This was the first blog post I wrote to get any attention beyond my close friends and immediate family. It was re-posted onto Mennonite World News and was one of its most seen posts for awhile, outstripping those earnest theological ponderings it usually posts by a fair measure. Its popularity surprised me until it occurred to me that the Mennonites reading it might believe that it is a compliment to be called a hipster. It’s not, dear reader, but it’s true – it might be hipper than just being called shiftless again.
Here’s the original post:
I’m not the first person to notice a certain similarity between Mennonite culture and hipsterism. Google “Hipster Mennonite” and you come up with lots of clever folk out there who have noticed a certain superficial visual similarity. Admittedly, there are also a few differences. Never mind about those.
Here’s my list, in classic countdown format, of ways in which Mennos are like hipsters, or hipsters are like Mennos. Actually, since we’ve been around longer, I have a certain suspicion that behind every great hipster is a Mennonite tastemaker whispering snide anticonsumerist rhetoric into her or his ear.
10. Hipsters and Mennonites don’t drive cars. Ha! No, that’s wrong. I’m pretty much the only Mennonite I know who doesn’t drive a car. Lots of Mennonites drive cars and there’s nothing in the Mennonite Confession of Faith* to suggest that fixie bikes are better. But some Mennonites are also anti-car or only drive black cars. (this is number 10 – the similarities get better as we move along the countdown).
9. Plaid. Mennonites have been rocking plaid for way longer than hipsters.
8. Obscure musical tastes. Hipsters listen to bands that no one has heard of and like to attend music festivals. Mennonites also have obscure musical tastes. We sign hymns a lot, and not just in Church. Some of them are pretty obscure hymns. We gather at Mennonite Assemblies. (We also have our own indie Mennonite music scene where hipster and Menno eerily converge).
7. DIY. Would etsy even exist without hipsters? Yeah, I don’t know how many Mennos are on etsy but I do know that Mennonites have been sewing, quilting, canning, pickling and decorating their homes with mason jars and wild flowers for long enough to make it something of a doctrinal tenet.
6. Facial hair. Sure, hipsters might be more flamboyant in their facial hair but Mennonite men have sported beards for decades, paying very little heed to fashion trends around them – something that hipsters apparently appreciate. In fact, that leads us to:
5. Anti-fashionistas. Hipsters like to wear clothes that are considered unattractive in mainstream culture. Oh, man, can we ever trump you there. We’ve got whole branches of the Church that specialize in this.
4. The fetishization of thrift. Hipsters shop at thrift stores, drink cheap beer, and go to free events: they are known for their cheapness. It’s almost dogma for them. But, well, it IS dogma for us.* We call it stewardship. We even have our very own thrift shops. The Mennonite thrift shop has been elsewhere described as “what you’d get if a Value Village got raped by a landfill” but I think that’s a bit too harsh — it’s more of a lovechild. It’s a hipster kinda place.
3. Countercultural. We don’t like mainstream culture either. Even if most of us are middle class, too, and are part of the very culture that we deride. Yup. Just like hipsters.
2. Smug. Sometimes (pretty much all the time), hipsters are accused of thinking they are better than everyone else but, you know, trying to live according to their principles. Every now and then, Mennonites are accused of this too. If you didn’t know that, you just don’t know enough about Mennonites.
1. And the number one way in which Mennonites are like hipsters is: we’re not too keen on the label. We all know this is true for hipsters but a lot of Mennos are also pretty darned ambivalent about embracing the Mennonite label when they are out and about in the world at large. The limitations of labels, the misperceptions — hipster brothers and sisters, we hear you!
Even though Hipsters are also, apparently, now into cocktails, they’re mostly known for drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. The beer-swilling Mennos I know are more into craft beers – you know, supporting the local economy and all. I did see a photo of Aaron Epp on twitter drinking PBR, but he might be a special case. I’m not drinking it. I’ve got myself a nice craft beer for the occasion. This is a Wellington Pale Ale. It hails from Wellington County, Ontario. I don’t know if the brewery itself has Mennonite ties but I do know that you can’t shake a rubber boot in Wellington County without kicking a Mennonite. Cheers.