I’ve been contemplating the role of irony in the hipster subculture lately, and I think I’ve come across a true limit to what we can consider just ‘ironic’. Now, to be clear here, I’m not talking about irony in its specific literary context (the use of words expressing something other then their literal intention. Now THAT is irony), but rather the use of clothing, accessories, phrases or mannerisms in a way that is deliberately kitchy. From my admittedly limited understanding of the subculture, the achievement of something ironic is valuable to hipsters, because they have taken something out of it’s original context and made a poignant social commentary by parodying the societally suggested meaning of it. I mean, PBR was languishing in obscurity before the hipster subculture ironically hijacked it, and now it is ubiquitous in certain circles. Ditto with the keffiyeh- the show of solidarity with Palestinians is legitimate, but when our culture is capable of creating this monstrosity, its ironic value soars through the roof.
Something extremely distatsteful about that, don’t you think? For me at least, it completely trivializes the entire conflict, and makes it into cynical pop culture where it becomes legitimate hipster fashion. Here’s the rub though, from my experience, you find most everyone that indulges in this quest for irony does it knowing how ridiculous it is, and it is that ridiculousness that is the celebration. These ‘sunglasses‘ wouldn’t exist otherwise, but they are becoming increasingly popular every day. So, in my definition of hipster irony, I submit that an integral part of wearing something ironic is the recognition that, if it isn’t understood to be ridiculous in some way, it wouldn’t be ironic.
So, you may ask, what the hell is post-irony then. Well, I came across my first (what I think is real) experience with post-irony at the premier of Watchmen (aside, GTFO and see it!). Being the extreme nerd that I am, we of course went to the midnight showing on Thursday, which required being in the theatre a number of hours before it started to get decent seats. Now, being Nerd-vana, there were a number of people that had dressed up for the festivities, including a couple of guys that had dressed up as Rorschach, trench coat and all. I, mostly unintentionally, had also worn my trench coat that day, which I’ve owned for a couple of months,which is worn fairly frequently. My compatriot vigilantes, on seeing my legitimate trench coat, gave me that nod that can only be interpreted as an insider acknowledgement of the achievement of irony. However, it is the fact that I had worn this piece without any sarcasm, cynicism or irony (being part of my regular routine, of course) is what bumps this particular exchange into the lofty realm of Post-Irony, especially considering that other people naturally assumed I was being ironic about it. I was sincere, as that coat is the bee’s knees, and that makes all the difference when it comes to post-irony.
Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, Urban Dictionary has acknowledged the existance of post irony. By no means does this mean it is legitimate, but at least I’m not completely full of shit.