I have a confession to make. It is a shameful one, and I take no pride or solace in relating it: I used to wear a fedora. That is reprehensible, yes, and in combination with the fact that I purchased it not at a vintage clothing store or from some traveling one-eyed transient with stories to tell, but at an Urban Outfitters for $50, the simple truth is that in my lifetime, I might never be able pay off my debt to society; and yet, even if I were to succeed, I can’t guarantee that I wouldn’t ultimately be another case of recidivism in the social justice system.
You’ve probably never heard of me: I am the post-modern Sisyphus, doomed to forever cast off the fedora, only to put it right back on. That’s me in the picture above attempting to smoulder; and that’s my friend Barbara on the left, utterly unconvinced of my ability to do so. Despicable. Boo this man.
I have no excuses for my behavior, as it was, in a word, inexcusable. I might, however, offer up a partial explanation with an eye toward a reduced sentence from the court of public opinion. While this is no doubt what every ironically card-carrying member of the United Hipster Fedora-tion (UHF) would also claim, and while I never shy away from admitting my own hipsterdom (for reasons we’ll get to shortly), the fact of the matter is that my motivations for donning what is essentially the small pox of fashionable headwear (I would explain the analogy, but it’s probably too alternative for you) were not rooted in the same soil as many of my UHF cohorts.
You see, there are two kinds of people who wear fedoras in this quadrant of space-time: 1. The existentially bloated gasbags who comprise the majority block of hipsterdom, and who wear them not as homage, but for the fact that they look “vintage” and are outwardly the opposite of flat-billed caps (the chosen hats of bros the world over); 2. College film majors, many of whom exist in a state of perpetual denial over the fact that their field of study is not, in fact, the hippest and most cultured, and who wear fedoras as a vain attempt to channel idols of a bygone era–namely Humphrey Bogart.
While, at the geographical border between them, I may stand with several toes extending across the line into the first camp, the rest of me resides squarely in the second. Until May of 2013, when I graduated from the University of Kansas, I was myself a fedora-clad film major. So why, with the knowledge that “hipster” is universally considered a most unsavory label, would I cop to being one myself?
The answer is as simple as it is complex, and necessitates a discussion of the laws of physics:
Newton’s First Law of Hipsterdynamics states unequivocally: “The preservation of one’s self-respect being intrinsic to continued existence in the fabric of reality, and the fact having been proven previously that ‘hipster’ is a universally undesirable label that negates self-respect: No hipster will ever admit to being a hipster, or acknowledge any possibility thereof; furthermore, such a person will deny it at all times–therefore, the primary attribute of every hipster is denial of their state.“
“Ah,” you may say, “I see your game now, you clever fool, you.” And to an extent, you might–for if I were truly a hipster, then by Newton’s own determination, there is no way I would admit to being one. But this opens up a new set of problems, stemming from the motivations of a person to willingly admit such a thing; to claim hipsterdom is to act in a manner no hipster could, and therefore must be a marker of a non-hipster, correct?
In a word, no. I defer to the physicist Erwin Schrodinger, whose by now famous paradox, “Schrodinger’s Hat,” explains the matter perfectly:
“Assume a scenario in which we blindfold ourselves and select a random 20-something attendee of Coachella Music Festival to place inside of a box alongside a vial of poison and a chunk of decaying plutonium, then place a fedora on top of the box, and tell said individual that they can only exit the box, and thus avoid certain death, by answering [yes or no to] the question, ‘Are you a hipster?’ We then inform said person that the containers of poison and radioactive material are rigged to release if the answer is ‘no,’ no answer is given, or a quantum superposition occurs. Only three potential outcomes exist:
1. The person refuses to answer, then dies, presumably as a stubborn dead hipster;
2. The person answers ‘no,’ and is therefore a lying dead hipster;
3. The person answers ‘yes,’ either as a non-hipster lying to save their own life, or as a hipster [familiar with Newton’s First] attempting to prove that they are not a hipster by ironically answering in a way that no hipster would–this, of course creates a quantum superposition that in turn causes the person to die.
The only way for the subject to survive is, ultimately, for us to withdraw the question. But obviously we won’t.”
In other words, according to Schrodinger, if a person were to accuse you of being a hipster, then you could confirm it or leave it ambiguous, but there exists no option by which you can personally disprove it; only your accuser may dismiss the matter by withdrawing the accusation.
Which brings us back to me admitting to being a hipster: I have faced accusations of it in the past that have yet to be withdrawn–which leaves me with the option to either confirm it by denying it, or admit to it and create a quantum superposition, wherein, since you have no way of determining whether I’m a lying non-hipster or a clever hipster attempting to deny my state by confirming it, I become both simultaneously. Of those two, I’ll take 50/50 (hipster/non-) any day of the week.
And on that bombshell, I’d just like to say: You’re all a bunch of hipsters.