Thank You, Hipsters, For Improving My Family’s Quality Of Life

Feature Image Attribution: Luca Rossato @ Flickr

I just read this article on Slate.com wherein a trendy 30-something embraces his hipster identity and defends hipsterism, which has become an object of evermore tiresome mockery and derision.

I was thinking about writing a defense of hipsters myself, because I don’t see why people hate them so much.

Would it be better if everyone ate at Chipotle and wore Dockers and just stopped being so pretentious?

Anyway, I remembered that I already wrote the thank-you to hipsters, about a year ago, in my hyper-local paper San Diego Uptown News. Here it is:

If you live Uptown and have the Internet, you probably saw that North Park made it onto the inaugural Forbes.com “America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods” list.

I was alerted to this accolade when my brother-in-law posted the list on Facebook so he could gloat that his L.A. ‘hood of Silver Lake was deemed hippest in the land, at which notion I immediately scoffed. Because Forbes? Really?

That’s where you look for confirmation of your hipster cred?

But then I scrolled through the list, and saw that there, in the thirteenth position, was a photo of two icons I could hit with a rock from my house: the North Park sign straddling University Avenue, and the Birch North Park Theater.

I ignored the irony of the prominently featured Starbucks in the picture, and commenced digitally chanting “WE’RE NUMBER 13! WE’RE NUMBER 13!” via my own Facebook status.

Then I started wondering what the author of the list had meant by “hipster neighborhoods.” Was Forbes really impressed by the number of young adults with ill-fitting pants and fixed-gear bikes in North Park? Was I?

My ambivalence about the term “hipster” and the slippery connotations behind it sent me back into the article, looking for an explanation of its methodology.

It turns out that the criteria for the list were a bit more substantive than the cliché of skinny jeans and Pabst Blue Ribbon (which the author nonetheless mentioned).

They took into account things like walkability, coffee shops, food trucks, farmers markets, locally owned bars and restaurants, and the percentage of residents who work in artistic occupations.

Oh. So the things that make North Park (and other Uptown neighborhoods, of course) a pleasant place to live and raise a family were what qualified it as hip.

Last Sunday, after my wife brought home her haul from the Hillcrest Farmers Market, we strolled with the kids to the Bud Kearns pool at Morley Field and splashed around for a couple hours.

After that, we walked over to Babycakes by the tennis courts and scarfed down locally owned pastries while watching some doubles tournament action.

Hey, I thought, we’re hipsters!

But I didn’t really feel like a hipster.

I think of hipsters as being trendy, disaffected, and subversive.

And I mean that in the best possible way.

Our Sunday outing, on the other hand, was more like a trip back in time, to some idealized small town, where the sidewalks lead to worthwhile destinations, people interact with one another without any attitude or artifice, and local merchants cheerfully provide you with unique goods.

It was like a culturally diverse Mayberry, but with more tattoos.

I have to admit that, on some level, I’ve kidded myself that I could be at least a fraction as hip as the cool kids slouching down University Ave.

I own two fedoras.

I grew a moustache last year.

And I have a fixie in my garage.

But the hats make me look like an Austrian businessman and a square dad from the fifties, respectively.

The mustache was for charity, and it just made me look like a cop.

I only ride the fixie at the Velodrome, because why the hell would you not want gears and brakes when riding your bike on the street? I tried on some skinny jeans once and embarrassed myself even though I never wore them out of the dressing room stall.

While it’s become popular to heap mockery on young bohemians for their dedication to the ironically predictable trappings of nonconformity, I feel like their presence helps keep our neighborhoods eclectic and vibrant.

If everyone in North Park dressed like a middle-aged parent for whom comfort is the greatest priority, there might be fewer brew pubs and locally-sourced vegan cake-pop trucks, and more Paneras and Tilted Kilts.

I can accept the hipster label if it means living in a fantasy version of old-time urban America instead of the suburban dystopia that’s the reality for most families.

Instead of shying away from a label that’s become passé and even a term of disdain, we should thank hipsters for keeping Uptown weird.