Defining the word "hipster" in the modern cultural age is exceptionally difficult – probably because concrete definitions are too mainstream. The term alone implies ambiguity and requires deviation from the norm; to define a hipster would erode the true essence of what a hipster seeks to attain.
Pop culture often portrays hipsters as coffee-shop enthusiasts with very specific tastes in eclectic varieties of music, fashions and food. They stereotypically can be spotted wearing retro sunglasses and vintage clothing; they take whimsically artistic pictures and feel particularly opinionated about organic produce and ethical farming practices.
This social demographic (generally comprised of young, single, creative urbanites) often rejects the term, yet aspects of what a clichéd "hipster" represents in the United States culture is intrinsically linked to a greater phenomenon emerging within the cities and other cultured centers of the country.
The tight pants and cameras are evidence of a potential new direction for the prosperity of the American city through what has been popularly termed the "creative class."
These inventive, nontraditional professionals thrive in areas of information technology, arts, finance and higher education; they boast impressive contribution to knowledge-intensive industries – often involving cutting-edge technology and marketing.
From funky coffee shops to independent music production, the diaspora of these talented individuals has already made an impact on the direction of cities and American culture. Even downtown Knoxville reveals signs of the movement. The vestiges of the old railroad system have recently been renovated into art studios, vintage boutiques and unique restaurants. Larger brands have caught onto the trend – Knoxville's Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and the incoming Whole Foods emulate the trend on a broad scale.
Many southern towns have developed an artistic edge based on creativity; Austin, Raleigh-Durham and Houston boast the most notable hipster edge. In Tennessee, Nashville has transitioned into cultural relevance through the music scene and has seen impressive growth over the past decades.
The timing for a new wave of innovation couldn't be better for American cities. As manufacturing has become increasingly globalized, the industrial capitals of the country have slowly begun to sink into obscure irrelevance – notably cities in the Rust Belt, such as Cleveland and Detroit.
Traditionally, industrial or agricultural cities have attempted to revitalize with the influx of tenant, tolerant young professionals – cities like Columbus, Ohio, have begun to promote tolerance and accrue independent venues and similar hipster vibes.
America, however, has a potential new card for the economic future that raw manufacturing lacks: innovation.
And if hipsters inspire anything, it's creativity.
Yet, the doubts about the validity of creating an economic sustainability of the creative class in the current era of economics certainly has a voice. Musicians, artists, filmmakers, independent business owners, writers and other creative professionals face constant threat of unemployment. For example, California's abundant creativity corresponds with high rates of unemployment, in spite of Hollywood and Silicon Valley – which would be considered magnets for the creative class.
Despite the difficulties that the current economic landscape poses, cities in the U.S. seem to be willing to slip on the retro shades and view the urban future through a hipster's lens.
To call someone a hipster can mean anything – an insult, a compliment, a simple observation. As globalization increases and manufacturing increasingly moves to other parts of the world, America must focus on one of its most powerful tools for the future: innovative ideas.
Americans may not produce the coffee bean or make the fabric, but we can wear skinny jeans in a coffee shop and toast to an idealistic future of creative success.
Sarah Hagaman is a sophomore in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.