B.O. can sometimes be a Power Move, and this has led to the rise of the Hipster, whose relevance and fame has reached such great and dubiously deserving heights so as to 1) cannibalize the conceptual space that created him, 2) be a godsend for hobos with social ambition.
Not that the modern Hipster isn’t, like an elephant or buck-teeth, eye-catching. Things like Castro caps paired with BlueBlockers are easy to appreciate: they’re simple constructs with an obvious message - “Look at me, I’m at Dolores Park. I used to live in Williamsburg”. And yet, unlike most self-conscious displays of vanity, we don’t get indignant about it, because the underweight, unsymmetrical figure hiding behind the aesthetic had his a** handed to him every school week for twelve long years. We allow him his moment.
It’s in this allowance, however, that the Power Move, the predicate for the Hipsters’ very existence, has become underplayed and misinterpreted, sufficiently so as to merit a review of first principles, without which we cannot understand the Hipster’s effect on SF’s singles scene.
The general idea of the Power Move is that certain social maneuvers in life are so plainly marginalizing or handicapping to one’s social status that to brazenly pull them off suggests some extraordinary, counter-balancing greatness. Specifically, however, the Power Move is not a single thing but many things, since the context counts much more than the conduct in determining its affect, and this why Power Moves often go wrong.
For example, popping your collar at a bar, driving a white convertible Volkswagen Cabriolet as a girl, buying a Porsche ever, wearing a sleeveless shirt as Toby Keith are all Jackass Moves - plain, predictable and uninspired reaches for coolness, the precise opposite of the Power Move. BUT popping your collar at an interview, driving a white convertible Volkswagen Cabriolet as guy, renting a Porsche to pick up Janeane Garofalo on a date, and wearing a sleeveless shirt as Borat are totally Power Moves.
The Hipster movement started as a Power Move. The original goal of the Hipster was to pursue coolness by rejecting ALL coolness, which is meta enough to be sort of ingenious but, like 7-Up’s “The Uncola” ad campaign, not so sophisticated that dumb people can’t sort of get it, which is pretty much where you want to be if you’ve got designs on being cool. By the late 90s, however, the Hipster movement began to degenerate, largely due to its popularity, into a sloppy pastiche of punk, Euro and earthy styles totally claiming and totally lacking street cred, such that being a Hipster is now properly a Douche-Bag Move, which we can define as a Jackass Move masquerading as a Power Move (e.g., “How ironical that someone as cool as me wears a geeky t-shirt”).
Now the thing about D-Bag Moves, more than Jackass Moves and Power Moves, is that they work. They’re based on deceit and thus, like boob jobs, reality TV shows, and the film Rocky, they tend to neatly accessorize the delusions that shape most people’s self-awareness. They’re poseur bullsh*t but complicatedly so and, more importantly, they flatter and prey upon our most self-aggrandizing (and almost always false) pretensions. In the on-going conflict between our egos and our brains, D-Bag Move practitioners like Hipsters (or Swoopers and Bullsh*t Artists) always win.
Popcultural critic Chuck Klosterman describes the devolution of the Hipster from Power Move to D-Bag Move like this: “[It] used to be [difficult] to tell the difference between hipsters and homeless people. Now [the difficulty is distinguishing] between Hipsters and Retards. I mean, either that guy in the corner in orange safety pants holding a protest sign and wearing a top hat is mentally disabled or he is the coolest fucking guy you will ever know.”
The upshot is that the Hipster in modern incarnation can get tail. Against a societal backdrop of regular Joes with boring jobs, boring minds and boring lives the Hipster STANDS OUT as an emblem against the tyranny of ordinariness. He’s lazy and apathetic but he’s eccentric enough, at least aesthetically, to be special. So when girls find themselves choosing between a guy who is certainly ordinary and a guy who is probably retarded but possibly cool girls inevitably choose ... Matthew McConaughey. But the nerd in orange safety pants definitely gets the nod for brunch.
But not in San Francisco. Here EVERYONE sort of looks mentally disabled, either because they are dot com nerds with zero fashion sense, foreigners with the wrong fashion sense, American blue-bloods with sanctimoniously ethnic fashion sense, or homeless people with I can’t afford fashion sense. It’s really confusing. No one can tell who’s being sincere and who’s being ironic, which undermines all the leverage the Hipster has. He’s just one more dude girls don’t want anything to do with, just one more act of desperation on an increasingly desperate stage.
You think this would be enormously vexing since the whole point of the Hipster is giving beta guys the opportunity to get laid. But the Hipster persists in San Francisco for reasons not at all clear. It’s as if the Hipster’s stand for irony and against everything has evolved in Ouroboros fashion to include a stand against propagating their DNA. That is either supremely retarded or the biggest f*cking Power Move we will ever know.