Hipster inadvertently proves that all hipsters look alike

Reader Julian called my attention to this post on The Register, a post that could have come from The Onion, but it’s TRUE.

The headline tells it all:

What happened is that a paper appeared on the AMS Journals website with a mathematical theory explaining why hipsters (or anything that behaves like hipsters) tend to eventually resemble one another.  The Register tells more:

At the end of February, MIT Technology Review emitted a pithy rundown of a 34-page research paper from maths-modelling boffins at Brandeis University in the US; the paper essentially posited that in a bid to make that all-important “countercultural statement”, hipsters can end up looking alike. For groovy models of how random acts by hipsters “undergo a phase transition into a synchronized state” – along with some knotty network equations – see here [PDF].

Accompanying the article was an edited stock image of a generic millennial chap in plaid shirt and standard-issue beanie, or “trendy winter attire”, as Getty put it.

. . .The MIT journal’s editor-in-chief, Gideon Lichfield, took to Twitter to tell a “cautionary tale” about what followed the article going live:

“We promptly got a furious email from a man who said he was the guy in the photo that ran with the story. He accused us of slandering him, presumably by implying he was a hipster, and of using the pic without his permission. (He wasn’t too complimentary about the story, either.)”

That hipster picture is below.  The thing is that the photo was a stock picture from Getty and it wasn’t the complaining guy at all. By complaining, he’d proved the article’s point!

As I said, this story could have been in The Onion, and people would have laughed and assumed it was satirical. But it wasn’t, for life was imitating art (or, in this case, science).


  1. Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m dying!!!

  2. JezGrove
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Yup couldn’t make it up. Wonderful!

  3. Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Hilarious! 🙂

  4. ChrisKG
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    He wanted to be different just like everyone else.

  5. Jenny Haniver
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Yep, they all look alike. Hilarious.

  6. freiner
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    This is wonderful. Just glancing over the paper I spotted the following caption for a figure:

    Space-dependent delays and connectivity in a hipster-only situation

    Even the Onion would have a hard-time coming up with something that good.

  7. Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    So that is what a hipster looks like. Had no idea.

    • darrelle
      Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Me too. Still not sure. Need more samples.

      • Posted March 6, 2019 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        Basically, like musicians from a Portland-based polyharmonic indie folk band who pay the bills as part-time jumberjacks, or bit like 1920s Vaudeville bohemians with a few anachronistic elements.


        (1) long, full beard, or moustache (2) upper lip-beard twirled. (3) tattoos, lower arm colour explosion or black ink coffee shop decoration, or prison tattoos but a tad too artsy. (4) tattoo on the side of the neck. (5) retro glasses, (blues brothers) rayban wayfarers, 70s porn star, “Jeffrey Dahmer inspired me”, or 1980s “I got this from a bumble gum vending machine” etcetera (6) Hitler haircut, 1920/1930s, or late 1980s boy band, very neat (juxtaposed with beards) (7) lumberjack/grunge flannel, jeans shirt, white A-shirts, or vintage printed shirts of old pop culture (e.g. old bands, tv shows, cartoons etc) — 2nd hand or looking very worn and washed out. In winter knitted old fashioned garments (8) jeans too short, and very slim (9) and sneakers or boots. (10) beanie or small round hats. (11) accessories can be organic cloth bags, and a latte machiato coffee to go.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 6, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

          Hipsters I know match your description plus:

          Fond of Apple gizmos such as the watch

          Flaunting of artiness: In background of pics & ‘casts you’ll see a no-brand acoustic guitar they can barely strum, if really hip they’ll have a decent quality electric bass – they know a few runs in various keys – stress on wrong phrases & timing all to hell, audio mixing desk, arcane books/mags never read while claiming they’re “working on a book”, shit drawings & paintings they’ve done – usually rip offs of abstract artists or of concert posters.

          Worship of the retro: Vinyl record deck, action figures, boxed matchbox 50s cars, prominent retro 50s mic with pop filter

          ‘tache wax

          Craft beers

          Separated from missus who is sick of the BS & decamped to a sane place

        • darrelle
          Posted March 7, 2019 at 7:11 am | Permalink

          Aha! I think I’m getting the picture now.

  8. Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    My oldest son is also (proudly) a hipster, and the only significant difference between him and the above picture is that he wears the kind of glasses that hipsters wear. His longterm gf knitted him his stocking hat, as is recommended.

