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STYLE & CULTURE

It's not cool, it's deck: Didn't know that? You need this guide

March 12, 2003|Jim Shea | Hartford Courant

Are you a hipster? If you are reading this sentence, the chances are pretty good that you are not. This is because being a hipster is deck, but identifying one's self as such is fin. On the other hand, not knowing what the words "deck" and "fin" mean also indicates one is not a member of the hipstergentsia. Confused? Let's try some definitions: Deck is the new fresh, which was the new cool. To review, deck means cool. Fin means lame, or lame-o, if the level of lameness needs to be elevated.

But what exactly is a hipster? To answer this question, we must go directly to the source -- "The Hipster Handbook."

According to its author, Robert Lanham, a hipster is: "One who possesses tastes, social attitudes and opinions deemed cool by the cool....The Hipster walks among the masses in daily life but is not part of them and shuns or reduces to kitsch anything held dear by the mainstream."

Lanham's claim to hipster high priesthood, is made suspect by his use of the word cool rather than deck, a faux pas that should not be dismissed in weighing his legitimacy.

That noted, here are some core hipster elements, as identified by Lanham:

* Hipsters are always very conscious of what they are wearing and distinguish themselves by dressing creatively....Hipsters choose a personal style that sets them apart from the masses.

* Hipsters possess an innate contempt for franchises, strip malls and the corporate world in general. Their sharpest disdain, though, is reserved for the SUV.

* Hipsters take their music collections very seriously. Many shape their wardrobe, and often even their personalities, to match the music they like.

* Hipsters believe that irony has more resonance than reason.

* Hipsters are artists who always lean to the left politically.

* Hipsters are always more culturally aware than most.

* Hipsters understand that cultural trends become fin the moment they hit the mainstream.

In closing, a word about the aging hipster: Hipsterism is a young person's game -- not that one can't remain hip even at the advanced age of 35. The key is knowing when to give up and slink off into the mainstream.

Fortunately, the handbook provides guidelines for gauging if and when it is time to trade in the Vespa for the La-Z-Boy.

Here are a few of the sure signs:

* You wear earplugs when going to a club.

* All of your important musical influences have had embarrassing comeback tours.

* Your friends have babies; you have a hat collection.

* You think Letterman is cooler than Conan.

* You don't think the girls on "Sex and the City" are pathetic losers.

Although "The Hipster Handbook" is insightful, funny and, quite likely, culturally bogus, it must be treated seriously and read carefully, lest one fail the grueling 30-question multiple-choice quiz at the end and be declared "irredeemably fin."

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