This Is The Mathematical Reason All Hipsters Look The Same

Hipsters are a strange, plaid-wearing paradox: the term is meant to denote someone who's different from the norm, and yet, why do they -- in their flannel, beanies and combat boots -- all seem to look exactly alike?

Jonathan Touboul, a mathematical neuroscientist at the Collège de France in Paris, explores this question in a new paper, “The Hipster Effect: When Anticonformists All Look the Same."


In the study, Touboul uses many complex mathematical formulas to explain the homogenous hipster phenomenon. (It's tricky stuff, and "a background in nonlinear dynamics certainly helps," notes the Washington Post's Jeff Guo.)

But, essentially, Touboul concludes that when humans analyze mainstream trends, there's a delay in how quickly they detect those trends -- and if the delay is long enough, people who seek to oppose the mainstream trends will end up opposing them in the same way.

“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,” Touboul told Vocativ. “The reason for that is the time it takes for an individual to register the decisions of others. You cannot be aware of what other people decide in real time, it takes a little while.”

Touboul also concludes that hipsters' ability to recognize the trends of other hipsters is proportional to their distance from one another.

"Synchronization among hipsters depends on the distribution, in space, of each individuals," Trouboul writes.

In other words, when you throw on your skinny jeans and oversized glasses in the apartment you share with your preppy roommate, you feel totally original and different -- but once you get to your local artisan coffee shop, there's a high chance your Warby Parker frames will match those of the hipster sipping a latte next to you.

There is, however, one major drawback to the study, the Washington Post reports:

Here is where you might object that Touboul’s model oversimplifies something. In real life, there are a million ways to be nonconformist. You can be goth; you can be preppy; you can be grunge. Touboul’s model doesn’t quite explain the current hipster obsession with scraggly beards and undercuts. He admits as much. “The brain is more complex than the model I looked at, and of course hipsters are more complex,” he said.

Of course they are. All of them, at once.

Read the entirety of Touboul's study to learn more.



  • 1 Flannel shirts
  • 2 Bucket hats
  • 3 Beat-up Converse
  • 4 Pastel hair
  • 5 Oversized glasses
  • 6 Overalls
  • 7 Doc Martens
  • 8 Suspenders
  • 9 Fjallraven backpacks
  • 10 Tiny denim cut-offs
  • 11 Bright beanies
  • 12 Muscle tanks with very low arm holes
  • 13 Hawaiian shirts