2013: Another Year of the Effing Hipster?

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Photo: Georgia Kuhn/Corbis

Many experience Tumblr as a kind of ahistorical K-hole, wandering from GIFs of last night’s late-night talk shows to screen-caps of John Hughes movies, leaving notes on contemporary art made from nineties clip art and reblogging improperly licensed photos of people who slept with Serge Gainsbourg. But the powers that be at the Yahoo-owned blog platform have begun to keep Tumblr time. For the first time ever, Tumblr has published a Year in Review, defining the trends of 2013 by which hashtags were the most reblogged. According to Tumblr, the most popular fashion trend of 2013 is #hipster.

Or maybe not. Hashtags appear to have limited use as a relevance index. The GIF-able One Direction and Jennifer Lawrence were the most reblogged band and actress of the year, respectively, but #art was a popular tag in the Art category. Then there are the idiosyncrasies of the Tumblr community. In a year of viral foodstuffs like the cronut and the ramen burger, a pile of humble blueberries topped the Tumblr food porn category, a statistical anomaly I blame entirely on obsessive thinspo bloggers. Still, the persistence of #hipster might be the most perplexing 2013 trend, if only because the term is so seldom used within the fashion industry. And it’s not being used in the anthropological, look-at-this-fucking-hipster sense. The hashtag is most consistently attached to images of Lana Del Rey, Doc Martens, pizza, and lots and lots of triangles — an ironic New Age thing or an ironic Illuminati thing, I think.

The long tyranny of hipster could support the thesis that the term has become so relative as to be meaningless — less a style than an accusation of trying too hard, lobbed by people who consider themselves above such effort. Which would suggest Tumblr’s been overrun by poseurs — no self-respecting hipster would use the #hipster hashtag — except that it gets some stuff right. Among other exhausted subcultures (#grunge, #indie, #hippie, #boho), Tumblr’s most reblogged fashion hashtags list accurately illustrates the rise of the fashion goth, and her cousins #pastel, #pastel goth, and #pale. Pale, in particular, is popular, connoting not just skin that has never seen a soccer field, but the entire realm of the sullen teenager. (Pink cigarettes, hand-written song lyrics, bruises, being bored.) And you could hardly blame teens for misusing #hipster — The Hipster Handbook came out a decade ago. It’s practically #retro.