Much like pornography, an overused cliche can be hard to define. But as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart infamously said: “I know it when I see it.”
Also hard to define? Hipsters, the intangible scarf spirits whose bones are ground into dust to fuel think pieces. Hipsters, you might say, are a lot like pornography. They’re hard to define, but you know it when you see it, as this piece on a new course on hipsters being offered at Tufts University reminds us.
It’s not the first time the comparison has been made. Here’s a mere fraction of instances in which it has occurred in recent years, from sites both big and small, writers well known and obscure. I could have done this for the rest of my life and never run out of material.
1 Hipster is like that old saying about pornography – I know it when I see it.
2 I have concluded that defining a Hipster is akin to the Stewart maxim. What is the Stewart maxim, you ask? U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward, in his concurring opinion fromJacobellis v Ohio, a 1964 case about obscenity and free speech, said of pornography…
3 Maybe you don’t know what a hipster is. I certainly know what a hipster is. Just like I know what pornography is. In case you don’t understand my reference…
4 What in the goddamn fuck is a hipster?” …How would you respond? Justice Potter Stewart once said that “hard-core pornography” was hard to define but that “I know it when I see it.”
5 “‘Hipster’ is a lot like art (or, for the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, porn): I can’t define it exactly, but I know it when I see it. And I think everyone reading this who cares to be honest will agree.”
6 I get the feeling “hipster” is like “pornography”… people can’t really verbalize what it is, but, “I know it when I see it.”
7 I have no idea what a hipster is. I don’t think hipsters know what hipsters are. But that doesn’t change the fact that something like hipster culture is readily apparent and identifiable to everyone. To quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it.”
8 Usually, the definition is based on the old adage “I know it when I see it,” (incidentally, the same way in which Justice Potter Stewart defined hard-core pornography) rather than a definition of what it is, or what it is not, beyond superficialities.
10 The privilege of not having to come up with an identity is an unfortunate hallmark of the hipster world. Sometimes, the discussion uses the trope of how hipsterdom is like porn: it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
11 This surprised me because, as literary brands go, McSweeney’s rests in the upper echelons of hipness. I ask him what it takes to get published on the site, and he replies, “It’s a little like Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: I know it when I see it.”
12 . The idea of hipster lit reminds me of Potter Stewart’s oft-quoted definition of pornography, “[I can't define it] … but I know it when I see it.”
13 Despite the fact that the word “hipster” exists and has been accepted in common usage, it is barely legible; it reminds me of that historic Supreme Court opinion on pornography: I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.
14 I think that now hipster is a bit like porn – in that it’s a case of “I know it when I see it”
15 There are plenty of things that get associated with hipsters (American Apparel, glasses with thick black rims, overstyled hair, bands you’ve, like, probably never heard of*), but no-one fits the type exactly. Then again, maybe it’s more like that US Supreme Court judgement on pornography – ‘I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it‘.
16 Much like former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and obscenity, most people can’t define a hipster but they know one when they see one.
17 Defining “hipster” is much like the Supreme Court defining pornography: You know it when you see it.
18 So it’s important for everyone to step back a bit and acknowledge that while we may never agree on a singular definition for hipster, like Supreme Court judges watching porn, we know it when we see it.
19 How to describe a hipster movie? Invoking the “I know it when I see it” rule seems an easy way out of applying a definitive label to something so nebulous, but there are a number of hallmarks to be wary of.
20 Defining ‘hipster’ is wrought with all kinds of peril, though in the public imagination, hipsterism is regarded the way Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart described obscenity — you know it when you see it.
21 After a considerable amount of searching, I finally found my answer in in the government of all places; more specifically, the Supreme Court. I’ve found that their definition of porn can be applied just as well to hipsters: you can’t exactly define it, but you’ll know it when you see it.
22 I don’t know. I don’t really know what a hipster is anymore. I do know that defining hipsterdom is kind of like defining pornography according to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who said that he knew it when he saw it. And I do know that I’m writing this post in a café using the energy I just acquired from a Blue Bottle latte. Do with that information what you will.
23 In true hipster fashion, I resent the hipsters.
I am not even sure what a hipster is. As the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once famously said (about something else), “You know it when you see it.”
24 So what is a hipster? Like pornography was famously described by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, it’s difficult to describe but you know it when you see it.
25 Hipsters are similar to pornography. They’re both difficult to define, but people recognize it when they see it.
26 Thus, stating who/what today’s hipster is like the legal attempt at defining porn: you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. And we’ve begun to see it all over premium cable television.
27 I don’t know what a hipster is exactly but I feel like the term suits him well—hipsters are like porn in that way, we all know it when we see it.
28 “Hipster. Uh … Hipster. It’s a noun. It’s when someone is being … a hipster. Well, I can’t really define ‘hipster’ … but I know it when I see it!”
29 Determining a startup’s hipster status is just as difficult as spotting a hipster on the street. It’s an “I know it when I see it” taxonomy.
30 In the end, we can look to the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: “I can’t define it. But I know it when I see it.” He was talking about porn, but it works for hipsters too.
31 What the fuck is actually a hipster, even in this sense? i feel like this is very much a supreme court justice “i know it when i see it” kind of thing
32 Although rarely defined, people often describe the hipster as something that, to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart’s stance on pornography…
33 But I prefer the good old Potter Stewart definition: I know a hipster when I see one.
34 No, really, what is the opposite of a hipster? A…preppy…fratstar? Tough to say! But, like Justice Potter Black Stewart*, I know it when I see it, so let’s roll with it and put together that anti-hipster list.
35I am aware that for some the hipster is ‘over’, whereas others see them everywhere. Others consider it an exclusively NY/Shoreditch phenomenon, and that somehow the existence of hipsters elsewhere is rendered moot. All that said, I am with Potter Stewart when I say we all know it when we see it.
36 Despite the complexities of the term, for the unscientific- minded, determining who’s a hipster—or more importantly, who isn’t one—is still pretty simple: You’ll know one when you see one.
37 Hipster fashion is quite broad, and yet you still know one when you see one.
38 Hipsters have beards. Or mustaches. Or neither. They wear skinny jeans. Or maybe they don’t. They’ve got thick-rimmed glasses. Or sometimes not. You may not be able to describe one offhand, but you know one when you see one. Right?
39 I can’t tell you exactly what a hipster is, but you’ll know one when you see one. They like irony, indie bands like Beach House, plaid shirts, American Apparel, skinny jeans, and pretentiousness.
40 We’d rather get our hipster spotting tips from Vice magazine’s Do’s and Don’ts feature, which has proved again and again that hipsters are kind of like porn: you know one when you see one.