We mock them, the hipsters. We mock them in their coffee shops, as they sip hand-poured brews, while they wear cutoff overalls and bright micro-plaid-printed shirts.
We poke fun at their ironic love of obsolete fads, like vinyl, mustaches, fixed-gear bikes. We mock them because they don't conform. But perhaps, deep underneath all that mocking, we actually respect the hipster.
A research paper from the Harvard Business School finds that standing out a little can "lead to inference of enhanced status and competence in the eyes of others." In other words, hipster nonconformity can work in the workplace.
It's a response to what researchers call "the red sneaker effect." Mark Zuckerberg is an obvious example here. He runs the world's most popular social-networking site and has made billions, but he often wears hoodies. When Microsoft announced its new CEO last week, the company published photos of him looking real casual wearing a T-shirt and thick-rimmed glasses. Too cool (or more subliminally, too powerful) to care.
Silvia Bellezza, the lead author on the paper, noticed a similar trend in her academic circles. "At academic conferences, the big-shot professors would be the ones dressed very casually," she says. "It started as a bit of a joke — we were making fun of this fact. But as a matter of fact, the people who enjoy high status in society will tend to disrespect rules more than people who are at the bottom of it."