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Hipsters and Jocks: Two Cliques and the Folly of Cliques in General

In the high school lunch room of life there are two groups I would argue are among the most hated. These two groups are those that if all other groups were asked who they find most annoying would probably appear in the most top 3s. There’s no polling on this issue (I’ve looked) but it’s not unreasonable to think this is true. Anecdotally, in my travels as a social group day walker I’ve found two groups, jocks and hipsters, more often the target of irrational hatred than any other group. So let’s take a moment to analyze these groups and try to figure this out.

First let me explain what I mean by social groups. I don’t mean race, religion, geographic location, or anything that is inherent or almost entirely determined by parents or birthplace. I’m considering essentially lifestyle choices that are present in every race, religion, and geographic location. Some social groups are more common to certain areas, income brackets, and so forth but these are the ones not strictly.

Some examples of what I’m talking about are of course jocks and hipsters but also geeks, artsy people, stoners, preppy people, bros, hicks, emos/goths, punks, freaks/trash, theater people, frat/sorority people, weirdos, band people, nerds, car kids, and hippies. There are many more groups and subgroups but you get the idea.

Second, let me be clear that I am accepting this premise for the sake of looking at it. The entire idea of cliques is ridiculous, immature, and self-defeating. It limits only the person who sees the world in this way from being the full person they’re capable of being. More on that later however. Suffice it to say that I’m exploring these assumptions and generalizations not because they are true or I think about them, but merely because they’re unarguably perceived by some.

The groups that I’m focusing on here are hipsters and jocks. These two groups are interesting to me because in my travels as a social group daywalker I’ve found them to be the most common focus of dislike. I’ve also found that anecdotally they really are not that bad. I’ve had many pleasant experiences with both of these groups. I find them, relative to other groups, to be among the most humorous, fun, and in some ways, contrary to popular belief, open and loving of any of the social groups. On the other hand some of the most common derogatory stereotypes about them maybe have some truth to them.

Let’s dig in and try to figure this out then.

  • Definitions

Jock. Websters defines Jock as an athlete, especially for a school or college. That is what we will focus on, people who fit that definition. For the perceived definition however let’s turn to Urban Dictionary, which defines jock as

Dumbass athletes who get all the chicks in high school. They end up bagging our groceries, cleaning public toilets and flipping burgers at McDonald’s after high school. They usually like group showers with other jocks after doing their dumbass sports.

The remaining definitions propose several other noteworthy aspects supposedly true of the jock. I would suggest the following is an accurate summary. They pick on nerds and others who are weaker than them. They are dumb. They contribute nothing to society. They are politically conservative. Their parents are relatively wealthy. They are arrogant. They get preferential treatment. They think sports are the most important thing in life. They enjoy trucks or cars that are gaudy. Their tastes are often very mainstream or lowest common denominator (country music, action movies). They are aggressive, shallow, vain, and intolerant.

There is also an interesting element of several of the definitions where they are differentiated from athletes, although Webster suggests they are synonymous. What this likely is, is jocks differentiating jock, which is an athlete, from bro or fratboy, two other groups that are often conflated with jock, but are not the same. Jocks in fact often hate fratboys.

Hipster. Websters defines hipster as a person who follows the latest styles, fashions, etc. : a hip person. Again, for the perceived definition we turn to Urban Dictionary, which defines hipster as

Someone who listens to bands you’ve never heard of, wears ironic tee-shirts, and believes they are better than you.

Perusing the remaining definitions I should point out other common perceptions of the hipster. They think they are better than other people. They dislike things that are popular simply because they are popular. They like things you’ve never heard of, simply because you’ve never heard of them. They wear ironic t-shirts and are themselves drawn to irony. They are disingenuous and fake. They view themselves as much more intelligent as they are. They attempt to be independent and different but participate in a social group that is in fact extremely rigid and homogeneous, so much so that their tastes are easy to stereotypes. They are detached and vain. They enjoy casual drug use. They come from parents with money, have trust funds. They are superficially interested in philosophy. They are politically liberal. They spend a great deal of time on social media. They are thin and not masculine. They wear hair in stupid ways and like abnormal uncomfortable clothes. They lack self-awareness, are vain, and hypocrites.

