Firms need to constantly find new products
Our economic model is driven by consumerism: the acquisition of goods and services in ever greater amount. If consumers become satisfied with what they have, economic activity will plummet as they will stop buying and firms faced with plunging sales will be forced to layoff workers.
Firms, therefore need to constantly find the newest products but it is prohibitively expensive to visit every mom and pop shops or remote village to find and market the "next big thing". However, firms can just limit their market research to studying the shopping habits of early adopters.
These groups of consumers who pride themselves in purchasing products that are yet unknown in their society are the laboratories of capitalism. In economic lingo, most people consider search as a cost, whereas early adopters consider it as a benefit and spend their scarce resources (i.e. time and money) on searching for quality products sold by small vendors.
In the 60's they were known as greasers, in the 70's as hippies, in the 80's as rappers, and in the 90's as grunge and hip-hoppers. Today, the most influential early adopters are collectively called hipsters.
What is a hipster
Hipsters are notoriously hard to define, but in general it is a pejorative term used to describe a sub-culture of men and women in their early 20's and 30's who come from upper-middle class families, possess some kind of university degree and congregate in gentrified neighborhoods of major urban centers (New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Beijing...).
What makes hipsters ideal early adopters
Although they are by no means wealthy, they have enough disposable income to buy non-essential goods.
They tend to be university graduates and thus have a higher than average income. Many of them also come from upper-middle class families and may receive financial support from their parents.
Hipsters are exposed to different cultures and accustomed to adopting new ideas.
It started in university where they had to work with colleagues from all over the world. Those relationships continued long after school had ended via social media where they kept up with trends in different countries.
In addition, hipsters tend to be well traveled. I visited my fair share of countries, and during my trips I met many hipsters who were backpacking or on work exchange. Like many travelers, they adopt local customs and products and promptly share their merits with family and peers.
Finally, hipsters tend to congregate in highly influential cities, culturally and financially, such as New York, San Francisco, Berlin and Beijing. Cities visited by executives and tourists from all over the world. After being exposed, they bring back a little piece of hipster culture back home.
Hipsters have the luxury to invest both time and money to searching for the latest trends because they are less constrained financially than their peers since they usually have an upper-middle class upbringing. Their parents tend to have an above average disposable income and corporate influence.
They come back home for the holidays with new ideas and products. Once in a while, they might influence their well-to-do parents to adopt these products and share them with friends and colleagues. At first they are rare and expensive, but prices fall and availability increases as more firms enter the market.
If their parents happen to be executives, they might even share the new product and its benefits with the board in order to study if and how their company should market it.
So show some respect
Hipsters are the laboratory of capitalism. Whether it is fair trade coffee, skinny jeans, fixie bicycles, or kale, they take the effort to discover new quality products that you will undoubtedly be convinced to purchase as the "next big thing".
So no mater how self-aggrandizing they act or how ridiculously they dress, stop criticizing hipsters and finish that kale salad before taking your new fixie to a fair trade coffee shop to reconnect with your skinny jeaned and bearded buddies.