Cute. However, not original. Little does she know, she might be a case study of the ‘hipster paradox’: trying to be different, following the latest trends, people ultimately end up looking the same.
Idle observation? Not at all. Professor Jonathan Touboul, a mathematical neuroscientist at the Collège de France in Paris, sought to study hipster paradox and came up with a mathematical equation he published in a paper “The Hipster Effect: When Anti-Conformists All Look The Same. Hipsters, according to the paper, tend to keep making the same choices as every other hipsters when they’re “too slow in detecting the trends.”
Hipsters avoid labels and being labeled, yet they all dress the same and act the same to conform to this very same non-conformity they all share. A hipster style actually goes against “hipster beliefs.”
This belief stems from the ability to recognize trends in others based on your proportional distance from those people. For example, the trends your close friends follow is predictable because you interact with them frequently. However, it’s difficult to stand out at a loft party full of people you don’t know, meaning you are less sure of the likelihood they will be wearing the same trend you are. This suggests hipsters, just like the rest of the population, cannot know what other people decide in real time. (Medical Daily)
Touboul explored the time it takes for a trend to begin to take traction and the time hipsters begin to follow it. He used a theory known as Hopf bifurcation. Touboul told Vocativ: “If you take large sets of interacting individuals — whether hipsters, stock traders, or any group that decides to go against the majority — by trying to be different, they will ultimately all do the same thing at the same time.” The mathematical equation to hipster looks like this:
The theory observes how oscillations — in this case swinging between trends toward the mainstream and how hipsters track these trends — change over time. The delay of recognizing a trend that causes stronger oscillations, and they become ever stronger with time.
In reality, a true hipster does not exist. In order to be a real hipster, you would need to be constantly changing and adapting your style, personality, and authenticity as an immediate response to the current trend. Touboul’s study suggests this is impossible and too difficult to attain. It can become physically and mentally excruciating staying on top of the mainstream trends you are trying to resist.
[…] His “hipster effect” may help explain why all flannel-wearing, fixie-riding, beard-growing, PBR-drinking hipsters all look like the next one around the block. (Hipster Style: The Mathematical Equation That Makes All Hipsters Look Alike)
So far so good, math, physics and statistics notwithstanding. And all of this only to explain why torn jeans or three-day stubble is becoming mainstream faster than real hipsters can come up with something really weird?
“I just thought the metaphor was kind of enlightening,” Touboul says, adding that uncovering what causes this paradox ‘goes beyond finding the best suit to wear this winter.’
‘[It has] implications in deciphering collective phenomena in economics and finance, where individuals may find an interest in taking positions in opposition to the majority – for instance, selling stocks when others want to buy.
‘Applications also extend to the case of neuronal networks with inhibition, where neurons tend to fire when others and silent, and reciprocally.’