Let no one say that hipsters are not entrepreneurial. If the new "organic" cigarette for people who ride fixies is any indication, hipsters are very much entrepreneurial indeed, and they do not want to smoke garbage. Carol Roth points us to the existence of these cigarettes in the New York Times' small business blog. They are called Hestia, which sounds a bit like Stevia, or maybe like Truvia (both natural sweeteners, not cigarettes, both also arguably appealing to "hipsters"). But Hestia is a cigarette brand, albeit, also, a natural one, one with a consciousness. (Fun fact: In Greek mythology, Hestia is the goddess of domesticity. She did not smoke.)
But back to the tobacco: As the makers ask on their site, "What the hell happened to cigarettes? When did they become a commodified, rancid sliver of tar? Why must smoking be our generation's hidden vice, instead of our occasional indulgence? We smoke, but we're not smokers. You appreciate the difference. Unable to quench a thirst for perfection, Hestia Tobacco was founded with a simple, environmentally respectful premise: Non-toxic filters. Natural papers with algae flame-retardants. Organic Virginia leaf tobacco culled of all seeds and stems."
They continue, "We implore you to light these smokes with a match, to prevent contamination from lighter fumes." Roth includes the company's video pitch in her post:
She then reviews it, saying that the pitch is strong—David Sley, who introduces himself in a voiceover and sits placidly smoking throughout the video, clad in a plaid shirt and loafers without socks—knows his customer and describes this person vividly: 18-35-year-old socially conscious humans who "shop at farmers markets and vinyl record stores and ride fixed gear bicycles.” They live a "deconstructed, purposeful life," he says. "We offer them a deconstructed, purposeful cigarette."
Oh dear. Roth (not a smoker herself) questions not that she knows who that consumer is, because, we all do, right?, but, well, would socially conscious people actually smoke? How many smokers, exactly, ARE this person? She wonders also about possible profits, about how the product would be distributed, whether Hestia can compete with American Spirit (the R.J. Reynolds-backed "hipster" brand), and about the overall production quality of the pitch.
All of that is less important to us, because we're still stuck on the idea of branding a cigarette for hipsters, an idea that seems like it could have happened a long time ago but for the complication of branding for hipsters—don't hipsters and non-hipsters alike hate being sold anything, but especially, don't hipsters? Further, there is nothing remotely ironic about this cigarette. It's completely and totally earnest.
But the hipster designation seems inevitable, anyway. As we talk about products that stand out from the fray we will continue to describe them in ways that, sadly, do not. So instead of specific descriptions of who might actually use a product, or why anyone should value it, we instead get easy branding tropes: This is a boutique company. This is artisanal. This is organic, natural. This is for hipsters. This is craft. This is green. Unfortunately, in overuse, those words mean less and less and just become a kind of marketing wallpaper.
Not that Hestia seems all bad, though. At least Sley describes the product itself, even if in somewhat cringeworthy terms, and promotes its benefits compared to something we can relate to: old-school rancid slivers of tar. And it must be noted that in his video, Sley studiously avoids the word hipster. He says everything but, but it's enough for anyone to make the connection, as Roth does.
But what if "true" hipsters would rather smoke old-school rancid slivers of tar? Or, what if hipsters are not a market at all, but, at this point, simply a figment of our collective imaginations? These are thus far unanswered questions, but it seems clear that at some point we will simply have to be post-hipster. We're waiting.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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