Hanging out with fashionable young people, going to art exhibitions and partying in ‘alternative’ clubs, for the sake of research. For Magdalena Szypielewicz, a 22-year-old Polish Sociology student, this is all part of her Master thesis research on hipsters.

A word without a ‘real’ meaning

So what are hipsters, then? Magdalena says it’s difficult to do research on a group of people that are defined in so many different ways: ” Information is often contradictory and actually, nobody really knows how to define them. ” A main characteristic of hipsters is that they want to be different from the rest of the society, although ironically, hipster style has gradually become commercialized and standardized. Magdalena: “Hipsters are now conformists within their own subculture.”

According to Magdalena, you can often spot a hipster by looking at his or her clothing style. Most important is to look as if you didn’t try too hard: hipsters are effortlessly cool. Clothing is old skool and vintage inspired: leggings and floral prints are popular, as well as t-shirts with ironic or sarcastic prints. The look is finished by adding a pair of Vans, All Stars or boots, a lot of colourful accessories and a couple of tattoos or piercings.

‘You tell me’

Why hipsters? Magdalena says she is fascinated by people’s lifestyles and heard the word ‘hipster’ so many times, that she felt she wanted to know more. The aim of her thesis is to describe the hipster subculture, and she wants to research whether hipsters symbolize end of individualism, or the beginning of a new kind of community. Magdalena says people often ask the same questions when they hear about the topic for her thesis: “The question I always get is: ‘So tell me, what is a hipster?’. I always ask them to tell me instead, as that is exactly what I am researching.”

A search for subjects

Magdalena’s research includes some basic elements of any random study: a literature review, field observation and interviews. However, her chosen topic makes her able to combine thesis writing with leisure: “I try to go to places where I can find hipsters: cafés, clubs, festivals. I applied as a volunteer for the Motel Mozaique Festival in Rotterdam in order to do some participant observation.” Magdalena can quite easily find groups of hipsters, at for instance art exhibitions or organic restaurants: “I find it funny that they all pretend to be an individual, but all go to the same places and have similar interests, such as art and organic food.” IS