Friday, June 3, 2011

A field guide to urban (or suburban) hipster dining etiquette

If you're reading this blog, it's unlikely that you're a hipster.   However, if you live within the radius of a major metropolitan area, you will occasionally spot hipsters when dining out, particularly if you are a vegan or like swilling obscurely-named drinks. 

I fall into neither of these categories.  But I have observed that if you are trying to raise your Personal Hipster Quotient (PHQ), these tips may come in handy. Once again, be aware  that I myself am not a hipster, merely an observer of the species.

1. Attire: Tattoos are a must, preferably illegal and/or extremely expensive tattoos obtained in foreign countries. Extra hipster points are given for tattoos of obscure bands and tattoos in Eastern languages you don't speak.  The nice thing about tattoos is that even if you are forced to wear non-hipster attire for occupational reasons or because you are dining with a non-hipster (AKA your parents) you can still communicate the fact you are a hipster to the world. Because the world cares.  Oh. So. Much.

Flickr: kate.gardiner
In the absence of tattoos, a scruffy beard and Buddy Holly/Alfie-style glasses can be substituted. Female hipster plumage usually takes the form of body piercing--belly rings and multiple earrings are a must, tongue piercings are optional.

2.  Conversation: A small, expensive phone is essential when dining out as a hipster, particularly in small cafes in which the tables are located close to one another. This enables you to have a loud conversation with your dining companion and someone else at the same time. Other patrons with less exciting lives will really appreciate overhearing your fascinating conversations about your recent snowboarding vacation, how disappointed you are in Obama and the cool new gearless bike you purchased.
Flickr: Fabio Gianesi

3. Sustenance: A special diet is a must. Vegan and gluten-free are popular hipster grazing patterns, although it should be noted that some members of the subspecies make exceptions for extremely expensive sushi, or beef if the venue is sufficiently cool enough. Other hipsters go the other way and adopt the paleo and CrossFit lifestyle.

The essential aspect of hipster dining is not the actual food itself but the attitude towards those who do not Eat As The Hipster Doth.  For example, if you are a vegan hipster and someone brings in homemade chocolate chip cookies to work, it's essential to remind them IMMEDIATELY and IN PUBLIC that not even cage-free eggs are guaranteed to be ethically sourced. Adding that you like to go to a cool, vegan and gluten-free bakery in Brooklyn (it must be in Brooklyn, not in Manhattan) is also a must. Conversely, if you are a paleo who only eats grass-fed beef and lifts weights, make sure to throw in some nasty comments to the woman training for the charity 10K at your office that "CrossFit is the only way."  If you bike to work, don't talk to people who drive cars, regardless of where they live.

Regarding allergies--hipsters seldom have full-blown allergies. However 'sensitivities' (such as gluten-sensitive, wheat-sensitive, dairy-sensitive) are frequently observed in the hipster species, which does not require medical proof and enables hipsters to occasionally sneak a cupcake from Magnolia when Babycakes bakery is too far of a hike.
Flickr: Flibbertygibbit

4. Hipster transportation: While it might be assumed that all hipsters either take public transportation or drive hybrid vehicles to their dining locations, that is not always the case. Some gas-guzzling vehicles are so showy and outré in their design, they are impossible for hipsters to pass up. However, this does not stop the urban hipster from making comments like: "red paint is made for people who wear leather hiking boots" or "I could never wear a running t-shirt that might have come from a sweatshop!  My friend makes t-shirts like that for only $50 each at his store in the Village."
Flickr: Lorena Cupcake

5. Filthy lucre: Are hipsters rich?  How do they afford to eat out so much?

This is an interesting question. Many of them have hidden sources of income, such as wealthy parents bankrolling their efforts in hipsterdom, were successful enough to store away a bit of income due to some non-hipster job in finance or IT, or have a wealthy, non-hipster spouse.

Hipsters do work, as any non-hipster who has ever tried to futilely get served in a restaurant with hipster staff will know. Bike shops, where they will stare right through you as you wheel in your vehicle, often have hipster staff, and small stores that sell clothing or useless objects.  

However, even if you're not a trust fund baby, you can still be a hipster. Remember, the essential attitude of the Hipster at Work is this: "Are you talking? To ME?  I'm going to stare right over your head and continue with my conversation and ignore the fact that you water glass is empty and/or your child's bike needs a new kickstand."

