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Man Inadvertently Proves That Hipsters Look Alike By Mistaking Photo As Himself

This is the unedited version of a contested photo from an <em>MIT Technology Review</em> article on hipsters. Original caption: "Shot of a handsome young man in trendy winter attire against a wooden background."
Getty Images
This is the unedited version of a contested photo from an MIT Technology Review article on hipsters. Original caption: "Shot of a handsome young man in trendy winter attire against a wooden background."

It's a running joke that male hipsters all look alike with their flannel shirts, thick beards and other seemingly off-brand attributes. But a comical incident in the MIT Technology Review might just prove that they all really do look alike.

The publication recently published an article on a study out of Brandeis University about the "hipster effect," which studied how nonconformists usually act unconventionally in the same way — to end up being exactly the same.

"What the study found essentially was that when a group of people decide to be different, to do something nonconforming, there comes a point when they all end up adopting the same behavior or the same style," Gideon Lichfield, editor-in-chief of MIT Technology Review, told NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition.

While the study proves this theory, so does accidentally thinking the edited photo at the top of the story — which featured a man in a plaid shirt with a beanie on — is of yourself.

Right after the article was published, MIT Technology Review promptly received an email from someone who claimed he was the man in the photo and hadn't given his consent. He accused the publication of slandering him and threatened legal action, writing:

"You used a heavily edited Getty image of me for your recent bit of click-bait about why hipsters all look the same. It's a poorly written and insulting article and somewhat ironically about five years too late to be as desperately relevant as it is attempting to be. By using a tired cultural trope to try to spruce up an otherwise disturbing study. Your lack of basic journalistic ethics and both the manner in which you reported this uncredited nonsense and the slanderous unnecessary use of my picture without permission demands a response and I am of course pursuing legal action."

Lichfield and his team quickly checked to see if the model in the photo signed a model release. They contacted Getty Images, which found that the person who signed the model release was not the person who wrote the angry email.

After the misunderstanding was cleared up, the man responded by saying to Getty Images, "Wow, I stand corrected I guess. I and multiple family members, and a childhood friend pointed it out to me, thought it was a mildly photo-shopped picture of me. I even have a very similar hat and shirt, though in full color I can see it's not the same. Thank you for getting back to me and resolving the issue."

Lichfield tweetedthis scenario and wrote that the incident "just proves the story we ran: Hipsters look so much alike that they can't even tell themselves apart from each other."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
Lindsey Feingold