Hipsters have a lot of good things going. You can usually spot them when you’re in coffee shops, farmer’s markets, or the airport. While sometimes choosing less than optimal hygiene or wearing clothes from several decades ago, know how to mix the old and the new.  You might even be one! And that’s cool with me. I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting recently on who hipsters are, what they’re about, and why they choose this lifestyle, and I think there are some lessons to be learned.

More than just being modern hippies, hipsters are responding to contemporary cultural trends. Not everything in our 21st century American living is making us better human beings. We’ve got all sorts of “isms” at play: relativism, consumerism, materialism, globalism, and so much more. Because of these various factors, we sometimes feel detached from the community around us, even distanced from ourselves. We sometimes take a break from scrolling on our devices or turn off the podcast and wonder, “What is it really all about? Who am I? What does it all mean?” Hipsters are trying to respond to some of these existential questions. Beneath the external traits like beards, beanies, and craft bears, I’ve noticed that hipsters share a desire for authenticity and a love of the local.

Something universal which we all share is the desire to live fully. Whether we are in Bangkok or Baltimore, whether it’s 2018 or 1518, I think we are looking to get the most out of life. We want to really live, not just get by. There is a sense that the heart of life is good, and we have to get in touch with that. We have to be our most authentic selves. For the hipster, this authenticity thus becomes a fundamental criteria for living. They sense that there is something in the mainstream life which is stifling and ultimately not life-giving. Something about bicycles and beards is more authentic than the newest car on the road or electric razor that scrapes across your face. The good life should be sought after even if everyone else seems to be content with what mediocrity they’ve found.

I think they’re onto something. We are made for the good life! We are meant to be authentic and not settle for the fake, artificial, or fleeting. I think there is a sense deep within us that we should cling to the real, that which endures. We are hungry for it and shouldn’t be satisfied with anything else. I think we are all familiar with the contrast between experiences which are authentic, rich, and full, and ones which are hollow or saccharine. It takes courage to pursue a life of greatness and authenticity, because in our weak humanity, it’s easier to settle for the easy, comfortable route.

I have to seek the fullness of what it means to be human, and this also involves others. We are social creatures, so being authentically ourselves means being turned outwards toward those closest to us. The love of local things is a praiseworthy aspect of hipster life. There is certainly something to be said for benefits of local buying such as supporting local economy, having a smaller carbon footprint because the food is coming from a nearby farm, or enabling jobs for those around you. However, the more important reason for supporting local initiatives is the human connection.

We are often told to love our neighbor, and we should. But this means more than just loving other people; we have a particular obligation to seek the good of those physically closest to us. I am born into a family and community. In the course of providence, these folks are the ones I find myself surrounded by. I feel within my bones that I must give of myself and pour myself out, so it naturally falls that I should do so for those closest to me. My sister, the town butcher, the nurse–these are the ones I am called to love and support. We are all entrusted with each other. This care for those around takes the form of kindness, buying my neighbor’s goods, and eating my farmer’s crops. Imagine looking around your house and knowing who built your bookshelves, who grew your food, and who fixes your watch. I think a love of the local can restore a missing human interaction in our life.

So while we aren’t all supposed to collect vinyl records (except Love Good Artists!) or wear skinny jeans, I think we could all have a little hipster in us. Seek the Good for yourself and for your neighbors. Of all the places in the cosmos to end up, you ended up right where you are. So it is right where you are that you must be authentic, which allows those around you to do the same. The Good life is not something that we have to travel thousands of miles to find. It is more often a slow transformation that happens interiorly in loving courageously, believing firmly, and resolutely seeking the Truth no matter the cost.

Rhodes Bolster
Rhodes Bolster

Rhodes Bolster is in formation to become a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Nashville. Music has always been a prominent part of his life, having been born and raised in Music City. He currently studies theology and lives in Rome, Italy, there encountering the treasure of the Church’s sacred art, architecture, and music.