  • What they have in common (negative).

At first glance it might seem jocks and hipsters are polar opposites and have nothing in common. Certainly hipsters and jocks themselves would claim they have nothing in common with the other. In my experience jocks and hipsters do not care for each other that much. Not in any sort of mortal enemy way, but both groups are fairly universally disliked outside of themselves and between each other is no exception. There are some commonalities between the groups that might shed some light on why they are perhaps fairly universally disliked.

Both groups are considered shallow and vain. They both are extremely focused on their appearance although they reach different conclusions on how to look good. On the one hand you might find Ed Hardy, Oakley sunglasses, and flexing in the mirror and on the other hand you might find skinny jeans, Ray-Bans, and meticulously groomed beards.

In the opposite sex as well (or the same), both groups are primarily and almost exclusively drawn to people who obviously spend a great deal of time on their outward appearance. An attractive male jock would be muscular, perhaps tan, and clean cut. An attractive female jock would be in good shape, also tan, and also well-groomed. An attractive hipster male would be tall and skinny, long or parted hair, and strategically disheveled. An attractive female hipster would usually also be skinny, quirky in their dress sense, and quirky in their personality.

Both groups are considered to be arrogant and possess a feeling of superiority. They believe that other social groups are envious or interested in them when this may not be the case. Members believe all eyes are on them. People who are not like them are not different than them because they do not want to be them, but because they cannot be them. These groups do not behave as though they are merely different, but better than other groups. They’re extremely proud of the things they are when most people do not care or do not like who they are. They possess an extreme and perhaps undeserved level of confidence in themselves and their life choices.

Both groups are considered intolerant of other social groups. This goes along with the previous one. As much as both groups are loathed they also are not particularly open to other types of groups. Jocks are often associated with bros or fratboys, and hipsters might hang out with stoners or art people, but on the whole they largely stick around their own group and look down on other groups. This may be expressed differently on occasion, one through ignoring or talking down and the other through chastising and mockery, but they’re perceived to each think they’re better than people with different lifestyle choices. You’re not different, you’re wrong. Not only do these groups make little attempt to connect with other groups but if a non-member attempts to connect with them they are often met with some hostility.

Both groups are viewed as hierarchical. There is a chain of command in each group. The jocks might have their team captains or all-stars and hipsters have taste makers and cool people. In a room full of jocks or hipsters it will eventually become apparent that someone is calling the shots. There is someone, or a group of people, who can do no wrong. Their parties are always attended, jokes always laughed at, opinions always given the benefit of the doubt, and ideas always met with enthusiasm. There are also more fringe characters. There are the people who get written on when they fall asleep at parties or laughed at, whose jokes always fall flat and whose invitations are free to be ignored.

Both groups are thought to get preferential treatment. There’s the perception that jocks get away with everything because they are good at sports. They live in a karma free world. Whether they get in a fight or say the wrong thing or do poorly at something, they don’t face consequences for their poor decisions. Hipsters on the other hand are perceived to be well off. They have the luxury of spending hours on pitchfork and grooming because they have a trust fund or are living off college loans.

Both groups lack self-awareness. Most of all perhaps people dislike these two groups because they are completely unaware or disinterested in the litany of reasons some people dislike them. Even in defeat they never admit defeat. They know no shame and feel no pain, even when they do. They possess a feeling of importance and arrogance that people think is unearned and undeserved. They feel as though they are correct, when to everyone else it is so obvious they are wrong, and no amount of societal pressure or disdain can put even the slightest crack in them.

  • Why they are disliked

The reasons above summarize the reasons people dislike them. I’m not saying the reasons above are true of them, but they are certainly the perceived mutual traits that people seem to dislike. Not only are their lifestyle choices so obviously ridiculous to people, but they think they’re better than everyone else. It is nearly impossible to speak to one of those members if you’re not one of them. They feel the things they are good at are what matter, the things they are not do not matter, and the things that other groups might be good at don’t matter.

