Urban Beardsmen in the Field of Production: Hipster enterprise as defensive class formation


  • Ethan Shapiro




This article presents empirical support for the conception of hipsters as an economically threatened fraction of the middle-class, seeking to salvage their social mobility through entrepreneurship in the creative industries. Hipsters have previously been studied in terms of consumption and identity, but few scholars have connected these trends to contemporary economic austerity. I argue that hipsters must be understood with reference to their roles in the field of production. Linking Bourdieu’s ‘new petite bourgeoisie’ to contemporary debates on the ‘creative class,’ I examine Beardbrand, a prominent men’s grooming company. My corpus-based discourse analysis reveals five main discursive categories, where: (1) entrepreneurs embraced the ideals of work ethic and meritocracy, (2) understood their social position through psychologized discourses, (3) narrated their transcendence from the corporate sphere into self-expressive occupations, (4) perceived natural alignments between their personal and professional selves, and (5) expressed their social indeterminacy through discursive rationalizations and uncertainties about their social position. While entrepreneurs rejected and challenged dominant ideas about the organization of work, they affirmed normative conceptions of meritocracy and individualized responsibility in their pursuits of creative self-employment, rebranding self-exploitation and precarity as personal growth.