their embracement of old-timey endeavors. Below are ten activities that have experienced a resurgence of popularity due to the (sometimes fickle) embrace of hipsters. If that’s not enough, or these trends seem too useful or widespread, the Hipster Hobby Generator is also available to identify an excessively obscure activity of your very own.
What’s that buzz? For once, it’s not the plaid-clad throngs in line for organic kombucha. Instead, it’s the outgrowth of one of the hobbies they have, ahem, swarmed to lately: urban beekeeping. As the locavore food movement gains steam, dreams of harvesting backyard honey have pulled a younger, urban cohort into the ranks of beekeepers. In San Francisco, managers of local beekeeping groups estimate that the number of beekeepers in the city grew 800% over the period from 2000-2010.
Faced with the threat of Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon where adult bees abandon their hives, and the potential agricultural losses that result from unsufficient pollination, several localities have taken action to promote beekeeping. New York City legalized urban beekeeping in 2010. Los Angeles followed suit in 2015, perhaps signaling the apex of this hipster trend (once anything happens in LA, can it really be considered “hipster” anymore?).
While the presence of additional urban “hobby” bees can help to stabilize dwindling “professional” hives elsewhere, the rise of urban beekeeping hasn’t been without its downsides. In New York City, swarms of bees have terrified tourists and residents, resulting in numerous calls to police to relocate large numbers of bees on the move. At least in Washington D.C., novice urban beekeepers can have the best of both worlds. They get the bragging rights of an urban hive and locally produced honey, without having to deal with face masks, specialized equipment or potential for stings: Eco Honeybees, a kind of Uber for beekeeping, will provide the necessary structures, care for your hive, and harvest the honey for you.
If you thought taxidermy (the stuffing and mounting of dead animals) was the exclusive province of your uncle’s weirdo hunting buddy, think again. In the 2010 movie Dinner for Schmucks, Steve Carrell’s character builds elaborate dioramas using taxidermied mice, dressed up in outfits. While in the movie, this is evidence of the character’s lack of alignment with society in general, it may also demonstrate well-concealed hipster tendencies. As one practitioner put it in a 2014 interview with NPR, describing a resurgence of the previously moribund activity, particularly amongst young women, “Taxidermy is having a massive comeback. It really fits with the trend for vintage and is really popular with the sleek and more design-led crowd.”
Setting aside the question of whether cutting up and manipulating the innards of dead animals can really be classified as “sleek” or “design-led,” taxidermy is definitely attracting a new crowd. Hipsters are flocking to taxidermy classes to learn how to make their own dead animal art. Some taxidermists have even found ways to further differentiate their craft from “standard” taxidermy, practicing “rogue taxidermy,” featuring, for example, a mouse with antlers made out of crab claws. For those unfortunate hipsters located outside of major urban centers, one enterprising purveyor offers a DIY mouse taxidermy manual and starter kit, so hipsters around the world can easily apply their budding taxidermy talents to what the cat dragged in.
8. Using Typewriters
With the advent of the personal computer, secretaries everywhere breathed a sigh of relief. No longer would business correspondence require unwavering accuracy (or the use of correction fluid), temperamental ribbons, or the use of carbon copies or copy machines to retain records of typewritten material. Aside from grandparents’ dens, stubborn traditionalists, and some yet-to-be-wired areas of the developing world, typewriters seemed destined to fade away. However, while they quickly lost their professional use, the click-clack of typewriter keys can still be heard in trendy areas, where they serve as the ultimate accessory for literate hipsters. And lest you think typewriters are less portable than a laptop, these hipsters are determined to prove otherwise, hauling them around to public locations and coffee shops for work, and one presumes, admiration by fellow hipsters. If that’s not bad enough, there are now even typewriter-style keypads you can buy to use with your iPad, enabling users to take state of the art technology and send it backward about 40 years.
Typewriter revivalists have been doing a brisk trade in the old contraptions at such hipster haunts as the Brooklyn Flea, convincing a generation that has grown up on computers to appreciate the tactile dimensions of manual typewriters. Defending the archaic machines, one enthusiast cited the lack of other capabilities/distractions offered by typewriters, as well as the need to think before recording words as big advantages. So for anyone looking for a bulky and unforgiving way to record your thoughts without having to deal with temptations of other applications, who is offended by the lack of perfection demanded by word processing programs that allow you to edit after writing, and who is tired of being able to share your words with those to whom you cannot physically hand paper, this hipster trend is for you!
