Well, scratch that. I'm only defending the word hipster. As hipsters have risen to prominence, their influence has carved out a nice little (er, massive) niche in American pop culture. And like anything else on such a big scale, they have suffered a pretty severe backlash.
As the negative connotations with hipsters gain steam, more and more people have started using it as a sort of "blanket insult," one that's usually used incorrectly. Moreover, it's starting to tread on the territory of another blanket insult: the douchebag.
This is a problem.
Since before it became a buzzword, hipster had always stood as a sort of "anti-douchebag." But after years of annoying behavior, the hipsters have finally evened the playing field. Unfortunately, as these two titans of assholery have dominated the public consciousness in an anti-popularity contest for the ages, the line between them has become blurred.
It's not uncommon to hear an anecdote include the phrase "and then a couple of hipsters showed up and..." While it is certainly possible that hipsters have ruined your night in the past, they can't possibly be ruining everything. After all, they live an "alternative" lifestyle.
They can't be everywhere, right? Instead, it's become apparent that people are beginning to use hipster and douchebag interchangeably. This can't happen. These are two different breeds of suck, people. In the interest of re-establishing boundaries, let's quickly run down some attributes.*
First and foremost, douchebags and hipsters are defined by how they interact with people.
This is why people confusing the two is so puzzling; their behavior in social situations couldn't be more different. Douchebags exhibit a more extroverted type of buggery, often getting in your face and dominating a room.
The hipsters opt for a more laid-back approach, silently scoffing at everything (from outside in their cigarette circle) one heavy eye-roll at a time. Douchebags make fun of you for things you can't do (bong 12 beers, tan, more than seven pull ups), while hipsters make fun of you for things you aren't doing (listening to The Smiths*, getting another tattoo, constantly reading Pitchfork.com).
Both groups are obsessed with how they're perceived.
A douchebag will take a more extreme, direct approach with the ladies (scaring most of them away in the process), while hipsters tend to try and draw them in with tragic tales concerning the general monotony of a middle-class upbringing.
Social interactions in general are interesting for both groups, as their insecurities are handled in different ways. Douchebags will drink way too much, lash out and look to fight, while a hipster will embrace their insecurities by listening to sad music and pretending they're in actual pain. Hipsters want you to believe they know everything, while douchebags will make you think they know nothing.*
At first glance, one can see that hipsters/douchebags do in fact share a few traits. But with a closer look, even these common threads prove to be cut from different cloths. While both parties tend to live in the past, it's for completely different reasons.
While douchebags tend to look back on the "glory days," remembering old high school football/basketball/chess club (kidding) triumphs (and bringing them up at every opportunity), hipsters use the past to let you know how cool they were back then, which is only half as cool as they are now (duh). "Oh, you just picked up the new (insert alt-rock band here) Dude, I knew about them back in 2003, when they were a high school garage band. Been with them ever since."
Worse still are the douchebags who ACTUALLY live in the past, should-be college sophomores trolling their old high school haunts looking for young, naïve, impressionable (read: stupid) young girls.
All in all, there are a lot of people out there who just plain suck. Just remember: the next time you're bitching about the group of assholes who ruined your night, please be sure to direct your negativity to the right people.
*I could list differences in clothing for probably a couple pages, but if you're judging people by how they dress, you're no better than them, right? Plus, you never know if you could have a douchebag in hipster's clothing.
*In fact, I'm not even sure a douchebag would know who The Smiths are.
*Maybe the most clear-cut test of a questionable douchebag/hipster: Vanilla Sky, or any movie that asks about the nature of reality (minus The Matrix). Both groups won't understand the movie, but while douchebags will complain that it's "gay and confusing," hipsters will pretend to know what the fuck is going on, praise it incessantly, and explain that you just don't "get it."