What do we call me? I’m a 26-year-old writer who lives in a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. I’m a straight white man with a single-speed bike and a mustache. I studied liberal arts in college, and I have ideas about stuff, you guys.
Millennial? Hipster? Yuppie? All of these, or none? We don’t have a term that quite encapsulates this corner of the despicable millenn-intelligensia. And like any other privileged member of a so-called “creative class,” being called a hipster offends me for its inaccuracy. I demand to be snarked in precise terms.
Let’s consider something new: Yuccies. Young Urban Creatives. In a nutshell, a slice of Generation Y, borne of suburban comfort, indoctrinated with the transcendent power of education, and infected by the conviction that not only do we deserve to pursue our dreams; we should profit from them.
I am the yuccie. And it sounds sort of, well, yucky.
More money is good, but more creative money is better.
Yuccies are hardly mythical creatures. If you live in a metropolitan area like New York or San Francisco, you probably know plenty. They’re social consultants coordinating #sponsored Instagram campaigns for lifestyle brands; they’re brogrammers hawking Uber for weed and Tinder for dogs; they’re boutique entrepreneurs shilling sustainably harvested bamboo sunglasses.
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Getting rich quick would be great. But getting rich quick and preserving creative autonomy? That’s the yuccie dream.
When they graduated college — unless they completed XYZ Start Up Bootcamp instead — many didn’t bother attempting a traditional career path. They jumped headlong into a hectic, win-lose-pivot entrepreneurial stew, even if it meant a pay cut. According to this 2014 Deloitte survey, 6 out of 10 millennials cited their company’s sense of purpose as part of the reason they chose their job. In the same study, just 12% identified “own personal gain” as a primary leadership priority.
That sounds like me. I moved to NYC half a decade ago, and promptly passed on a salaried job in pharmaceutical marketing in favor of an unpaid editing internship. I’ve been hacking my way through the city’s editorial underbrush ever since. The money ranges from “very bad” to “sometimes OK,” but the sense of personal validation is fucking great. I am the yuccie.
From board room to drawing board: Unrequited yuccies
Not all yuccies follow such a direct path. There are plenty of 20-somethings who take a few steps down the road of traditional employment despite the growing suspicion that their unique intellect deserves more professional fulfillment. I call this group the “unrequited” yuccies. Let’s talk about them.
That same Deloitte study found that as many as 28% of millennials believe their talents aren’t being tapped at their current jobs. A this 2014 Bentley University study found 66% would like to start their own businesses. Reliable data doesn’t exist on how many of them actually do leave the bank/law firm/whatever for the promise of “more fulfilling” work.
Anecdotally, I know a former financial employee who runs a music festival startup, an MBA grad who switched to super-niche menswear e-commerce, and a one-time lawyer who now owns a craft beer brewery.
Win-lose-pivot. Traditional to creative. Oh hey, yuccie.
And those are just yuccies I’ve met. Strangers (or their PR people) have pitched me a yuccie storyline 200 times. This former accountant left his corporate job to pursue his true passion: making colorful socks! Letterpress stationery! Video gaming social networks! Organic vodka!
There’s nothing wrong with any of these people, nor their letterpress stationery. But those choices aren’t just instances of entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy. Yuccies, by my definition, are determined to define themselves not by wealth (or the rejection of it), but by the relationship between wealth and their own creativity. In other words,
they want to get paid for their own ideas, rather than executing on someone else’s.
Unrequited yuccies exist right on that threshold. They can (and do) move from a 9-to-5 job to a yuccie enterprise without massive cultural adjustments. That’s a relatively new freedom.
A yuccie checklist
If you’re checking any of these boxes, you may be a yuccie. Be honest…
• Owns multiple copies of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
• Doesn’t like gentrification in theory; loves artisanal donuts in practice
• Really wants to go to Austin soon because hears it’s incredible
• Takes boozy painting classes
• Used to be “in banking” and occasionally still pronounces finance “fuh-nontz”
• Avoids visible tattoos (not a prudent career move)
• Loves Seinfeld even though it went off the air when they were 16
• Gets the NYT Weekend Edition but doesn’t read the news
• Has thousands of Instagram followers, but almost no Twitter followers
The Internet: A yuccie playground
The vast potential of the Internet inspired yuccies with opportunity even as it discouraged them from traditional professional growth. The dotcom boom; the rise of Napster and, later, social media magnates; the well-worn bootstrap myth of a blogger who becomes more famous than the subject; the enormous sum raised by yet another potential-long/revenue-short startup. This is the yuccie siren song.