More dedicated hipsters may pursue careers in the arts. Musically-inclined hipsters identify themselves by their shocked attitudes when you say you like the Rolling Stones or The Black Eyed Peas and gravitate to restaurants with blaring soundtracks.  They seldom listen to what other people are saying, except on their tiny cellphones, so the deafening blare is a bonus.

Occasionally, one will spot a hipster yoga instructor. They usually manifest themselves at studios with extremely expensive towels and exorbitant fees for bottled water.  These studios also have trained staff to look through you if you are unable to their afford expensive workshops.  Hipster instructors are identified less by their way of dressing (as many yoga instructors have a deceptively hipster appearance) and more by  the fact that they tend only 'adjust' cute thin rich people with body piercings who make major contributions to the instructor's pet causes and follow the instructor wherever he or she might teach.  However, hipster yoga instructors are usually detoxing, so you don't need to worry about dealing with them while dining out.

6. Social relations: If your non-hipster dining companion makes a comment about a favorite television program or book, or a favorite entertainer, or going to the theater, make sure, oh aspiring hipster, to have a pained and shocked expression as you say: "I can't believe people are watching the royal wedding when people are starving to death in Africa and Americans buying bottled water everyday."  However, as a hipster, it is totally okay to spend lots of money on your music, clothing, vacations to see cool shows, do extreme sports, and have paid enough for tattoos and piercings to feed a Third World country.  That is self-expression. It's so totally different from watching Glee and reading cooking magazines.

Flickr: girlwithaparasol

It is okay, as a hipster, to have a few mainstream pastimes.  In fact, it's encouraged to have one or two non-hipster interests to let everyone know that you are a human being, like knitting.  But always remember that your pastimes are okay to spend money on, and everyone else has shallow and decadent pursuits.

7. Food shopping: Hipsters generally like Whole Foods (the CEO's lack of support for universal healthcare doesn't bother them, because that is such an American issue and hipsters seldom adopt local causes). But, oh hipster aspirant, don't bother to bring a reusable shopping bag. All hipsters ever purchase are bottles of essential oils, fancy iced teas, and prepared lunches at Whole Foods, since hipsters don't cook. They often know the cashier and hold up the line giving him or her a hug and a kiss--or if they don't, they just talk on their cellphones the entire time to avoid contact with non-hipsters in line.

8. Drinking and smoking:  Some hipsters indulge, other hipsters do not. Regardless of your choice, if you are an aspiring hipster and a smoker, do so without any regard for non-smoking signs, because the whole non-smoking thing is so authoritarian and stupid. If you drink, regardless of your favorite tonic, remember that what you drink is totally cool--whether it is an ironically consumed American beer or a pricey cocktail or bottle of organic wine--and what everyone else consumes is totally inferior.

One final warning: If you do not follow these instructions and occasionally see hipsters where you dine, shop, and pursue your hobbies you may still be under the mistaken notion that you can pass for a hipster, and go up to said hipsters and say things like: "Hey, I'm a vegan, do know any good vegan restaurants?" Or "cool! where did you get that bike?" Or "I love those checkered sneakers."  If you do you just have so. Not. Gotten. This. Post.


  1. I would add that for the hipster male, BMI must be maintained at 18 or less (waif model), and if they can't do hard math, ribs must be visible at all times. If not, it's time for a "cleanse" with those funny-smelling vitamins that cost more than a weeks worth of real food. Also stop using the words "eat" and "drink" and refer to anyone's unsavory and unacceptable eating habits with "I can't believe you're putting THAT in your body!"

    PS- The word verification I got prompted with was "huffer"- how awesome is that?

  2. @MG--that 'huffer' prompt is awesome! One of those 'you can't make that up' moments--I'm sure that little Irish guy from your undergrad institution would be proud. (However, although having an accent and an intimate relationship with Reddi-Whip might up one's young hipster cred in some circles, he probably wouldn't qualify).

    It is odd that male hipsters actually tend to be thinner than the females of the species (I've seen more overweight female hipsters than male hipsters). Of course, the hipster horror at eating--excuse me--'putting' non-organic produce 'in your body' is always far greater than eating dubious unregulated supplements from health food stores.