Jayne: The ‘most hipster’ thing ever to happen to Vancouver

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Editor

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Greg Jayne, Opinion page editor

We know what you were thinking, how you reacted, what you said when you heard the news: “What, pray tell, is a ‘hipster’?”

Admit it: That’s what you wondered last week when Vancouver — yes, our Vancouver — was deemed the “most hipster” city in the country. At least, that’s what Anne McEnerny-Ogle was thinking. “I had to figure out what a hipster was,” the 63-year-old mayor-elect said with a laugh.

McEnerny-Ogle was not alone. Because hipster is the, um, er, hip term for young adults who have an atypical view on the world. That’s hip, as in cool or chic.

As Webster’s tells us, a hipster is “a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion).” Or, as UrbanDictionary.com, tells us: “Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counterculture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”

The witty banter we can understand. But it must be confessed that Vancouver is not the first place we think of when it comes to art and indie rock. That’s why we have Portland, after all.

So how, pray tell, did Vancouver land at No. 1 on MoveHub.com’s ranking of the largest 150 cities in terms of hipsterdom? The website ranked cities in five categories: microbreweries, vegan restaurants, thrift stores and tattoo parlors per capita, plus year-over-year rent increases. And if they included cool nicknames, “the Couv” undoubtedly would have scored high. As MoveHub, a relocation-services site, wrote: “In our groundbreaking new study, hipster fashion, diet, and vanity were all taken into account as the 150 most populous American cities had their credentials tested.”

Certainly, these qualify as counterculture amenities; they aren’t the kinds of things people think about while sipping mimosas at the country club. Then again, we aren’t really the country club types, either. McEnerny-Ogle said: “I figured out, ‘Wow, how interesting.’ I knew we had a lot of breweries, but I didn’t know we had a lot of tattoo places.”

Oh, the things you learn. Vancouver, apparently, ranks fifth in tattoo parlors with 5.2 per 100,000 people. We’re second in microbreweries and, in the not-so-good-news category, rank first in rent increases. As Columbian reporter Scott Hewitt explained, rising rent is “an unfortunate but undeniable hipster marker.” As more people want to live in an area, rent goes up — and Vancouver is a most desirable place for hipsters and non-hipsters alike.

Hipster bona fides

Yet that still doesn’t explain how in the world Vancouver landed atop the rankings. Portland is the one with a sketch comedy show that highlights its hipster reputation and deems the city “the place where young people go to retire.”

The secret must be in the ever-changing definition of “cool.” Portland now has a universal reputation for being cool, which, for cool people, means that it no longer is cool. Once a reputation enters the mainstream, it becomes pass?. It has something to do with irony — the currency upon which hipster culture is traded.

Now, we could argue over a microbrewed stout and avocado toast about whether or not it is desirable for a city to be Hipster Valhalla. We could lament the counterculture and criticize hipsters — just like our ancestors complained about beatniks or hippies.

Or we could embrace it.

An influx of breweries and tattoo parlors and thrift shops, after all, have been beneficial for the economy and have boosted the vibrancy of the city, even if we don’t necessarily understand it. And the Couv’s hipster bona fides are better for the area than, say, a huge oil terminal.

So, we shall follow the lead of McEnerny-Ogle and welcome this realization that Vancouver has an enclave of millennials who appreciate creativity, intelligence and witty banter. As the mayor-to-be said: “We’re glad the hipsters are with us. And, you know, I’ll have to consider getting a tattoo.”