College is fraught with all kinds of anxiety, not the least of which is social. Now Tufts University in Massachusetts has found a way to combine fear of failing your classes with fear of not being cool in a single, one-credit course called “Demystifying the Hipster.”
Taught by professor Jackie O’Dell, the class will examine everything from film and fashion to art and literature in order to decipher just what makes a hipster a hipster. “Students will become critics and sociologists of today’s hipster culture as they explore how hipster identity reflects larger cultural anxiety,” according to the course description.
While hipsterdom may seem like a modern-day phenomenon (or affliction, depending on your perspective), the term itself has been around since the early 1900s. Long associated with Harlem jazz culture, hipsters were also known as “hepcats” through the 1940s. Jazz singer Cab Calloway’s Jive Dictionary, published in 1939, defines “hip” as “wise, sophisticated, anyone with boots on.” Even Norman Mailer weighed in on the matter with his 1957 essay, “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster,” which is required reading for the Tufts course.
But since trying to be cool automatically disqualifies you from actually being cool, we suspect all this diligent dissection of the topic won’t turn “A” students into hipsters. At best, they’ll just be groupies. And there’s nothing hip about that.