From Hip to Zip
On the last Saturday before Daylight Savings Time ended, a motley crew was sitting around the bar at the Lakeview Lounge, watching the sun rise over Sloan's Lake and lamenting how the sun has set on too many Denver watering holes. Only a handful of true dives remain in this town — the Lakeview, for example, where the legs of bar stools supporting decades of drinkers have worn deep holes in the linoleum. Over the past year, some of our favorite bars have been the focus of facelifts or renovation jobs so drastic that they're mere shadows of their former skanky selves, and certainly no longer qualify as dives. The Squire Lounge on East Colfax, once the diviest of them all, recently got such a facelift, and while it's hard not to appreciate the new bathrooms, the place now seems flush with success. The Old Curtis Street Tavern downtown has turned into the Curtis Club, with an appropriately clubby, upscale atmosphere. A great venue — but not the dive we loved.
Hipsters, we muttered into our beers. Dive bars have been ruined by hipsters.
What else have they ruined? According to an essay in the New York Times this weekend, titled "How Hipsters Ruined Paris," hipsters have also been a blight on the City of Light. "Too much of modern urban life revolves around never feeling less than fully at ease," writes Thomas Chatterton Williams. "The logical extension is to 'curate' our urban spaces like style blogs or Pinterest boards representing a single, self-satisfied and extremely sheltered expression of middle- and upper-middle-class sensibility."
Denver was once known as Paris on the Platte, back at the turn of the last century, when Mayor Robert Speer wanted to turn this cowtown into a more cosmopolitan, sophisticated city. And he succeeded: Denver grew into one of the "cool cities" that attracted young adults in record numbers during the most recent recession; between 2008 and 2010, U.S. Census Bureau statistics showed that Denver was the top gainer of young adults, a fact that city boosters never tire of touting. And what were we gaining? Hipsters. Although we haven't yet gotten to the critical mass (mess?) of Paris, where the charming area once called Place Pigalle is now known as South Pigalle, and even SoPi, a godawful idea was recently floated to hip up the image of Five Points, one of the last neighborhoods in the city to be gentrified, by calling it FiDo.
Oh, the irony. (Hipsters love irony.) The term "hipster" grew out of jazz — Five Points was the center of jazz not just in Denver, but the entire Rocky Mountain West — as musicians used "hep" to describe anyone at the forefront of the culture emerging from jazz, usually an anyone who was black. By the late 1930s, with the rise of swing, "hip" replaced "hep." Clarinetist Artie Shaw described Bing Crosby as "the first hip white person born in the United States."
Which should have been a clue that trouble lay ahead.
Denver was at ground zero for the next evolution of hipsters, as Jack Kerouac hit the road and landed in this city, where he met Neal Cassady and soon had a merry band of hipsters and Beats, including poet Allen Ginsberg. "The hipster world that Kerouac and Ginsberg drifted in and out of from the mid-1940s to the early-1950s was an amorphous movement without ideology, more a pose than an attitude; a way of 'being' without attempting to explain why," writes Marty Jezer in The Dark Ages: Life in the United States 1945-1960. "Hipsters themselves were not about to supply explanations. Their language, limited as it was, was sufficiently obscure to defy translation into everyday speech. Their rejection of the commonplace was so complete that they could barely acknowledge reality."
And today's hipster? According to the Urban Dictionary: "Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.... Although 'hipsterism' is really a state of mind, it is also often intertwined with distinct fashion sensibilities. Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick-rimmed glasses. The 'effortless cool' urban bohemian look of a hipster is exemplified in Urban Outfitters and American Apparel ads which cater towards the hipster demographic. Despite misconceptions based on their aesthetic tastes, hipsters tend to be well educated and often have liberal arts degrees, or degrees in maths and sciences, which also require certain creative analytical thinking abilities."
That definition is seven years old. Today hipsters are everywhere, ruining everything from Paris to panini. At the end of "How Hipsters Ruined Paris," Williams notes: "People say you had to be in Paris in the '20s or New York in the '80s. The sad truth of our contemporary moment seems to be only that you no longer need to be anywhere in particular anymore.
"The brunch is all the same."
As the sun rose higher, so did our ire. Here's our list of Fifteen Things That Hipsters Have Ruined, as it poured out over too many beers. None of them PBR.
15. Cheap beers, aka "douchejuice" Especially Pabst Blue Ribbon: Once hipsters discovered it, cheap beer was no longer cheap.
14. The term "douchebag"
And all of its overused variations, including "douchy," when the original meaning is lost to age-old hygiene manuals.
Yes, it's a time-honored craft. But do we really need to knit cozies for our water bottles?
When we line up for hours just to get a plate of fancy French toast, the yolk's on us.
11. Flannel shirts
They're great in the mountains, but they make a city look hootenanny-ready.
10. Men's hats
The porkpie look was bad enough, but those badly knit caps?
9. Message T-shirts
Wear-it-yourself billboards used to have meaning. On hipsters, they're simply demeaning.
8. Urban chicken farming
Animal shelters wish wannabe urban farmers who abandon chickens would get clucked.
7. Thrift stores
Leave the bargains to the shoppers who really need them.
6. The moustache
A living accessory so abused, it deserves its own category.
5. Facial hair in general
Fads are hair today, gone tomorrow.
4. Fixies, ten-speeds and cruisers
A bicycle is a means of transportation, not a reverse status symbol.
The medium is no longer the message.
2. Dive bars
You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.