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Grinnellians Were Hipster Before It Was Cool To Be Hipster

By now, the class of 2015 has probably realized that Grinnellians aren’t really normal people. But how to explain the pervasiveness of giant sweaters, plastic glasses and the word “ironic” on this campus? As any true hipster knew before they even came to Grinnell, this summer, the Huffington Post ranked Grinnell as the Most Hipster College in the country.

“Iowa isn’t necessarily a destination for the cool and connected, but isn’t that the kind of thing hipsters love?” wrote the Huffington Post in its brief introduction of Grinnell College.

The Huffington Post described Grinnell as “an oasis of liberal thought amid the plaintive Iowa cornfield.” The piece also mentioned our new, hip President Raynard Kington (and his nickname), as well as the Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize. But really, why Grinnell?

“We considered schools across the country based on selectivity, program strengths, location and culture,” said Huffington Post College Editor Leah Finnegan, over email. “We chose Grinnell because it is a diamond-in-the-rough school with a strong emphasis on social justice and a vibrant student culture, attracting applicants to Iowa from around the globe.”

The ranking came as a big surprise for many students, professors and alums. Hordes of Grinnellians shared the link to the rankings and got involved in heated discussions about its accuracy over GrinnellPlans, Facebook, Google Plus and other social media websites.

Sunanda Vaidheesh ’12 was one of those who first shared the link via social media.

“I was a little surprised. … I know that we are quirky, liberal, and all of the rest of these things that makes Grinnell awesome,” Vaidheesh said. “But hipster, really?”

However, not everyone was surprised. Sinan Goral ’15 was impressed by Grinnell’s hipster culture before he even enrolled.

“When I visited here, the very first thing that I thought was [the College] is sort of the definition of hipster. Sort of like ragged clothing, long hair, people don’t seem to care much, which I really like,” Goral said.

Whether or not we deserve the rating, students have had different reactions to being told that they attend the most hipster institution in America. Ron Chiu ’13, who last year published anti-hipster rants in the S&B, was ashamed by the ranking.

“My first reaction was that I am living in a nightmare. How can this be? I don’t think this is true,” Chiu said. “When my high school friends saw this, I was embarrassed.”

While the Huffington Post associated the term hipster with “mom jeans, giant teddy bear sweaters and aviator glasses,” Grinnell students and professors had different ideas of the stereotype of “hipster”. For many Grinnell students, the hipster image is often associated with musical taste.

“Grinnell is hipster mainly because of its music … I always see it as music-related,” said Goral.

Vaidheesh also considered the big headphones often seen around campus to be one of the key characteristics of Grinnell hipsters.

“But there are so many different kinds of hipsters at Grinnell,” she added.

While many Grinnellians may identify as hipsters, think that they have hipster friends or at least have a positive attitude towards hipsters, some feel uncomfortable with the stereotype of hipster.

“They are arrogant, exclusive, pretentious, and condescending. … and they don’t shower,” said Chiu.

Professor Joseph Neisser from the Philosophy Department finds the new campus obsession with hipster definitions and characteristics funny more than anything else.
“The very idea of hipsterism is funny,” Neisser said. “… It all depends on your definition and perspective.”

Many debates of the ranking have focused on whether Grinnell deserves first place. Many students and professors concede that Grinnell and hipsters go hand in hand, but feel suspicious that there is no campus in the country more hipster than Grinnell’s.

“I don’t know if it is number one or number two, but I do know it is really up there,” Goral commented. “I don’t necessarily see myself as a hipster, but I like to get along with them.”

Now that Grinnell has been declared the Most Hipster College, what is there to do about it? Do we continue to post all over the Internet, or do we ignore mainstream media’s judgment? Do we pretend that we knew we were the Most Hipster even before HuffPo said so? Is this something worthy of GC pride?

“I wouldn’t say [I feel] proud necessarily, but I don’t feel angry about it,” Vaidheesh said. “I just don’t think we are the most hipster.”

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  • S

    SSep 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    hipster is a perjorative…. not a compliment. be careful with this word.