Hipsterpocalypse – Post Code Death Knell?
Chewed up, spat out? Why in-crowdsourced communities aren’t parasitic
It seems a little redundant to point out that hating hipsters has been the internet’s flavour of the week, because along with cats and dubious heart-warming stories, hating hipsters is pretty much the flavour of the Internet.
But nonetheless, this week particular umbrage has been aimed at the bearded, skinny jeans-sporting cool kids following a Telegraph article by Alex Proud, founder of the grazing-edge Camden nightspot Proud Galleries. Proud has gone down the textbook path of drumming up an internet storm by complaining about his pet peeves through the creation of a compound, easily shareable word: “Shoreditchification”. I feel dirty just writing that. No matter my feelings on the matter, it’s driving up his Google rank.
You’ve probably seen various people sharing this on Facebook by now so I’ll boil this down to the basics for those at the back: poor area > hipsters in > cool area > hipsters suck > lame area > hipsters pack up and spread ironic seed in other neighbourhood. Proud’s issue, it seems, is that the areas have no inherent cool – unlike his beloved Camden, so favoured in the mid-noughties by such enduringly relevant cultural icons as Johnny Borrell and Pete Doherty.
He also disapproves of the throwaway hipster culture whereby an area is abandoned once it has been acknowledged as ‘cool’ by the general populace, leaving it to flounder in a sea of mainstream twats as it’s forced to watch its pretentious, yet indisputably avant-garde soul vaporise.
Except…does that actually happen?
Part of his argument seems to be that in just a few short years, the gentrification process robs entire districts of an identity developed over generations by pricing out the original inhabitants. Having grown up in several areas around South London that have received varying degrees of gentrification, I would dispute this. An influx of art students might have led to a hike in property prices and a few more independent coffee shops, but I’ve yet to see it cause a mass exodus or a cannibalisation of culture.
I currently live in Brixton, which has caught a lot of flak for its supposed excessive gentrification because it now has a Foxton’s and about seven new Sainsbury’s (Sainsburies?). It also has a lot of independent grocers, shops and restaurants which are largely patronised by the local populace. Which is, essentially, the definition of a strong local community.
I used to hang out in Brixton as a teenager, and I’d be the first to admit that it has changed in the past ten years. However, I’d argue that most of these changes are positive. It’s lost none of its vibrancy – you’ll still see people of all backgrounds shopping on the high street, strolling past the bloke dancing to the pounding reggae emanating from his boombox. You just probably won’t get offered drugs anymore.
Seriously, it was pretty much impossible to walk down Brixton High Street ten years ago without getting offered skunk. The implication of that is that people who sold skunk knew that people who bought skunk came to Brixton for that very purpose, which fomented a ‘locals versus tourists’ vibe that feels absent now – as evidenced by the fact that drug pushing is nowhere near as common. Maybe that’s because the community has expanded to include people from all walks of life – anyone can be part of it now.
If you consider petty crime to be more integral to an area’s character than a strong sense of community, then maybe Proud has a point – in that sense, Brixton is virtually unrecognisable to how it was ten years ago. But gentrification can’t whitewash an area’s history. No matter what you think of an area’s current personality, all the craft beer pubs and artisanal cheese shops in the world won’t destroy the ingrained culture that attracted people to it in the first place.
WORDS: James Barton