In “When T.S. Eliot Invented the Hipster”, Karen Prior aptly traces roots of hipsterdom to the protagonist of Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,”:
In a keen essay on the hipster at The New York Times, Christy Wampole describes the urban hipster as nostalgic “for times he never lived himself.” Before he makes any choice,” Wampole explains, the hipster “has proceeded through several stages of self-scrutiny. The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. He studies relentlessly, foraging for what has yet to be found by the mainstream.” A pastiche of allusive, retro gadgets, hobbies, clothing, hairstyles, and facial hair—ever increasingly referential—the hipster is “a walking citation.”
In other words, he is J. Alfred Prufrock…
Whatever hipsters are, they cannot be separated from the cultural mood that birthed them or their natural habitat: the city. Neither hipsters nor Prufrock would exist without the modern urban setting that bred their sensibilities. It is in the city that the pulse of a civilization is taken. The cityscape in Eliot’s poem, with its skyline “like a patient etherized upon a table,” is, in fact, as famous as Prufrock, whose emotionally and spiritually unconsummated desire creates the central tension of the poem.