A Parisian mathematician devises an equation to explain why attempts to be different often end up with people taking the same decisions; using the hipster phenomenon to demonstrate the theory. Matthew Stock reports.
Recognisable by their fashion sense and style, the hipster phenomenon typically defines itself as non-conformist. But therein lies a paradox - why do hipsters, in their attempts to be different, often all end up looking the same? Mathematician Jonathan Touboul (pron. Too-Boull) from the College de France in Paris has devised a formula to try and explain this. He believes hipsters end up looking the same because they often keep making the same choices when they're too slow in detecting new trends. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEUROSCIENTIST AND MATHEMATICIAN, JONATHAN TOUBOUL, SAYING: "I realized that actually if you had individuals that wanted to be different from the others and that they were too slow in detecting the trend in the population, then you did synchronize. This is what you need, you need people that want to be different and in the end, just because they are too slow to detect the trend, they synchronize and they all do, all these people that want to be different, they all do the same thing at the same time. And this is where the hipster effect name comes from." In London's East End, people acknowledged the paradox, but thought the hipster label was more driven by the media. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOPHIA, PERSONAL SHOPPER AND STYLIST, SAYING: "Hipsters, they do try and be different; but they end up being the same, so you get like; moustache, tattoo, weird trousers, weird colour combinations - there is a hipster." (SOUNDBITE) (English) BART, FASHION INDUSTRY WORKER, SAYING: "It's more created by media, by social media, by TV, by papers; they always need to call us somehow, to make things easy and more sellouts and stuff like that. I think, people are here just doing what they want to do." Touboul said he used hipsters as the base for his equation - but other groups that decide to go against the majority could also be used. He hopes his mathematical model could have implications in deciphering collective phenomena and understanding brain dynamics.