Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hipsters and Money

Quite a few months ago, TimeOutNY had an issue whose theme was "The Hipster Must Die." Of course this title was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as they'd probably be killing off half their subscriber base, but it got me thinking about the financial aspects of hipsterdom.

First of all, it's a little unclear exactly what a Hipster IS these days. The various elements involved might include being involved in art or music or literature, wearing thrift store clothes, riding a certain type of bike, and generally adopting an attitude of being counter-cultural, or anti-Yuppie. The Hipster embraces a kind of anti-cool cool, and celebrates a certain degree of nerdiness.

New York is full of these types. It's as if the Statue of Liberty were beckoning to them, saying "Give me your tired, your poor, and those who were always being given wedgies in middle school." The supposed non-conformism of Hipsters is kind of a joke here, because they all look the same-- tight skinny jeans, extreme pallor, hats that are otherwise worn only by elderly Puerto Rican men, and retro-geeky sneakers.

(See, I am over it because I am old enough to have seriously wanted those same sneakers as an upscale, aspirational, non-ironic fashion item in the 1980s.)

Some of these elements of hipsterdom are closely associated with money.

For instance, Hipsters tend to like to buy clothes in thrift shops and say they are broke, unlike all those suit-wearing Wall Street types who are getting paid to be conformists. How many Hipsters really are broke? Do Hipsters drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and other cheap beers in cans because they can't afford Belvedere martinis? Or just because it looks cooler to get a bucket of PBRs? Hipsters used to move to Williamsburg because it was cheap. Then Williamsburg started to fill up with yuppies, so the Hipsters had to move on to Greenpoint and Bushwick and who knows where next. Again, is it really the money, or do Hipsters just prefer to have people reply "Where? Is that safe?" when they say where they live? I've already blogged about the tendency of Hipsters to ride the one-gear, no-brakes bikes known as "fixies." These bikes look simple, but they're not cheap: try $800 and up. For a bike with no brakes. In New York City. Smart, huh?

But despite this embrace of at least the appearance of poverty, Hipsters have become a target market, at least in New York. Perhaps recognizing that some of these people actually have trust funds, a savvy real estate company started offering "Home-Buying for Hipsters" seminars at bars in Williamsburg. Great derision followed at real estate sites such as Brownstoner and Curbed, including this gem of a comment:

once you buy a home, you are no longer a hipster. you're a mortgage holding wiener like the rest of us.

What say you, readers? Which would you rather be, a hipster or a mortgage-holding wiener?


Anonymous said...

Sign me up for "mortgage-holding wiener." Being a hipster requires too much effort. I used to be one but I just got too tired or old...or both.

That said, not all hipsters have trust funds and not all hipsters hate yuppies. I think I'm somewhere in between: too tired to go out on weeknights, too frugal to justify Belvedere martinis. Hell, I don't even know what a Belvedere martini is!

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the "hipster" label, but I'm fed up with being a mortgage-holding wiener. No one talks too much about the drawbacks to home ownership like all the responsibility involved (no more calls to the landlord when the plumbing goes's all on you baby!), the hidden costs (HOA fees, taxes, lawn maintenence, garbage collection, PMI, insurance, FEMA insurance, etc)

And for me the big one is lack of mobility. I suddenly find myself longing to go back to LA (my home). Were I in an apartment all I'd have to is find a job and wait for my lease to run out (or just sublet it or break it and pay the difference). Since I'm stuck in my home I have to wait until the market gets better or sell at a HUGE loss (if I can sell it at all that is).

I for one will NEVER own be a mortgage-holding wiener again!

asgreen said...

mortgage holding wiener all the way! Adrienne, can you rent your home out? Might be a solution for the meantime.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing: I was a weiner for 20 years, spent every vacation and holiday fixing things that broke (it was an old house) and doing minor improvements. I loved it, but the market didn't provide huge equity gains (modest). Then I suffered a series of disasters that I wasn't well-enough prepared for, and in the end wound up foreclosed. I am older, wiser, better educated, and have adjusted my priorities, but next time (and yes, I'm saving like mad) it will be a townhouse, not a 3 bedroom ranch with front/back yards, etc. Too much freaking work for one person, and I don't need that much room.

Anonymous said...

I don't care what I'm labeled, just as long as I continue towards our goals of financial freedom by living below our means, diversifying assets, and dollar cost averaging.

S said...

I never knew the term "hipster" until today, but after hearing it I can target em from my memory like crazy, esp the P.R. old mans hat!

I would love to be a "mortgage-holding weiner" rather than the in debt sleeping on parents couch weiner I am.

And in NYC, if you ask forjust a "Martini" what kind of vodka is the default that they use?

Noel Larson said...

We all can deny our youth spilling out like a tipped over wine bottle, but it doesn't mean we are growing older.

I used to make fun of those suits in their 40's who were still in middle management and hadn't taken over the am 39 (not 40!!!) and there too.

AS Roger sang.."Hope I day before I get old"...indeed

Bitty said...

Although Adrienne makes a great point, since I AM a mortgage-holding wiener, sorta (I make my very last payment in September), I've got to vote for that. The nice thing is that if you live long enough, you pay the thing off.

Having once been a real estate secretary, however, I'd like to report that the term "mortgage-holding" is a little off for this context. He, she, or it who "holds" your mortgage is the person who COLLECTS the funds, not the one who pays them.

Mortgage-laden wiener might be more appropriate, if not legally accurate.

frugal zeitgeist said...

I'm happy to remain a mortgage-holding wiener for the next three weeks. Then I'll be even happier to be an own-my-home-free-and-clear wiener.

Oh, and you know those skinny hipster jeans? I would need a serious quad reduction to get into those.

Escape Brooklyn said...

I just have to clarify about the fixed gear bikes because that's what my husband rides and he is NOT a hipster. (Mortgage holding wiener all the way!) These bikes are actually preferred by many, including bike messengers, for city riding because supposedly you have more control and can stop more quickly by what's called "skipping."

(I don't ride one because I like gears.)

Back in the day, fixed gears were way more affordable than non-fixies. (No gears!) Then suddenly they became a fashion accessory and one trendy clothing store even used them in their window displays. (Was it Urban Outfitters? I can't remember.) So now these bikes cost a ton of cash. But people used to be able to buy them for a couple of hundred bucks, tops; they were a frugal mode of transportation.

Today, there's nothing scarier than watching a hipster try to ride a fixed gear in the city. These bikes require a lot of leg strength and coordination, not to mention that learning to stop is a challenge. I worry that some of these "kids" are going to kill themselves trying to ride them. They don't realize what they're buying.

Anonymous said...

You forgot about retro facial hair on the hipster dudes! Mutton chops or a handlebar moustache are essential so that they can blow in the breeze while they ride their stripped-down $1000 fixie to the vegan co-op. The moustache does make pounding cans of PBR a little challenging, though.

(This coming from someone whose girlfriend who rides a fixie in a large city. But she has a brake on it in case of emergency--SO not hip!)

Anonymous said...

A true hipster would buy an old road bike at a consignment shop for cheap and convert it to fixed gear.