So, hipsters. First, they conquered Brooklyn. Then they captured the suburbs. And now, hipsters have moved on to Paris and have absolutely ruined it. Perhaps this was inevitable, what with the introduction last year of the phrase “très Brooklyn” and the numerous New York Times Styles pieces centered around the new Parisian desire to emulate all things Brooklyn. But prior to this weekend, I hadn’t realized just how dire the situation had gotten in Paris. Sure, I knew hipsters were there, but I hadn’t realized that Paris was now destroyed. Luckily, though, there was a very informative editorial about Paris’s destruction in the Times this weekend, written by a
Paris native former Brooklyn resident who has lived in Paris for two years, who laments the city’s golden age the way only a native recent transplant can.
Thomas Chatterton Williams moved with his wife to Paris in 2011. The two settled in Pigalle, a neighborhood traditionally known for being the red-light district of Paris, a place that—even in 2011—Williams writes, “remained funky in the original sense of the term. In addition to cigarette smoke and baking bread, there was the whiff of dirt and sex in the air.” And there were other notable things besides the fragrant air, Williams also had frequent encounters with transsexual hookers, encounters which (“frankly”) made Williams “uncomfortable.” But all that funkiness is disappearing, writes Williams, and is being replaced by upscale cocktail bars and an influx of former NYU students. Not NYU students! Anything but that!
Really, far be it from me to say that NYU students don’t mean the coming of the apocalypse (full disclosure: I, like Williams(!), am a former NYU student), but the end-times that Williams is predicting isn’t one that has to do with the most troubling aspects of gentrification, namely, sky-rocketing rents or the influx of chain coffee houses, but instead has to do with what he calls “the banal globalization of hipster good taste.” Williams is upset that he moved all the way from
Park Slope Bushwick* to Paris, only to find that “the brunch is all the same.” Which, I just don’t get how surprised someone can pretend to be, in this day and age, to find out that there is a great deal of commonality in the major cities of America and Western Europe. Even Tom Friedman knows about globalization, and he gets all his information on world affairs from cab drivers and his daughter’s college roommates. And also, it’s pretty disingenuous for Williams to claim that the introduction of kale frittatas to Paris or Stockholm or wherever is in any way more damaging to the local cuisine than the introduction of Japanese food has been to New York. Paris isn’t going to succumb to some sort of Pinterest makeover just because there’s a different kind of food and cocktail trend happening. But mostly, it seems particularly strange to get told—by someone who has only lived in Paris for two years—that Paris is going to hell, and it’s all the fault of Brooklyn hipsters. You can blame a whole lot of things on Brooklyn hipsters, but blaming them for gentrifying Pigalle is a bit of a stretch.
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*Correction: Thomas Chatterton Williams lived in Bushwick, not Park Slope, before moving to Paris.