Today I was called a hipster. I’ve never thought of myself as a hipster, so I was surprised. This got me to thinking—what exactly is a hipster? Is any man with a beard a hipster, or do you need to meet other qualifications to be a hipster?
Now, I’ve had my beard since I hit puberty—quickly approaching 20 years ago now—which predates our culture’s current fascination with beards by at least a decade. I say this to defend myself from being accused of being a hipster, however this sounds very much like “I did it before it was cool”—which is what a hipster would say. So, I have to wonder…am I a hipster?
Everyone defines “hipster” differently. Google defines it as “a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.” You’ll notice that there is no mention of “beard” in there. Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary have two different definitions, both of which are long and don’t really get to the point. I want to know the visual characteristics of a man that make someone passing him on the street say, “Yup, he’s a hipster”.
I decided to solve this problem scientifically. I took a look at Google image search results for the phrase “hipster beard”, and then filtered them by “photo”. (I previously discovered, using a similar method, that 89% of all hipsters have beards. Since this is a website about beards, we’ll focus just on bearded hipsters). This gives us the world’s results of images of men who either self-classify as hipster (they took photos of themselves and uploaded them to the internet), or of men whom others identify as being hipster. At the very least, it shows us what Google thinks are hipsters (and they’re pretty good at categorizing these kinds of things).
After viewing hundreds of images, I made a list of two dozen characteristics that I found common among them all. I then went through the first ten rows of images, one by one. On my screen of Google image results, there is an average of 9 images per row, meaning I used around 90 images of hipsters for this study. When an image did not fit any of the categories (an illustration, for example), I excluded it from the study.
Before we go further: I just want to make it clear that I am in no way denigrating hipsters. Everyone is entitled to their likes and dislikes. Dressing like a hipster doesn’t make one a worse person than not dressing like a hipster. I do believe the way you dress can reflect your class, personality, and even your character, which are topics I reflect upon at Blogging with Class; however, this is a judgement-free zone. Right now I am concerned with the makeup of bearded hipster style. We will deal with the philosophical ramification of hipsterism afterwards.
Hallmarks of a Hipster
72% of hipsters have product in their hair, including pomade, wax, or hairspray. I judged whether or not hair had product in it based on how glossy it was, or if the hair was standing in a way that otherwise defied gravity.
85% of hipsters have short hair. I consider short hair to be hair that does not fall below the shoulder. I considered men with longer hair on top but short hair elsewhere as having short hair for this metric.
I began to notice a pattern in hipster hairstyles, so I tracked it. 68% of hipsters have a distinct haircut, with shaved or very short sides and back (a 1 or 2 razor length from a barber), and long, finger-length hair on the top of the head, which was styled to stick up and slant to the side, with a messy, careless sort of feel to it. This, friends, is the quintessential hipster haircut.
Hipsters are well known for wearing thick, black or brightly colored sunglasses–so much so that they have become known as “hipster glasses”. However, in my study, only 28% of hipsters wore glasses. Compare this to 61% of the total population that wears prescription glasses or contacts, as recorded by Statistics Netherlands. 40% of people ages 20-30, and 42% aged 30-40 wear prescription eyewear, which is the age-range or hipsters. We quickly see that, compared to the public at large, hipsters are actually less likely to wear glasses of any kind–perscription or otherwise.
When one thinks of a hipster in a hat, one imagines a short-brimmed fedora. However, my study showed that 88% of hipsters don’t wear hats at all–which makes sense, because they all sport that luxurious hipster hair. A hat would interfere with all that pomade and hair spray.
Beard length can be a tricky thing. When does a short beard become long? I decided that a beard long enough to grab by the fistful is a long beard, and anything too short to get a fistful is a short beard. Based on that criteria, 64% of hipster beards are short beards. Of them, only a small percentage were so short to be essentially stubble. Most hipster beards are nice and full, but only an inch or so long.
I must say, that when hipsters rock a long beard, they create a much more powerful and authentic image.
86% of hipsters did not have a styled mustache. This came as a surprise to me. I often think of hipsters with short handlebar mustaches, but the vast majority of them pretty much ignore the mustache entirely. When they do grow it out, they simply comb it to the side. The small minority who did style their mustache, however, used a short handlebar or blunt English.
A Final Word
I say all of this as a way to put into words the unconscious biases many have against hipsters. I in no way want to judge hipsters, or even hipster style. My goal is to categorize what we know about hipsters, distill it into simple words, and shed some light onto something as complex as an entire subculture.
In my view, any beard is a good beard. Beard onwards, gentlemen.