published Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Phillips: If Austin thinks we’re the next them, is that good, bad?

Whether the term “hipster” is a good thing or a bad thing depends on who you ask, but it’s definitely a loaded term.

According to user-written, a hipster is: “A subculture that ... value[s] independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence and witty banter.”

Sounds good, right? Who wouldn’t want to be referred to as a paragon of intelligent youthful revolution?

But, wait, there’s more.

According to the same — and let’s be honest, linguistically unsound — website, a hipster is also: “Someone who listens to bands you’ve never heard of, wears ironic T-shirts and believes they are better than you.”

Other entries poke fun at hipsters’ love of “unpopular” fashion trends such as those available at American Apparel and, above all, for pretending not to care what others think (except for other hipsters, of course).

Whether you want to adopt a hipster and feed him pages torn from Kurt Vonnegut novels or think skinny jeans are a fashion torture device, if you live in Chattanooga, you’re slowly being surrounded by them.

At least, that’s what you’re supposed to believe, according to Lauren Modery, a contributing writer for the website CultureMap Austin.

In a Feb. 21 entry to her column, Hipstercrite, Modery set about deciding which U.S. cities were poised to become “the next Austin,” a city recognized throughout the known universe for its proliferation of creative, intelligent young people with limitless credit on their American Apparel cards.

Three guesses what her first selection was. Yes, indeed, “Scenic City” may soon have to make way for “Hipsterville” on Chattanooga’s list of nicknames.

Modery pointed to EPB’s fiber-optic network, the effort to establish an official Chattanooga typeface and the city’s various green efforts as evidence of our impending ascension into hipsterdom.

By the time I read her column, it was already old news to my social-network-obsessed hipster friends, but it certainly made me think.

If someone told me five years ago that I was living in the next hipster haven, I would have laughed, not because I dislike hipsters — I’m a bit of a closet one myself — but because it seemed so far-fetched.

When I was growing up in Knoxville, Chattanooga was doing things our own civil engineers couldn’t seem to get right, but it wasn’t hip. Somehow, that seems to have changed.

JJ’s Bohemia attracts great indie rock bands hipsters love for their obscurity, we hold holidays to celebrate mustaches and cool, creative types congregate in neighborhoods like the Southside and St. Elmo.

Somewhere along the way, Chattanooga became cool. The whole world hasn’t caught on yet, which is why it took a hipster to figure it out, of course.

If you think this is bad news, just wait. Hipsters hate to glob onto something popular, so when word spreads, they’ll flee like rats from a sinking ship in search of a less popular locale. Win-win?

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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