Unofficial guide to “hipsterhoods” of the Rust Belt (UPDATED)



UPDATED on 10/13/15 to include Rust Belt cities of all sizes.

The term “hipster” stirs up a myriad of images and connotations including but not limited to hippie. modern yuppie, bohemian, urban bohemian, counter-culture, geek, etc.  Here is a condensed version of the Urban Dictionary’s rather lengthy definition of “hipster:”

“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 be seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses. Both hipster men and women sport similar androgynous hair styles that include combinations of messy shag cuts and asymmetric side-swept bangs. Such styles are often associated with the work of creative stylists at urban salons, and are usually too “edgy” for the culturally-sheltered mainstream consumer. 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 math and sciences, which also require certain creative analytical thinking abilities. Consequently many hipsters tend to have jobs in the music, art, and fashion industries. It is a myth that most hipsters are unemployed and live off of their parent’s trust funds.”

“Although hipsters are technically conformists within their own subculture, in comparison to the much larger mainstream mass, they are pioneers and leaders of the latest cultural trends and ideals. For example, the surge of jeans made to look old and worn (i.e. “distressed”), that have become prevalent at stores such as The Gap, American Eagle, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Hollister, were originally paraded by hipsters who shopped in thrift stores years before such clothing items were mass-produced and sold to the mainstream consumer. The true irony here is that many of the detractors of hipster culture are in fact unknowingly following a path that hipsters have carved out years before them. This phenomena also applies to music as well, as many bands have become successful and known to mainstream audiences only because hipsters first found and listened to them as early-adopters of new culture. Once certain concepts of fashion and music have reached mainstream audiences, hipsters move on to something new and improved.”

Source: Urban Dictionary


Now that we have defined “hipster” in near-book length, there are a number of neighborhoods in cities across the country that have become what I term “hiphoods.” Some of the best know ones are Wicker Park in Chicago, Williamsburg  in Brooklyn, the Mission District in San Francisco, North Williams Avenue in Portland, and Silver Lake in L.A. Despite the media concentrating on the larger, more well-known hipster neighborhoods, many smaller and mid-sized urban centers have hipster neighborhoods in them, only they don’t get as much press.


Delmar Loop – Source:

While there are many positive urban planning and redevelopment aspects of this cultural trend, there are also some very real social equity concerns that must be considered and addressed. In many, if not most cases, current hipster neighborhoods were suffering prior to being discovered. While revitalization of a depressed community is reason to celebrate, it can come at a cost – primarily gentrification, which can force those eking out a living in the neighborhood prior to the new hipster homesteader’s arrival, to move because they can no longer afford the rising rents or property values.



This scenario is hardly just, as those who stuck out the hard times are often unable to enjoy the benefits of the neighborhood’s new-found popularity and economic upturn. As a result, tensions can rise as the area gains popularity. Potential remedies include adopting a housing affordability plan, requiring a certain percentage of affordable housing as part of new and redevelopment projects (a.k.a. below-market rate ordinance), developing resident-controlled housing opportunities, adjusting tax policies/laws, and establishing community land trusts.

Mass Ave - Source:

Mass Ave – Source:

In an attempt to identify as many hipster havens as possible in the Rust Belt, a number of resources were utilized, including social and traditional media, internet websites, and blogs from around the region and country, Here’s the list of hip(ster)hoods for a number of Rust Belt cities. Given that this may not be an exhaustive list and that new hipster havens can quickly sprout and propagate, any additions or corrections to the list are most welcome. Cheers!


Lower Lawrenceville – Source:


Lowertown- Source:

Other sources (aside from personal knowledge):

This entry was posted in adaptive reuse, architecture, art, beer, branding, brewpubs, cities, civility, coffee shops/cafes, culture, economic development, economic gardening, economics, entrepreneurship, historic preservation, history, humanity, inclusiveness, land use, placemaking, planning, revitalization, Small business, social equity, Social media, spatial design, technology, third places, urban planning, zoning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Unofficial guide to “hipsterhoods” of the Rust Belt (UPDATED)

  1. There are many innovations involving “revitalization of a depressed community” which would not happen there, and like that, without being completely predicated on real estate prices for purchase or rental which are very low because of the [economic] depression there. I’d like to take these places, these innovations, and the people doing them there, put them in a bag (figuratively speaking), set them aside, and ask them, okay, what would you do to make this innovation if you couldn’t get the real estate for so cheap?


  2. Pingback: The In-Between Hipsterhoods | Price Tags

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