So what is a hipster, then? We think we know, but apparently we don't agree.
My impression of a hipster: obsession with being authentic. Though this is a pretty wide Western obsession, I suppose.
I think the need to avoid anything mainstream is rooted in the idea that mainstream is not authentic. Ethnic restaurant popular with white people? Can't go there anymore. And so on.
I guess it's a reaction to the yuppie lifestyle, which is obsessed with the opposite (status, mainstream, popular).
A Catholic hipster wouldn't really be a hipster I suppose, if he sought what was good, true and beautiful, whether or not it was ironic, whether or not it was mainstream, and so on.
Just my amateur sociological $0.02.
Yeah, but most people see a scarf, a Radiohead t-shirt, moustaches, and/or empty PBR cans and think "definite hipster." And all of those things are supposedly concrete markers of being a hipster, yet Catholics can like all of those things. I do.
If my thesis is valid, then hipsters will abandon those things if they become popular and they will no longer be associated with hipsters. There was a satiric article about this (in the Onion maybe, can't remember) about how the increasing popularity of the ironic skinny tie is leading hipsters to start wearing ironically wide ties.
Regarding mustaches, I imagine, alone the same lines, that if the "creepy" vibe associated with them were to disappear, and all of the people who like them just grew them and they became as popular as they once were (or as they are in some other cultures), then the hipster personality would no longer be drawn to sport a mustache. They might even be identified by their lack of facial hair.
For this theoretical hipster, what they do is a strong combination of personal taste as well as "not mainstream."
I think it's more complex than that. Of course hipsters like things that aren't mainstream, but it's not just to be different. It's because things that are mainstream are less eccentric and "hipsters" generally like things that are more eccentric.
Imagine a scene of 19th century painters. They too would wear strange clothing and have strange tastes in music but it's not just to be different than all the people living on their street. It's just because that's what they like and those who have the same interests usually gravitate towards each other.
I don't personally know any "hipsters" who like the things they like just to fit in with a certain group. In fact, people tend to get into something which is "hipster" and then start to appreciate more and more of the subculture before they'd ever given a thought to impressing other "hipsters" or wanting to be one themselves. I'm sure there are people out there who just do things to fit in with a certain group of people, but I'm sure that happens in the punk scene, the metal scene, the hip hop scene, etc. as well.
There is a certain element to not liking things that have gone mainstream, but it's not how people usually imagine it. There are a lot of bands that are "hipster" that have crossed over, at least partially, into the mainstream and yet retain all "hipster" street cred. Arcade Fire have won Grammys and yet they're beloved by the indie "community". Moustaches have become kind of a popular thing in recent years. They're popular with actors that aren't "hipster" and they're an internet meme, but they're still popular with "hipsters". On the other hand, just because something is "hipster" doesn't mean all hipsters like it. I'm Catholic and I have strong views on poetry and fiction. Chuck Palahniuk, Chuck Klosterman, and Charles Bukowski are some of the favorite authors/poets of the indie world, but I don't read any of them because I either know that I don't like them or have guessed that I won't. "Hipsters" have a loose set of shared interests, but it's not some canon of cool. Most only share certain interests with the collective "hipster community". And as far as I can tell, no one cares or thinks less of them. People just like what they like and then there are secondary labels.
It's not so much about being different, but simply about the fact that this group of people, by virtue of having more eccentric tastes, happens to like things which just so happen to not be the mainstream in music, tv, books, etc.
Irony is a part of being a "hipster" but it's mostly as a way of satirizing popular culture. A lot of people do that (writers on tv shows, other musicians, journalists, writers, poets, artists, etc.), but not all of them are "hipsters" and not all of them get crap for being ironic. Which, to me, is sort of ironic.
Agree, it is more complex. But what you are describing is really true of all groups. We are human, and are complex, and these complexities need to be taken into account when trying to understand hipsters, or yuppies, or trad Catholics, or other self-described groups.
But what sets hipsters apart, what gives them an identity and a label? I still think, all complexity and nuance being acknowledged, what makes the hipster subculture is being out-of-mainstream, unique, interesting, ironic. So they tend to live in places that are eclectic, full of young people, not prime real estate, but "gentrifying." The music they like is not mainstream pop, it's not snobbish classical, it's not harsh metal ... it's unique, interesting, off-the-beaten-path stuff.
Again, I agree it's complex. There's probably lots of overlap in terms of what different groups like or identify with.