Ha, brilliant! The word “gentrification” has itself been gentrified. In London right now, according to the Telegraph, it’s all about the “Shoreditchification” of formerly downmarket areas. And like all the best neologisms, the term is instantly comprehensible. To “Shoreditchify” an area is to fill it with unnecessarily bespectacled girls and Karamazov-bearded youths with ill-defined “creative” jobs and clothes two sizes too small.
Crack dens become galleries for retro-inspired graphic art. Cheap, ethnic restaurants selling hi-cal food close down and cheap, ethnic vans selling hi-cal food appear. Local shops are replaced by pop-ups selling vintage T-shirts. The low-paid, who can’t afford “artisanal toast”, are economically cleansed. And then, having made the area attractive to the moneyed bourgeoisie, the hipsters are themselves quickly driven out and swarm off to ruin some other formerly liminal postcode. Like the circle of life from The Lion King, only with more fixed-gear bicycles.
There are copious ironies here. The case against the creeping tide of value-adding irony was made by Alex Proud, the gallerist and entrepreneur who helped turn Camden into a commercialised cultural theme park. The defensive counterblast was fired by a Vice journalist with the perfect hipster name of Aleks Eror, who claimed that his fellow “lowly paid creative types” were as much the victims as the indigenous community when “our brand of ‘cool’ gets colonised”. Oh, how we laugh about this sort of thing in blessedly unfashionable south London.
The so-called debate about gentrification only ever takes place among those implicated in the process. It’s never an economic or moral argument, just a selfish one in which guilt battles annoyance. And increasingly it’s about speed and taste. Proud’s main beef with Shoreditchification is that he doesn’t like moustaches and he doesn’t like the rapidity with which neighbourhoods can be marked up and sold on at a premium. Give me farmers’ markets and flat whites, oh Lord, but only at a pace I approve.
Hipsters, though, are only a means of delivering London’s febrile inflationary growth, mere window-dressing for speculation and property mania. And the hipster bubble is surely about to burst: when the Telegraph identifies an urban trend, it is almost certainly over. Soon a generation will wake and realise it no longer feels trendy to dress as a 19th century lumberjack or Tank Girl.
And then? Well, what with The Wolf of Wall Street on screen and American Psycho on stage and the new bolshiness of bankers, I think the age of the neo-yuppie is nigh. The look will be business-like, piranha-toothed and buttoned up but the gentrification will be naked, until the inevitable crash comes. At least hipsters pretended to care about value as well as price.
Nick Curtis - The Evening Standard
How absurd, the struggle to learn to be silent in another language.
— Samuel Beckett