We've had yuppies and hippies, preppies and punks, beatniks and slackers. Now there's a new generation of youth culture that's making its mark but has yet to be given a name.
You've seen this crew before: the shaggy-haired musician in a black suit and a skinny tie; the set designer in a too tight vintage T shirt and a handmade denim skirt; the graphic artist in reissued Levi's and hard-to-find Nikes.
Sometimes dismissed as "hipsters" (a much maligned group with websites like www. hipstersareannoying.com to prove it), they're a discrete posse, ages 20 to 35, with their own set of cultural emblems. If preppies had Nantucket and duck decoys, this bunch has Los Angeles' Eastside, nu-new wave, vintage, Clarks (the shoes), Larry Clark (the director), hi-lo, po-mo, irony and iPods.
"I avoid using the word [hipster] at all costs," says Andrew Coulter Enright, 24, whose book, How to Be Fashionable or Consume Like Me, captured the ethos of this generation as it exists in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. "You're talking about people who have creative pastimes or careers and are interested in fusing lots of different parts of culture together. The Creative Underground doesn't have the catch to it, but it's a little more accurate."
If Enright's term falls flat, then a moniker still has to be coined. Here are some candidates:
CURBYS (creative urban youths) work as artists, photographers, musicians, filmmakers, designers, stylists and writers. What Gordon Gekko and Bret Easton Ellis were to yuppies, Wes Anderson and Dave Eggers are to CURBYs. They consume culture almost as fast as they create it. Enright's book implores readers to "read, watch and listen to anything you can get your hands on" and suggests 106 magazines ranging from Thrasher to IN STYLE.
CURBYs tend to live in urban enclaves--areas like Red Hook, Silver Lake and Wicker Park, where they have proximity to the collision of high art and pop culture that takes place in major cities (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively). But by living across a river or in a formerly industrial neighborhood, they find the cheaper rent and supportive, small-town feel that make working as an artist doable. "It's like this handy Petri dish of culture," says Kirsten Hively, who founded wburg.com a website about Williamsburg.
NEOPS (short for neopunks) embrace the do-it-yourself ethos of punk as an alternative to mass production. They're the anti-Wal-Mart generation--progressive and experimental, emphasizing imperfection and originality over uniformity. A neop would rather discover a chair in a Dumpster than buy it at Pottery Barn and is likely to opt for handmade or customized clothes instead of off-the-rack. "The handmade thing comes about because independence is an important thing here," says Hively. "There's an undercurrent of rebellion. It's like, 'I don't have to wear a suit to work. Nobody can tell me what to do.'"