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The Tragically Hip

Former Richmonder Robert Lanham examines the holier-than-thou hipster.

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There are pictures of hipster hairdos, lists of hipster pop music and literature as well as some day-in-the life journals of hipsters. Lanham goes so far as to categorize the different kinds of hipsters and their hangouts. The hipster who waits tables is called a WASH (Waitstaff and Service Hipster), while the rich, underworked hipster is called a UTF (Unemployed Trust-Funder). While the satire is as biting as it is funny, Lanham's book seems to be commenting on something larger than the ins and outs of the tragically hip. The more details Lanham reveals about the uber-cool, the less cool they seem. In the end Lanham shows us the fickleness of fashion and just how fin people are who make themselves slaves to it.

Style had a chance to sit down with Robert Lanham and ask him about his book. Here's what he had to say:

How did you get the idea for your book?

I live in a neighborhood that is overflowing with hipsters and they're ripe for lampooning. I moved from Richmond to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, about six years ago. I started to notice all these Vespas and kids with bushy hair, sunglasses, Van sneakers and all that sort of thing, who apparently didn't have jobs but were just hanging out in coffee shops and pubs. And I thought it would be fun to do a sendup of the thing.

Do you consider yourself to be a hipster?

I think I'm more of an anthropologist, but I don't think any hipster admits to being a hipster either, so I'll leave that question alone. It's like, if you are one, you might depreciate your status if you claim to be one.

You attended VCU. Do you feel that Richmond helped to cultivate your ideas?

Yeah, I think there's a big hipster population in Richmond. I think there's always been a pretty strong underground music scene, which helps to foster it, and an art scene in general. The Fan and VCU has its fair share of hipsters hanging out on Grace Street, going to the Village Café. But it's a less pretentious breed in Richmond than we have here in New York.

Are you worried about hurting anybody's feelings with this book?

I think it's hit a nerve for some people because it's a little too close to home. It's really just lightly making fun of hipster culture in general, and some hipsters don't have a sense of humor about that. But that's the whole point. Someone needed to write a book that lampooned a culture that is so esoteric and "better-than-thou" that they won't even acknowledge their own existence. I feel like, if people are pissed off, then I did my job.

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