No, probably not. In spite the Times‘ recent reports of of burgers topped with “applewood bacon and Roquefort cheese,” and turkey burgers made from meat that is “free range, of course” — and in spite of its new status as “a mecca for young professionals” — D.C. still has a long way to go before people will earnestly think of it as in any way a desirable hipster destination. Well, people other than Forbes, who notably included H Street list of “20 Best Hipster Neighborhoods” this past fall.
But is it, at least, getting kind of, sort of cool? Slowly losing its reputation as a place where even young people lucky enough to have job offers are often scared to move because there will be nothing fun to do there, ever? No longer the urban nightlife equivalent of your dad trying out a snazzy new hat? Perhaps. And this, the Times explains, is largely due to the social influence of hipster-in-chief Barack Obama.
Which makes a certain degree of sense. Presidents do tend to shape the social life of the city during their time in office (arguably a big factor in its perennial square-dom), and given Bill Clinton’s “love of jazz and late-night pizza policy sessions” and George W. Bush’s penchant for country music on the South lawn, Obama’s maybe not competing with a lot in the hip department.
But how, then, did he bring about what the Times calls a “population boom and heightened hipness quotient” (and what other people call an influx that is systematically raising rents and driving out the city’s African-American population)? Was it by “listening to Nicki Minaji on his iPod” or recently affirming via press conference that he “like[s] a good party?” No, it was just becuase his administraiton hired a ton of young people. 61% of D.C.’s 22 to 34-year-olds now work for the federal government, and as such, have created a higher demand for reasonably interesting restaurants and bars.
Which is a very good thing! Young people need jobs, I hear. But employed, beer-drinking, food-eating youths do not necessarily a hip city make. After all, this is a city where (I’m pretty sure) cameras watch you everywhere you go! And even a young Chicago native the Times spoke with “was not convinced that the city is truly hip.” Chicago! If those people don’t think you’re cool, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Granted, D.C. does have cell phone reception in the subway and a large portion of the world’s great art, both of which are actually great. But nonetheless, perceived coolness typically (or ideally) focuses on the creation of something culturally new, or the existence of any factor other than professional obligation that might draw new residents to the city. If we’re being fair, though, the Times maybe isn’t totally off-base here. Things in D.C. are undoubtedly much cooler than they would have been if, say, an aging Mormon and a PX90 freak had moved in to town. Plus, those burgers do sound pretty good.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.