On July 27, 2012, 1:00 PM by Rosie Spinks
Why we should stop blaming hipsters for gentrification
If you saw me walking down the street in my East London neighborhood, I can say with relative certainty that you would label me a hipster. I wear Ray Ban prescription lenses, I can frequently be found working on my MacBook Air in coffee shops which press locally roasted beans, and I usually spend my Saturday mornings at a street market that sells artisanal cheeses and kebabs of foraged fungi.
I say this not to sound annoying (though I’m sure it does), but to illustrate the fact that the term ‘hipster’ has become a derogatory label for a category of people that’s been around far longer than the likes of Tumblr and Instagram: the creative class.
These days, we tend to define modern hipsters by superficial markers—the tightness of their trousers, say, or the impractical lack of gears on their bicycle. However, the most compelling commonality of this oft-mocked group of individuals is what they do and where they do it: creative or knowledge-based professions such as artists, designers, media-makers, writers and musicians who have increasingly come to live in up-and-coming metropolitan nooks.
In this sense, hipsters are no different from, say, beatniks in the 1950s, flower children in 1960s Haight-Ashbury district or Hemingway and his Paris contemporaries during the Roaring 20s. The energy and creativity of shared youth and the desire to connect with stimulating, alternative-minded individuals have always been an impetus for movements like these and likely always will.
This last reason is why a recent spate of articles bemoaning the role that hipsters play in gentrification is not only misguided but historically misinformed. Further, it points to a tired media and social trope that should be put to rest.
Earlier in the month, Salon published a piece entitled ‘Hipsters Won’t Save Us,’ detailing the harsh critiques recently hurled at the creative class theory, an idea coined by social economist and Atlantic senior editor Richard Florida in 2002. Florida’s theory, which has been much discussed in the urban planning world for quite some time, posits the following:
“Open-minded, diverse and tolerant places where vibrant artistic, ethnically diverse and gay and lesbian communities have settled and thrived reflect underlying characteristics that are more likely to be accepting of new ideas, and better able to incubate new innovations and house and motivate entrepreneurial business ventures.”
In other words, creative people with open minds and new ideas are good for cities. Lured by cheaper rents, they tend to move into less economically developed neighborhoods and eventually promote urban regeneration and economic growth. Sounds simple, right?
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