7. Straight-edge Razors
Shaving is anathema to many hipsters, with beards and scruff almost mandated on male faces in some parts of Brooklyn and Portland. Some analysts have even blamed a global decline in razor sales on the rising popularity of facial hair. However, some poor hipsters are unable to maintain a furry appearance, either because they work outside of the artisanal jam industry and must be clean-shaven, because their natural facial hair is not robust enough to coordinate with the rest of their aesthetic, or because they are trying to get ahead of the curve as facial hair achieves increasingly mainstream status.
For those hipsters seeking literal and figurative smoothness, there’s one preferred method to achieve it: straight razor shaving. Straight razors have a number of qualities that are attractive to hipsters. First, shaving with a straight razor is a sensorial throwback to simpler times, a ritual straight out of Grandpa’s morning routine, and a way to greet the day with nostalgia and to ensure your bathroom vanity conveys your hipster credibility to all who enter. In addition to a shaving brush, soap, and razor, straight razor shaving involves the use of a “scuttle,” a small lather cup, pleasing hipsters who love unnecessarily elaborate rituals (see: pour-over coffee), vintage accessories, and obscure terminology. Additionally, this form of shaving is arguably more environmentally responsible, involving no plastic components and limited packaging. Finally, with a skilled practitioner, some proponents claim that a straight razor offers the closest shave possible, while limiting skin irritation, meaning that scuttle-toting hipsters might actually be on to something with this trend.
6. Making Soap
For much of human history, making soap was a household chore, and ironically a pretty dirty one, involving the combination of animal fat and ashes to produce primitive cleaners. However, starting in the 15th century, soap production began centralizing. Post-Industrial Revolution, high-quality soap became more affordable and widely available. So other than Colonial re-enactors and Tyler Durden, who would want to revisit the days of household soap production? Hipsters, of course.
Why would you want to go to the store and buy soap that some soulless corporation is trying to force on you, when you could make your own, with an array of specialized (and sometimes pricey) tools and ingredients, and hour of prep time, and 4+ weeks of aging! And even discounting the cost of your time (lost opportunities to raise backyard chickens, for example), and assuming you go the frugal route, avoiding the many classes that have sprung up to teach soapmaking to wannabe urban homesteaders this soap will likely cost you more than conventional soap from the local Walgreens. Thus, soap-making will earn you the hipster credibility of pursuing an archaic and time-consuming hobby, while reducing your net worth in the process.
When you think of foraging, or scouring the wilderness in search of food sources, you may picture survivors of a plane crash at a remote location, or off-the-grid survivalist types deep in the rural backcountry. At best, foraging conjures up visions of a particularly intrepid boy scout.
However, a new hipster breed of “urban foragers” has popped up, combing the landscape, including parks and backyards, for edible plants and greens. They are looking to glean food from unlikely places like sidewalk cracks, not because there is no grocery store nearby, but because they believe that the food they gather with their own two hands tastes better, has more nutrients, and keeps them in touch with nature. Additionally, it takes the locavore food movement to a level well beyond hitting up the farmers’ market.
Unfortunately for novice foragers, plucking and eating random plants will not only put you in closer contact with the earth, but also has the potential to hurt or even kill the uninformed gatherer/snacker. Hipsters with low wilderness knowledge (Patagonia jacket ownership does not qualify as wilderness knowledge) are advised to either take a class (because of course there’s a class, unless you live in a non-hipster locale) or stick to only to collecting plants they are totally certain are edible.
Blacksmith, along with buggy whip-maker, may sound like the ultimate in archaic professions that have fallen by the wayside. Outside of the equestrian world, where some blacksmiths make their livings shoeing horses, few of us know anyone who works as a blacksmith anymore, forging iron and steel and using tools to shape the metal. This is because much of the work blacksmiths used to do has been automated and moved into factories.
