Urban Outfitters Hipster vs. Wicker Park Artist: Consumption and Authenticity

Urban Outfitter's Hipster (Artist)

Urban Outfitters’ Hipster

One of my sisters favorite clothing stores on the face of the planet is Urban Outfitters, but there’s one thing that she loves even more: dragging me in there with her. I’ve never really enjoyed shopping there, mostly  because I think that the clothing, though it is made well, is incredibly pricy. It’s safe to say, but don’t quote me on it, that a large percent of the LA population has at least one item of clothing from the store.

When Ruby and I went in one day in search of a new dress for her high school dance, I asked her why she liked the store out of the blue. She told me that she thought the clothing was really cool, and had a hipster feel to them. Curious, I asked her what she meant by that, and in response, she said that the look and style of the products at Urban had an old school, edgy feel. Not having much of a fashion sense myself, I assumed that Urban could definitely be seen as a hipster style. Richard Lloyd would probably disagree with me, though, and for good reason.

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Wicker Park Artists

In his book Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City, Lloyd touches on trying to define the authenticity of a hipster, or in his terms, artist.  When looking at clothing, such as those from Urban Outfitters, it’s important to see that the ‘hip’ that is being presented isn’t one that is authentic, as much as it used as a tool for consumption. In order to fit in, Urban is getting people to spend loads of money on clothing items, candles, and room decorations that are produced to look vintage, which defeats the whole purpose of the word hipster or artist in the first place. The authenticity of the hipster doesn’t only lie in the ‘cool’ clothing that they wear, but in the lifestyle that they live as well. Lloyd discusses the authentic hipsters as useful labor, by saying that the artists do their jobs because they want to do it.  When interviewing workers around Wicker Park, Lloyd interviewed a painter named Tom. When asked about his job, Tom said, ‘I have something I do that is very important to me-making art-and I’m prepared to forgo other comforts for that’ (Lloyd, 165). This leads into the next point of artists not being dependent on money, as much as they are on the success of their art. The concern for making profit is not the motive, which Lloyd explains when saying that ‘a local art fair may be designed to sell an artist’s work, but at the same time, the fair may also be selling the idea of the neighborhood as a desirable place to live’ (Lloyd, 167). This kind of group, which was examined by Lloyd to be found in Wicker Park, is strong due to the joint activity of all of the artists who share the urbanized
space.

Does posing that the ‘authentic hipster’ is one who is useful labor, passionate about art and not financially dependent really matter? While I think that these three things do distinguish the authentic from those who are consumer driven for now, I believe that this will begin to start evolving, just as the history of Wicker Park that Lloyd took us through did. One way that I can see this happening is by too many people coming into he community. That being said, if a neighborhood does get to ‘cool’, will it outfit the title of being bohemian or neo-bohemian?

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