Ultimately, the arrogance and the exclusivity make people feel the need to be confrontational to these two groups. It makes them look inward and wonder why. It also makes them annoyed that jocks and hipsters do not share the inward looking feelings of self-doubt. To me, it often seems like people just want to shake them or throw things at them just to get some reaction. They’d like to beat them into submission until they admit some sort of insecurity.

People fume and speak about them on occasion as if they’ve done some wrong to them, all of them, collectively, that is unforgivable. The desire for them to admit they are merely equal and different is met by two groups who feel they are superior and correct. This causes the desire for them to understand they are equal and different to turn hostile and aggressive, into an active dislike and near hatred for some. It becomes considering them less than ironically.

  • Debatable Stereotypes

As I mentioned in the previous section I do not necessarily buy into all of the stereotypes. As with any groups many stereotypes are too broad, misunderstood, or completely inaccurate. In this section I’ll try to debunk three random ones.


Picking on the weak – There’s a bully in every group. Sociopaths are not limited to athletes or even more prevalent among them. Take the Gamergate mess for example. The self-described gamers are bullying as brutally and publicly as any jock I’ve witnessed. The jock, because of their insistence on working out and their, we’ll say, loud personality just draw more attention when the sociopath does bully. Furthermore, a lot of things that are just competitiveness are construed as bullying when it’s actually the same way they treat eachother. A jock going too hard in gym class might be annoying to you, but it’s not directed at you for example.

Not amounting to anything, dumb – There are members of lots of groups who do and do not amount to things. Plenty of people who amount to something did well in school sports, from Teddy Roosevelt to Jack Kerouac, from George S. Patton to Jon Stewart to Edwin Hubble. Business Insider reports that on average people who play sports are more employed and better paid. As much is it may be true that some people lean on their athletic skill too much and can’t make it in a world where that doesn’t matter, it seems like it’s more often true that a toughness, work ethic, and competitiveness it instills is a positive thing.

Having wealthy parents – I don’t know where this came from. This is another thing it seems can be true of any group. I and many of my friends played sports growing up and did not have wealthy parents. I don’t mean like, “My dad own’s a dealership but he says that’s not rich.” I mean objectively not growing up in privilege. Don’t get me wrong, it might help, but if you have raw talent the school is going to find a way for you to get to practice. You don’t have to afford to be a school athlete. It’s not that expensive and what does cost money the school provides. Some athletes are quite poor. You occasionally see players at the college level leave for the draft early because they need money for their family.


They all have trust funds – Like the privileged jock this is more often not true than true. Why do you think there’s also the stereotype of working in coffee shops? It’s not a thrilling experience to work in a coffee shop. People aren’t going to do it if they don’t have to. Many of the hipsters I’ve met make due with some pretty, let’s say, crappy circumstances. To some degree the thrift store shopping is as necessary as it is preferred.

They are emotionally detached – I think this comes from them being maybe focused on whatever they’re doing at any given time, whether that’s reading something or doing work on their tablet or whatever. They’re in fact very emotionally open in my experience. Many are extremely comfortable wearing their heart on their sleeve or speaking their minds. The things they care about, they care quite a lot about and are very invested in.

Vain, and shallow – Yes, they put a lot of time into how they dress. Otherwise, it’s difficult to argue someone who spends that much effort into figuring out art, philosophy, literature, music, film, etc. is shallow. Shallow people typically don’t put that much effort into being not shallow. Certainly some do it in a superficial way but it’s as easy for hipsters to see who those people are as it is for non-hipsters. Every group has the person who talks out of their ass about stuff.

  • What they have in common (positive)

These groups do have a couple things in common that I would argue are positive. In my experience with these two groups the following things stand out.

