Tonight at dinner Mick, Steve, and I had a fascinating conversation about hipness. It started with a simple statement I made regarding a recent trip to WPI. I was talking to a few students about my job in Connecticut and I felt the ever so common feeling that I was the only person in the room with even a remote appreciation for this nearly rectangular state.
“Why is that?” asked Mick
“well, I don’t think many people see Connecticut as being very hip.” I replied.
“Hip?! well, what’s hip?”
And thus we started a conversation that spanned the rest of the evening. Here is what we determined.
First, we came up with five characteristics of hip persons.
1. social and intellectual aptitude
These were justified in the following manner. First the fundamentals: social and intellectual aptitude. Without the ability to communicate with reasonable intellect, any characteristics that might be seen as “hip” could just as easily be seen as “insane” or “highly weird.” Culture and obscurity work together. Being cultured and understanding obscure sources of culture are important. Mainstream is unhip, unless appreciated only in irony as was demonstrated in Ben’s graph of Ryan Schenk’s hipness over time. (warning: don’t push irony to the point of genuine appreciation.)
Individuality, or the ability to express oneself without loosing confidence is also key. Otherwise your hipness could easily be surpressed.
Finally, the truly hip should have some sort of passion. It doesn’t have to be a common passion, in fact, the less common the better. If you have the other characteristics and also a huge fascination and appreciation for, say, woodcarving… then that’s pretty hip.
It should also be stated that these characteristics must come with some balance. And any highly negative personality traits are likely to ruin the hipnitude of the person in question.
Once we had established a baseline for hipness we asked the question: Why isn’t Connecticut hip?
The answer came with a single astute statement by Mick.
“Connecticut has been hit by the conformity hammer.”
In Connecticut, passionate individuality and obscure culture take a huge back seat to soccor moms and dads who boast of the best lawn in the neighborhood. Too many people think of their CT towns as part of the Connecticut Golden Coast. Once a prejudice has been established by the loud few, the rest of Connecticut tries to conform and the result is some lame city like Hartford: the filing cabinet of America.
So how do we make Connecticut more hip?
well. I’m not sure. But clearly we can’t let the uptight keep us down. We must hunt down the sweetest, most non-mainstream places in CT and share them with the worthy. I think if we first strengthen the hip elite, we can then challenge the people of Greenwich and Fairfield on a level of creativity and adventure.
I’d love to hear your comments. What do you think Hip is? Do you think the “conformity hammer” could be the reason behind CT’s lameness? Can you think of better ways to break the CT standard?