There is Only Chaos #5: The Hipster – A Borough’s Best Friend?

Is the coffee-shop haunting hipster crowd underappreciated?


If you’ve lived in London for a long enough period of time you’ve almost certainly noticed the fairly dramatic changes to Hackney over the last few years.  It wasn’t an aeon ago that Hackney embodied more or less the opposite of what it stands for today. Less than a decade has passed since walking a dog in London Fields involved the sight of scrap metal and rotting food.  These days it involves health food retailers and coffee shops filled with hipsters.  The hipsters seem to be the key.

This group of middle-class urban millennials in tight jeans, lensless glasses and a taste for neo-liberal ideologies, with their fat free lattes, get a lot of flak from just about everyone else who are aware of their existence.  But how do you criticise a group of people who seem to have breathed new life into a part of London with a well-embedded reputation for stagnation?

Hackney’s property prices have skyrocket in the recent years, with a 17% rise in the last year alone according to the Guardian.  While that is a dishearteningly steep incline for anyone looking at the borough, it does come from a significant amount of urban development, and an unexpected number of successful businesses in the area. You can’t fail to notice the sudden leaps upward that coincided with a steady migration of hipsters out of locations like Shoreditch, still known for its up-and-coming, in-the-scene culture and atmosphere.

The E5 Bakery is a recent addition to Mentmore Terrance and frequently has a queue for the door, despite a loaf of bread starting at £3.20.  Broadway Market, after a necessary revival since 2004, has become a Saturday-shopping powerhouse and hotspot for trendy millenials looking for vintage fashion, independent retailers, and cheese.  There’s an alarming amount of cheese for sale.  The newly opened Ziferblat on Old Street, a Russian chain of cafes where you quite literally pay for your time, speaks volumes about the heel-turn of focus that the borough has undergone.  Who else but the young and fashionable would flock, in droves, to these kind of gimmick-based outlets?  Certainly not the poor and downtrodden denizens of London, Hackney was previously known for.

And is this rapid development and image-overhaul a bad thing?  Surely not.  It’s happening in other parts of London, too.  Lambeth seems to be the next target. Despite any and all objections to the character and culture of this demographic, it’s hard to argue against the idea that they seem to have an incredibly positive effect on the areas they choose to inhabit.  If the hipster as a person is typified by shallow consumerism, extremely vague or outright uninformed political philosophy, and questionable choices in style; they seem to have achieved, apparently by sheer presence and caffeine addiction alone, the kind of transformative affect on their surroundings that any person with political power would sacrifice their first born for.


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