There are many factors that define a hipster in our minds. Glasses always seem to be at the top of the list, but clothing matters too, and, of course, there is their obsession with the latest, coolest music. And it's that quality that a new study from Harvard University sheds a little light on. The researchers found that it's a quest to have unique tastes that drives people into being hipsters. They analyzed the Facebook pages of 200 college students over four years, and they concluded that "students who shared similar tastes in music bonded, instead of those students passing on tastes to each other."
So, in other words, you're more likely to strike up a new friendship with someone whom you deem cool because they already like the same unknown bands you do, rather than adopting the favorite bands of your existing friends. As Kevin Lewis, the study's lead researcher put it,
The meaning of an indie/alternative taste rests not just in the taste itself—but also in being the only one among one's friendship circle that expresses it. If I like The Decemberists, and suddenly my friends start liking them too, suddenly I'm no longer socially distinctive. So this taste loses much of its appeal and I will run off in search of some new band to express my "hip" identity.
Of course, this cycle can continue almost unendingly. You keep seeking out new, ever more obscure music until you are—at least in your own mind—so cool and your music tastes so distinctive that there is literally no one left in the world that is hip enough for you to be friends with. That must be the pinnacle of hipsterdom, a lonely mountaintop where you sit in your plaid shirt and workboots and listen to music only you can hear. Luckily when you're up there you can still see—and feel superior to—all the mainstream losers down at sea level because you've got your big old glasses on.