Lack of shame – Relative to other groups, jocks and hipsters do not care as much what other people think. More accurately, they do not mind being thought of negatively. Maybe it’s the insularity, maybe it’s the confidence, I couldn’t say. But I know I’ve seen jocks and hipsters say and do things that I have not seen other groups do. They’ll readily admit to embarrassing things just to get a laugh or be interesting. Things that would be a silly idea among other groups, jocks and hipsters will actually get up and do them, just to do it. There’s a rawness or honesty in that specific way that’s interesting.

Conviction – The cousin of arrogance and narrow-mindedness sure but this is the positive side. If a jock or hipster disagrees with you, they don’t typically roll over just to be polite. Personally I always enjoyed that. Other people might not like confrontation but I think you can get a lot out of it and you can get as much as you want from jocks and hipsters. A lot of times if I take it to the bitter end there will be some sort of agreement, if only due to exhaustion, but they seem to not let it stay with them.

Genuinely loving – Here’s one I particularly admire. I would argue there are less superficial friendships among jocks and hipsters than other groups. These two groups have a genuine love for their friends. It’s not just circumstance or taste that binds them but they seem to genuinely love their friends, even when they annoy them or there’s some friction between them. They usually work it out. There’s loyalty, support, they teach each other things, they believe in each other, and they accept each other even when they don’t. It’s kind of touching.

Humorous – I’ve never found groups that make me laugh as much as hipsters and jocks. Maybe it’s the confidence, the rawness, the lack of shame, it’s hard to say. The truth is I don’t laugh harder than when I’m with jocks and hipsters. They can take a verbal punch, they can accept a weird friend, and they don’t mind someone saying look at me. This cultivates a sort of fearlessness regarding doing things to make people laugh. There’s also an element of not taking themselves seriously. Jocks don’t because of that ‘just do it’ mindset. As in, don’t think about if or how it’s funny or whether it makes you look smart or cool, just blurt it out. Hipsters don’t, at least in this way, because the weirder the better in some ways. They don’t mind if people don’t get their joke because that’s almost a good thing. So you’ll get more adventurous humor from both of these groups.

Fun – If there was a block where every house was throwing a party, and each house was occupied by a different clique, I would spend half my time at the jock house and half at the hipster house. These people can have fun. Being self-conscious is not fun; these two groups are rarely ashamed or hesitant. Anyone is liable to do anything at any time. Whether we’re talking standing on a table and quoting a five-minute youtube video about tacos word for word or putting firecrackers in a pile of human feces, whether it’s putting on a leotard to answer the door for the cops or having a party turn into an exhausting game of Halloween hide and go seek in a busy apartment complex, anything could happen.

  • In defense of jocks and hipsters

First, I don’t necessarily buy into the idea of cliques. I graduated high school with less than 100 students and if you buy into cliques in that sort of environment you’re just not going to have friends. That being said, if we look at it on the terms of people who do believe in such things then this is probably a fair assessment.

Hipsters and jocks have qualities that could reasonably be construed as annoying. However, everyone is annoying. Every single person on this planet, if you look for it, is annoying. So get over yourself.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with a member of that group. Do not generalize and assume every member of that group shares that quality that you dislike. If you dig into it you might find that underneath those things that annoy you are some pretty admirable traits. Furthermore, you might find that each member of that group is an individual with their own thoughts, feelings, and personalities.

We focused on these groups because in my experience with them and other self-identified non-hipsters and non-jocks because I’ve found their perception and their actual nature are notably different. That can really be the case with any group for that matter. If you actually gave them a chance, and push past those things you don’t like, you might end up with some pretty interesting experiences.

The large majority of people in these groups do not in fact think they are better than you, I, or anyone. You might find if you give interacting with them an honest chance that there’s an interesting person there who has many of the same insecurities that anyone else has. If you do hang out with them make sure to apply the following techniques.

