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Friday, October 31, 2014 | Last updated: 9:24am

Hipsters adapt to a Southwest habitat



The hipster has risen as a definitive subculture in the last decade, growing in various “hipster locales” around the country. This group of people is often defined by its love of everything alternative to mainstream culture, be it vintage clothing, indie music or eclectic pastimes. Very little research has catalogued the regional variations amongst hipster cultures of North America, but there are indeed distinct differences between these similar-seeming varieties. One such example is the Southwest Hipster, which calls the American Southwest its home.

The hipster of the Southwestern United States is a unique variety of the 20-something culture. Unimpressed with big city-life, the Southwest Hipster inhabits college towns, historic mining districts and revitalized urban centers of the American Southwest, a region stretching from the deserts of Southern California to Central Texas. Even Phoenix, the largest metro area of the region, has only a few million inhabitants, making it the perfect environment for those adhering to a laid-back, alternative way of life. Several key traits can be analyzed to identify the Southwest Hipster, setting this variety apart from the more common Los Angeles or East Coast varieties.

The music of the Southwest Hipster is a unique blend of many different genres. The high temperatures of the Southwestern United States has created an angst in some of the music, often conveyed with screamed vocals and guitar tones dripping with delay. These elements of the Southwest Hipster music scene may be leftovers from these hipsters’ high school days following the post-hardcore movement. The synthesizers of New York and Los Angeles, as well as the fiddle and mandolin of the South, combine with the temperature-induced angst of vocals and guitar to form a musical motif unique to the coffee shops and renovated warehouse districts situated along once prosperous rail lines, including those right here in Tucson.

The mode of dress of the Southwest Hipster is again influenced by the environment. Cut-off skinny jean “jorts” are quite common in the summer months. Tank tops, while unacceptable in hipster circles of New York, are quite commonplace amongst the hipster of the Southwest, provided they appear to have survived a decade’s worth of washing machine cycles. The cardigan that the Seattle hipsters wear year-round is just not going to work in 105 degree weather, especially when biking to work (for Tucson hipsters that could mean Bookmans, Zia Records or Cartel Coffee Lab). Similarly, the oversize Rivers Cuomo/Buddy Holly prescription glasses are less prevalent among the Southwestern states due to the necessity of sunglasses for much of the year. One of the Southwest Hipster’s most iconic accessories are his vintage, or at least vintage-style, “sunnies.”

The Hipster of the Southwest is often an outdoorsman first. Cycling, rock climbing, hiking and slack-lining are common pastimes enjoyed by the hipsters of the region, many of whom have beards as a symbol of their outdoorsmanship. While many hipsters of various other geographic regions claim to be active participants in the same activities, the Southwest Hipster is situated near the jagged American Rockies, considering the Appalachians suitable only for Polaroid viewfinders.

Board games, especially uncommon titles such as “Settlers of Catan,” are also popular amongst the hipsters of the region, especially for married couples choosing to forgo the wine tastings and sports-viewing parties of their less-alternative peers.

The American Southwest is a region rich in history and culture, containing a burgeoning art scene inspired by its natural beauty, Native American art, Latin American influences and the beat culture. The hipster of the region has assimilated into this niche, allowing the observer to clearly distinguish the Southwest Hipster from the hipsters of other regions such as the Pacific Northwest or Tennessee. The Southwest Hipster is specifically adapted to the environment it inhabits, and being able to recognize these distinguishing characteristics is just the beginning of further research into this unique culture.


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