However, blacksmithing, particularly as a hobby rather than a vocation, has recently come back into vogue. From 1973 to 2016, the Artist Blacksmith’s Association of North America grew from 27 members to 4,000. A significant portion of the renewed interest in blacksmithing can be attributed to hipsters, seeking an unusual vintage hobby; only 10% of blacksmiths in the US are attempting to actually make a living with their trade. One board member of a folk school, which teaches traditional crafts and skills, explains the appeal of the craft, saying, “None of us has to know how to blacksmith, but I think there is something so meaningful in being able to create something with your hands. It feeds us in some way that perhaps connecting with technology doesn’t.” An obscure artisanal hobby with limited money-making potential? Sounds like hipster nirvana.
3. Drinking PBR
Pabst Blue Ribbon, aka PBR, an American beer with its roots in Wisconsin, never disappeared entirely from bars and fridges across the United States. However, starting in the 1980s, sales persistently declined, and by 2001, the brand was selling only 10% of the beer it had sold in 1975.
However, sales began to increase, more than doubling between 2001 and 2014. So what changed? Not the composition of PBR, a brew best described as “cheap” and “inoffensive,” and more accurately as “the perfect target for a ping pong ball” and “not trying.” Not the beer’s packaging; the retro-styled red and blue can remained a fixture of the brand. Nope, PBR’s revival was due to the embrace of hipsters, who were drawn to its low-key marketing—the company’s promotional efforts included sponsoring bike messenger competitions—and apparent authenticity. The beer’s recession-friendly low price didn’t hurt, either. However, like all hipster activities, PBR faces the threat of being displaced by newer, cooler trends. PBR sales declined slightly in 2015, a development some experts attribute to hipsters turning their attention to more local, and—ahem—flavorful craft brews.
So what eventually happens to all those backyard chickens embraced by “urban farmer” hipsters? At least some of them may end up linked to another hipster activity—artisan butchery. According to a USDA survey, 10% of residents of Miami, NYC, Denver, and LA who keep chickens also kill them, meaning some hipsters have seriously shrunken the distance from farm to table. Unfortunately, many of these hobby farmers may lack proper training in techniques for humane and hygienic slaughtering and butchery. In more urbanized environments, many residents have only seen meat in vacuum-sealed supermarket packages, and have little connection or interest in how it got there.
Seeking more insight into the butchery process, hipsters with neighbors who object to the 18th century lifestyle of living right on top of an urban slaughterhouse, must instead turn to artisan butchers. These cleaver-wielding meat-cutters have been described as “rock stars” of the culinary world. This new vanguard of meat artisans have Twitter accounts and adoring fans, accessories old-timey local butchers could never have imagined. To share their craft, they offer classes and demonstrations, some featuring cocktail pairings, to hipsters who are eager to get closer to animal carcasses, an activity their predecessors were thrilled to hand over to Cargill and Purdue.
Sooner or later every hipster must confront an existential question: What do I do with all these Mason jars? Mason jars were an innovation when they were introduced in the 1850s, offering a way to preserve food, using heat to create an airtight seal. The clear glass jars made it easy to keep an inventory of produce that had been sealed after being harvested from back gardens during short growing seasons. However, with the advent of industrial food preservation in tin cans, and greater availability of year-round produce, canning food in Mason jars largely fell out of favor, with some spikes in sales during WWII, when the US government encouraged its population to grow and store their own food. The next wave of growth in Mason jar sales came not from canning-related uses, but rather from the jars’ surge in popularity with hipsters seeking authentic accessories, repurposing them as decorations and drinking glasses.
However, it wasn’t long before some hipsters’ love of Mason jars was translated into an interest in actually using them for their intended purpose—canning. Sales of canning equipment rose, as a skill that had once been a necessity suddenly came back into vogue. One home-canning proponent explained the appeal to a new generation of enthusiasts, noting, “People want to take back their food and their skills from the industrial giants.” Hipsters who are ready to say no to Smuckers can hone their canning skills using a plethora of new cookbooks, classes, and online how-to guides (a good idea, since improper canning techniques can lead to outbreaks of botulism, one vestige of the past that even hipsters won’t want to revive).