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Researchers Tackle the ‘Hipster’ Phenomenon

Researchers tap the indie marketplace to learn more about hipsters, who don't think of themselves as hipsters despite their obvious hipsterness.

At long last, science has tackled the phenomenon of the hipster, the contradictory symbol of coolness that strives for nothing other than complete "hipsterness" while firmly rejecting any association whatsoever with the term "hipster." As Zeynep Arsel of Concordia University and J. Craig Thompson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison write in the Journal of Consumer Research: "This iconic category has evolved from its countercultural roots, originally aligned with beat sensibilities, to a trend-seeking über-consumer of the 2000s." Think of all the innocent berets that have been worn conspicuously in that time.

But like yuppies, metrosexuals and gangstas before them, hipsters threaten to become a cultural cliché, their once-legit aesthetics gobbled up by a mainstream consumer culture looking to cash in. So what happens when the offbeat, indie brands that hipsters identify with — Pabst Blue Ribbon and Ben Davis work pants, we're looking at you — become trendy? The researchers found that hipsters will remain loyal to their chosen brands because they are able to "demythologize" their consumer choices to distance themselves from labels they see as derisive. Not that being a hipster is all about fashion — perish the thought.

To reach their conclusions, the authors interviewed the movers and shakers of the indie marketplace, tastemakers such as DJs and music critics. (We assume they were lured in with the promise of a free fixed-gear bike and the new Belle & Sebastian record.) The word "hipster" was never uttered during the interview, but the authors confirm it was nevertheless at the forefront of the tastemakers' minds. "Interestingly all participants but one wanted to talk about how they were mistaken for, or accused of being a hipster just because they were consuming indie products," the authors write.

In other words, that hipster is so not a hipster.

And finally, the last word ...
"Dr. Agnew and Dr. Carleton's expertise and equipment were invaluable in helping us validate and document the results of our initial cryopreservation trials with the hellbender semen." — Sally Nofs of the Nashville Zoo, on efforts to develop conservation techniques to sample and freeze sperm from the last surviving hellbender salamanders — the largest kind in North America — which are also affectionately known as "snot otters" or "devil dogs." Note: We made none of this up.

The Cocktail Napkin appears at the back page of each issue of Miller-McCune magazine, highlighting current research that merits a raised eyebrow or a painful grin.