You deserve to make a living being yourself. Your ideas are valuable. Follow your dreams.
You deserve to make a living being yourself. Your ideas are valuable. Follow your dreams.
Leaving the rat race for a more fulfilling alternative is a well-worn fantasy in American culture, but the opportunities yuccies are chasing now are more abstract than ever. When you grow up watching the Internet king-make an entirely new type of elite, it’s impossible not to take a moonshot yourself.
So, a yuppie and a hipster walk into a bar…
Ten years ago, “yuccies” might have been “hipsters.” Remember hipsters? Trust fund motorcycle mechanics, rustic barnwood reclaimers, drug-addled graphic designers slinking over the Williamsburg Bridge in the wee hours of the morning. In hipsterism, you can see the development of yuccie hallmarks: DIY entrepreneurship, niche marketing, ability to leverage new technology, etc.
But these days, the hipster — the real hipster, not the bullshit marketing facsimile that still dominates advertising today — is dead. He’s traded warehouse parties for yoga retreats; she’s become a tool of corporate marketing shilling compact cars and fast food. The conspicuous consumption that once set hipsters apart — American Spirits instead of Marlboros, iPhones instead of flip phones, pork belly instead of bacon — has gone mainstream. Hipster is generic.
By that definition, the hipster has to be dead, killed by a contradicted identity. When everyone is rejecting the mainstream, no one is. When everyone is a hipster, no one is a hipster. Hell, saying “the hipster is dead” is, itself, pretty much dead, a late-aughts victim of thinkpiecery and primetime cable namechecks.
And anyway, “hipster” doesn’t line up culturally with who yuccies are. To use myself as an example again: I have no tattoos. My credit is good. Hell, I’ve got dental insurance. My basic, unwaxed mustache, like the rest of me, wouldn’t have rated in the heady days of hipsterism. Hipsters themselves might have scorned me as a yuppie. But that isn’t right, either. “Yuppie” conjures Sharper Image catalogs, clean condos and piles of new money pulled from the pre-recession stock market. It doesn’t capture the sense of creative entitlement that defines the yuccie.
IMAGE: OLI KELLETT
Yuccies are the cultural offspring of yuppies and hipsters.
We’re intent on being successful like yuppies and creative like hipsters. We define ourselves by our purchases, just like both cohorts, sure. But not by price or taste level; we identify by price and taste level: $80 sweatpants, $16 six-packs of craft beer, trips to Charleston, Austin and Portland. How much it costs (high or low) is immaterial if the material bought validates our intellect.
We’re a big part of the reason that 43% of every millennial food dollar is spent in restaurants, instead of at home. After all, what product is more fraught with the politics of money and creativity than dinner? It’s gotta be Instagrammed.
You cross the yuppie’s new money thirst for yachts and recognition with the hipster’s anti-ambition, smoke-laced individualism, sprinkle on a dose of millennial entitlement, and the yuccie is what you get.
We are what we hate
The Young Urban Creative. The yuccie. As far as trend-naming goes, this is on the punnier edge of the spectrum. Yuccies are yucky. Why?
Let’s use me as an example again. Almost by definition, yuccies possess enormous privilege. My professional drift towards a creative field (writing) is an implicit statement of privilege. Being a yuccie is synonymous with the sort of self-centered cynicism that can only exist in the absence of hardship. It’s the convenience of being unburdened by conviction; it’s the luxury of getting to pick your battles. In this context, cynicism is maybe the yuccie’s most defining trait.
To wit, of all the reasons I enjoy being a writer, the single driving force behind my career trajectory has been validation. I write for validation: of my peers, of my parents, of the followers who retweet me, even of the commenters who say cruel things in my general direction beneath every piece I’ve ever published.
Don’t get me wrong — I need the money, too, as much as any of my peers. But if I hadn’t insisted on majoring in English, writing professionally and “expressing myself,” I probably could have chosen a more lucrative path. But
I need to be told, repeatedly and at length, that I have valuable ideas. That my talent is singular. That I’m making a dent, the size and location of which is less important than fact that it’s shaped like me.
That’s the cynicism of privilege. That’s what yuccieism is. I’m not ashamed of it, and you shouldn’t be either if this sounds like you. But I’m not proud of it either. Like I said — it’s a bit yucky.