Phila. should be grateful to its hipsters
People say the hipster is dying. The skinny-jeans-wearing, flannel-loving, old-Schwinn-riding, coffee-drinking bohemian has reached his and her plateau and is gradually making the evolutionary walk into middle-aged normalcy.
Many people are happy about this. Hipsters have not been welcomed into society with open arms. In fact, many people in Philadelphia seem to hate them with a passion normally reserved for Cowboys fans. For the most part, I like them. Not only that, but as a disgruntled Philadelphian tired of the crime, traffic, parking, politics as usual, and an education system that depends on lotteries and donations, I want them to hang around a few more decades. If we want to make our city better, we need more hipsters in Philadelphia.
Since they're not all that popular, Philadelphia can probably woo hipsters from Seattle to San Diego in the same way we tout Philadelphia as a great place for gays, lesbians, college students, start-up businesses, and film directors. If City Council can pass a "Recognizing October as Philly Plays Scrabble Month" resolution, there is no reason it can't make November "Hug a Hipster Month," or rename Girard Avenue west of Broad "The Hipster Heaven Highway."
Critics of hipsters argue that they cause gentrification, pushing out longtime residents in poor neighborhoods when rents and taxes increase. They're confusing hipsters with yuppies, who infested Manayunk, Northern Liberties, and Brewerytown in the 1990s, when speculators bought houses for $20,000, slapped down bamboo floors, put in granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, exposed the bricks and the beams, and sold the houses for $280,000. Taxes and rents went up, and parking spaces disappeared.
None of that will happen with hipsters. For starters, they don't own cars. Second, they don't care about floors, appliances, exposed bricks, or money. They don't take over neighborhoods as a business investment. They don't even really want to change neighborhoods. They just want to be part of them.
Hipsters could help improve the reputation of Philadelphia, which keeps showing up on lists among the dirtiest cities, the ugliest cities, the most unfriendly cities. Hipsters, if they shave, can change all that. They wear fashionable glasses and use trash to make art, and the only time they are unfriendly is when they feel that a car has disrespected them as they weave illegally through traffic.
Hipsters aren't always easy to label. Are they bleeding-heart liberals? Environmentalists? Hippies? Gay? Straight? Do they have hipster children? From what I can tell, they seem to believe in nature, reuse, art, education, the pursuit of pleasure, and simplicity. And for whatever reason, they seem to love Philadelphia, more than many of us who have lived here for years do. It's about time that Philly learned to love them back.
Nate House is the author of the novel "Float" (Route 47 Publishing)
E-mail Nate House at firstname.lastname@example.org.