Maths proves hipster look


credit: MARiKaArt

You’ve probably seen them walking down the street; girls with a big messy bun on their heads, oversized sweaters and skinny jeans. Guys with a flannel shirt, skinny jeans and fake Woody Allen style glasses. Most of them only like things as long as they’re not mainstream, and drop the bands/clothing style/brands as soon as they do become mainstream. It all sounds exhausting if you ask me.

Mathematical neuroscientist Jonathan Touboul from the Collège de France in Paris is fascinated by the hipster phenomenon and decided to let loose some awesome mathematics and figure out what the deal is with hipster look.


credit: Caliber

Trying to be different is what makes hipsters all the same in the end

Touboul’s paper The Hipster Effect: When Anticonformists All Look the Samestates that there is always a delay between the time a trend begins to gain popularity, and when it is picked up by hipsters. The delay is caused because hipsters cannot know what other people are deciding regarding trends in real-time. They realise they like a certain then underground trend, and will gradually start to conform to it by trying go against the curve. Thereby ending up looking almost exactly alike.


credit: Prof. Touboul

Professor Touboul’s formula

Prof. Touboul uses the Hopf bifurcation theory to describe how oscillations, or in this case the swinging between trends towards the mainstream acceptance, and how hipsters track these trends (and accordingly adapt their personal style over time), changes with times. The collective delay amongst hipsters to recognise a trend, results in stronger oscillations over time.


credit: Prof. Touboul

The Hopf Bifurcation theory at work

Prof. Touboul said:

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. Tthe hipster phenomenon 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.

Now that we all understand the hipster phenomenon a little better, let’s try and avoid being “different” just for the sake of being different. It’s a cliche, but just wear what you like, not because it’s cool to do so.

“Hipster Trek” credit: deliciousnewyork