Laugh, if you’re made fun of or if you feel weird, just laugh and be confident in who you are, you’ll be accepted easily. Don’t over think things; say it or do it, whatever it is, that is what’s interesting (to anyone) so you just have to live in the moment. Finally, leave your preconceptions at the door. I know jocks who love Star Wars or Earnest Hemingway and I know hipsters who like football or Justin Timberlake. You might find the group slightly hard to penetrate at first but once you’re in they will love you, and all your flaws. You’ll find they’re funny and fun, and at the very least I guarantee you will have an interesting story on your hands.

Finally, thinking of the world in cliques, as us and them, is a mistake for anyone and everyone. Your interests or personality might make you naturally line up better with one generic group or another but if you identify yourself as that group then you’re voluntarily closing yourself off to the large majority of the rest of life. You’re missing out on experiences, worldviews, stories, and friendships. Do not let whatever bad apple you may have encountered or generic stereotype prevent you from being as full a person as you might be.

It made me uncomfortable to even write this article because thinking in cliques at all is ridiculous. In my effort to analyze how some people think about these two groups I’ve become more assured that thinking of groups in this way is immature and self-defeating.

Don’t find where you fit but fit where you find. Give individuals an honest chance and the majority of them will reward you for it. We all make mistakes in that regard, but it’s the ability to understand that it is a mistake and strive to be better that makes you a fuller person. Maybe other people do and maybe because they do it happens to actually exist for them, but that is them and you are you. If you choose to view the world that way then you are hurting yourself. You are holding yourself back from a fuller understanding of life and people. So stop it. Life should be wide open.

by Zack Goncz

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1 Comment

  1. LH says

    Yes, its wrong to stereotype people. Agreed. But your article has at least three flaws.

    First, just to say that you don’t “buy into the idea of cliques” doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. You’ve come up with a pretty decent argument against stereotyping, but not against the reality that cliques exist (whether they are based on stereotypes or not). Unfortunately, people choose to divide themselves into various groups. Maybe that doesn’t happen in a small school, but that is not a typical case. I dont like it, but it exists, and simply coming up with semantic arguments don’t get rid of the reality of it. The question is, how to challenge clique-ishness. I remember a friend of mine once saying that he didn’t like the ’80s teen movie “The Breakfast Club” because he didn’t like dividing people into categories. What my friend missed is that people do divide themselves into categories, and that the whole point of the movie is that its counterproductive.

    Second, although I am against stereotyping and being against people just because they are different, your argument misses the point that some of the criticism of different groups is because of more than just being different. There are cases where there are legitimate criticisms of certain groups. For example, take for example the case of college athletes (aka “jocks”). Although there are some colleges where, say, the athletic department brings in much needed money (usually the top football or basketball teams), it if often ignored that there are many other colleges where the athletic teams are actually a drag on resources. In these colleges, there is a sincere and legitimate debate whether, say, the football team deserves to be getting funded when money is needed for books and resources, which are arguably why the college is there to begin with. Likewise, a legitimate argument can also be made that, in such colleges, the athletes should not be getting a free education and room and board when everyday students are forced to go into debt to pay tuition. I don’t think under such circumstances that its wrong to suggest the “jocks” are, as a group, unjustly privileged, when it is backed up by a legitimate grievance.

    Third, you mention that there are bullies in every group, and that a group’s behavior is not necessarily intended to harm or bother anyone. Well, again, I am also against stereotyping all people who, say, are athletes, or hipsters, or nerds, or whatever. But what about specific cases where the objections people have toward a group are actually true (in that particular category). It is often the case (not always, but often) that the stronger will take advantage of the weaker. It happens in the real world, believe me, and you cannot just ignore it. It happens between those who are rich and poor, and those who are politically powerful or politically weak. And… between groups of people who are more popular and less popular. Without stereotyping all athletes this way, what about the account of bullying that is described in this report:

    Just to say that gamers can be just as cruel, or that other athletes elsewhere don’t behave this way, doesn’t mean that THIS set of athletes aren’t behaving as “jock bullies,” that this is not intentional abuse, or that such behavior is not more common among certain groups of athletes than among other groups at school. (You don’t usually hear of bullying by the drama group, although I hear college bands are now engaged in hazing.)


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