Linton Weeks in NPR:
To many the American hipster represents more than ironic graphic T's and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. “I like to believe there's something smarter lurking within our romance with hip … an idea of enlightenment and awareness,” says John Leland, a New York Times reporter and author of the 2004 book Hip: The History.
America does have a long love affair with being hip — not only up to date and au courant, but ahead of the curve. The Urban Dictionary defines hipsters as “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s who value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”
The greatest concentrations of hipsters, the hiptionary definition continues, “can be found living in the Williamsburg, Wicker Park and Mission District neighborhoods of major cosmopolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco respectively.”
Sure enough, just a couple of years ago everyone was writing about discrete hipster enclaves. A 2009 essay in Time magazine focused on the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, noting that because of a lagging economy and neighborhood gentrification, “Hipsterdom's largest natural habitat, it seems, is under threat.”
But in fact, the opposite happened. In the past couple of years, Hipsterdom has entered — and in some cases, dominated — dominant culture. Hipsters, after all, know how to adapt: how to make the cheap chic, the disheveled dishy, the peripheral preferable. A shaky, shabby economy is the perfect breeding ground for hipsters.