    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted March 6, 2019 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      The Getty license link in the tweet shows more images from the ” same series,”, which includes I believe the same guy with glasses, along with a different hat and jacket, and still a hipster.

  9. Sarah
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Back in the 1950s beatniks were ridiculed for being madly individualistic but all wearing the same uniform. As I recall, black beret, black or striped turtleneck, black pants or skirt. A cigarette, preferably Gauloises.

  10. Filippo
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I contemplate the connection if any between hippies and hipsters.

    I gather that the former are “groovy” and the latter “cool.”

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    What articles like this demonstrate most of all is the debasement of the nomenclature “Hipster.”

    Hipsters originally arose in the post-War 1940s and 1950s, as part of a twofold rejection of Eisenhower-era conformity — the Hipsters and the Beats. There was much overlap in these groups (and some people could be said to have a foot in both camps), but there were differences, too, including in their tastes in music (Link Wrey’s “Rumble”, for example, was a quintessential Hipster tune), drugs (Hipsters favored harder and speedier), and transportation (Hipsters favored motorcycles).

    During the Sixties, the Beats morphed into the Hippies (“Hippie” being a misnomer derived from Hipster, coined by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, who managed to get everything regarding the counterculture backasswards, as he got
    most other things backasswards, too).

    Some of the Hipsters became Greasers, but most simply disappeared, although relict members of the species would occasionally make atavistic appearances. (I used to think of Hunter Thompson, for example, as one of the last of the red-hot Fifties-style Hipsters, especially in his early years).

    But the people grouped under the rubric “Hipster” now bear no genealogical relationship to the originals.

    • Peter N
      Posted March 6, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, that was very informative.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 6, 2019 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      A Peter Gunn Switchblade side to your Rumble sir?

  12. gscott
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Monty Python anticipated this in “Life of Brian”:

    Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!
    Crowd: [in unison] Yes! We’re all individuals!
    Brian: You’re all different!
    Crowd: [in unison] Yes, we are all different!
    Man in crowd: I’m not…
    Crowd: Shhh!

  13. Jon Gallant
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Ken, for the etymological and sociological review. I might mention one related sobriquet. In the 60s, I was involved in several counter-cultural, more or less anarchist media (a magazine, a non-commercial radio station, and a legendary prank political campaign). We saw nothing wrong with the designation we received from the conventional world: “hippy-freaks”.

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Ah, The Register. Haven’t looked at it for a while, but I really must start looking at its ‘Bootnotes’ section again.

    Among other things, it faithfully chronicles (under the category ‘Rise of the Machines’) every automated toilet that imprisons someone inside, every enormous truck that was led by its GPS into a narrow village street, every car whose eletronic throttle jammed open and dragged its driver screaming to oblivion…

    There’s a beauty here though, a human fighting back: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/02/20/pilot_spells_it_out_im_bored/
    An Aussie pilot, tasked with ‘putting some hours’ on a single-engine plane, spelled out a message and drew some rude symbols with his flightpath. Visible with tracking apps like FlightAware.


  15. XCellKen
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I collect old beer cans from the 1950s and 60s, and I still have the Dual 506 Turntable I purchased in 1981. Does that make me a Hipster ?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 6, 2019 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      You should probably go into quarantine just in case. But that high quality deck doesn’t count because you’ve owned it from before the vinyl resurgence. And collecting of 50s cans is impressive! Do you go ‘pit dumping’ [I looked it up]?

      The main hipster symptom is the need to display their hipsterosity – my main hipster friend has the guitar in frame over his shoulder in online hangouts no matter how his cam is angled that week. 🙂

      • XCellKen
        Posted March 7, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        I know many guys that love to dig thru old dumps looking for old cans, I’m not one of them. Besides, I like my cans clean and shiny.

        Some of my best cans came from a garage in Houston in 2002. The cans were from the 50s. The original owner cut the tops out, and used them for cups at keg parties. Then he put them in a box, and gave them to his son. His son then put them in the garage, where they remained until 2002. Why did he save them so long? I dunno.

        Google “Champagne Velvet Color series cans” if you wanna see what they look like

  16. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 7, 2019 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    I’m going with the null hypothesis: the angry email was for a laugh. And to get in the news.

  17. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted March 7, 2019 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Are we witnessing the death of satire as it becomes increasingly difficult to tell satire from reality when stories like this turn out to be real?

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Source: Why Evolution is True […]

%d bloggers like this: