Thick-Rimmed Glasses and Flannel Shirts: How Hipster Trends Changed the American Economy


hipsterAs Time reporter and economic expert Zachary Crockett states, “Everyone loves to hate the hipster.”

Known for their obsession with flannel, big beards, thick-rimmed glasses, and love for anything that isn’t too “mainstream,” hipsters have developed one of the most identifiable style trends over the past few years. Ironically, as the style began catching on, it became the very sort of “mainstream” trend that hipsters themselves despised.

But this trend, which everyone just loves to hate, might be seeing itself out the door sooner rather than later. As Forbes contributor Lauren Silva Laughlin argues in her article “The Hipster Trend: Going Flat?” the “cultural movement” known as “hipsterism” was successful largely because of America’s economic state in the early 2000s; now that cheap beer and unemployment are no longer prevalent by necessity, these hipster trends are likely to become less stylish — by choice.

As Laughlin states, for a subculture that claims to be so “anti-consumerism,” there are a handful of products that have become defining features of the average hipster. It certainly is ironic that this trend has allowed many businesses to gain stability during a tough economic time, just because those businesses offered products that had previously been rejected by mainstream American culture.

The Converse sneaker, for example, has seen a 70% increase in sales since 2010, as well as a 200% increase in its stocks with the past two years, while the “cooler” Adidas sneaker brand has only fallen.

Pabst Blue Ribbon (commonly called “PBR”), one of the country’s cheaper beers and something that Baby Boomers used to drink during their college years (although back then, it was just called “Pabst”), has reportedly seen a 42% increase in sales in the U.S. within the past two years alone.

The prevalence of eyeglasses, like other hipster fads, likely became such a popular trend because of the economic and thrifty value of glasses — especially compared to things like contact lenses and LASIK surgery. Eyeglass sales, according to Euromonitor, are currently at their highest point in the past 15 years.

“The thick-rimmed style will continue to stay trending, but it is starting to go into a different direction now, which is more of a thinner plastic frame,” says Dr. Tom Barreto, Optometrist/Owner, Eyes on Broadway. “However, there will always be a group that enjoys wearing thick-rimmed glasses. Also in vogue is a larger-framed style.”

Regardless of the specific style trends that define the modern hipster, it’s clear that hipsters aren’t just driving up the strength of the American economy — they’re changing consumerism to reflect what is financially possible in today’s world.

As Crockett states, “[Hipsters] aspire to be small business owners, startup founders, and inventors. They enter the workforce with no expectation of long-term employment with a single company, a pension, or the government swooping in to provide economic salvation.”

Perhaps the hipster trends that Laughlin references aren’t going to stay popular for much longer, but if the mindset behind the “hipster movement” is as promising as it sounds, it might be remiss to cross off the potential of hipsterism. And there certainly have to be more sneaker, beer, and eyeglass styles that Mainstream America hasn’t ruined just yet.


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