November 2007


Hipster Hip

Hipster PortlanderThis isn’t my first visit to Portland, but it’s the first time I’ve been here and been in the right part of town.

As you may (or may not) recall, I’m staying at the Ace Hotel in Portland, which, in addition to having “European Style” rooms, is exactly one block south of the world famous Powell’s Books—a shop I’ve been to before. However, the last time I was here, I’d pricelined Portland and was staying at the Doubletree (since moved/closed/rebranded), which while downtown, isn’t really downtown—that and I had a car, which meant I was doomed to see the city incorrectly.

Ace HotelI can safely say, after only two nights in Portland, that Portland is the hippest hipster city I’ve ever been in, and I seem to be in the epicenter of the hipness.

My initial awareness of this was while riding the red line from the airport to the city center. Some guys got on and gave off the appearance of being gang-like. But they weren’t—I realized that although some of the clothing I would normally associate with gangs, the clothing clearly had other meanings in this context and I was a bit befuddled.

Later Saturday night, I headed over to the Silverado, a gay bar located a couple blocks west of the Ace, where I discovered that the gay subcultures included guys who dressed this way—which I’ve come to realize copies gang styles without actually being gang. It’s just cool.

Guys wear hats—of all kinds; Brown clothing is popular (who knew, I’m semi-hipster—I’ve been increasing the quantity of brown in my clothing of late!); Facial hair is great, especially if it looks goofy; and Skateboard Kids talk to men in suits while hanging out.

Hung Far Low Not only that, but most of my observations of this hipster culture were on Sunday. Downtown, city center. Since getting to my hotel, I haven’t ventured more than a mile and a half in any given direction because I’ve been able to find everything I need or want: cool coffee shops, bookstores, art, public spaces, bars, and restaurants.

When I was growing up, downtown Denver was never active on Sundays; Downtown Indianapolis is a ghost town (and not just on Sundays); and over in Europe, Frankfurt is a city that manages to have zero character–regardless of the day of the week.

Portland, meanwhile, figured out how to do it right: the urban center has a soul.

And not only that I could live here.

3 comments to Hipster Hip

  • You’re killing me.

    The longer I’m away from Portland, the more I love it. And then I console myself that I’m probably idealizing it and its buzzing downtown and its great food and POWELLS omigod Powells.

    And then you go and remind me that it really is that great.

    But even if I don’t get to enjoy it, I’m glad you did.

  • Yes, Portland is indeed hip, and quite a beautiful place.

    However, the often rainy and overcast skies would drive me crazy! I like sunshine.

  • @blythe: you’re not idealizing it — I had a fantastic time there. Have you seen Paranoid Park (or my mini-review of it, that i just posted?)

    @Cameron: I’m not a fan of cloudy weather either — it was brilliant while I was there. On the other hand, brussels is cloudy today.