Derived from the word "hepcat," the term "hipster" was coined in the 1940s as a reference to jazz aficionados. It later came to be associated with the Beats, and as a larger reference to a rotating variety of Bohemian subcultures.
In sociological terms, hipsterism's current iteration refers primarily to the mash-up generation: the culture-cannibals that form their traditions and symbols with a pastiche of retro trends.
However the term "hipster" is generally used as either a catch-all for any youth subculture outside of high school jockdom—similar to the way cranky old people used to call everyone "hippies"—or as a pejorative that means either arrogant or effeminate.
Perhaps that's why recent polling data found that Americans really don't care for whatever it is they think "hipsters" are.
From a report by Public Policy Polling:
Just 16% of Americans have a favorable opinion of hipsters, a new PPP poll on the much-discussed subculture shows. 42% have an unfavorable opinion of hipsters, and 43% aren’t sure. Democrats (18% favorable, 34% unfav) are twice as likely as Republicans (9% fav, 48% unfav) to have a favorable opinion. Voters age 18-29 have a favorable opinion of them (43% fav-29% unfav), but very few voters over age 65 do (6% fav -37% unfav).
Just 10% of voters say they consider themselves to be hipsters—and almost all of those are younger voters. Half of all voters aged 18-29 consider themselves hipsters; every other age group is 5% or less.
Nearly half of the respondents also felt that hipsters "soullessly appropriate cultural tropes from the past for their own ironic amusement," rather than making positive cultural contributions to society.
What public policies these questions could possibly have to do with seems a bit mysterious. But there is this nugget hidden further in the report:
27% of voters said they thought hipsters should be subjected to a special tax for being so annoying, while 73% did not think so.
The full report can be read here. But you should be warned, Public Policy Polling are clearly a bunch of hipsters.