On the move: battle of the 'hipster cities'

A 'hipster index' derived from the number of vegan eateries, coffee shops, tattoo studios, vintage boutiques and record stores per 100,000 city residents has resulted in the British seaside city of Brighton being judged the world's 'most hipster city'

Sun loungers on Brighton Beach. Pixabay
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Last weekend, lost among a barrage of more serious events, the news dropped that Brighton and Hove, the seaside city in southern England, is now officially the world's most "hipster" city. It has beaten Portland, Oregon, in the United States, into second place. Anyone who has seen the show Portlandia will know that this is a big deal, and many Britons will be surprised.

The study, carried out by Movehub, a relocation specialist, created a Global Hipster Index by combining the number of vegan restaurants, coffee shops, tattoo studios, vintage clothes emporiums and record stores per 100,000 city residents, then ranking them. Cities with populations of less than 150,000 were excluded. Next on the hipster list after Portland sit Salt Lake City, Seattle and Lisbon, and the next UK city on the list is Manchester, at number 27. Also notable at numbers 6, 7 and 8 are the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando.

As someone with homes in Brighton and Portland, I’ve been thinking this week about which one most deserves the title, bearing in mind that “hipster” doesn’t necessarily mean “cool”, and can often mean self-conscious, neurotic and pretentious.

The last time I was in Brighton, last year, I thought it looked grubby and on the decline thanks to a council that’s as neglectful of the city’s heritage as it is keen to embrace unnecessary and ugly modern additions. Despite the millions of pounds brought in annually by tourists, the shabby and the crass seem to be gaining ground. Yet brilliant vintage clothes stores, a high number of independent record shops and a hard core of vegan restaurants remain, and its coffee shops keep getting better. The coffee in Brighton is now almost as good as Portland.

A carousel on Brighton beach. Pixabay

In truth, Brighton was always trendy, and its big student population will hopefully keep it that way. I spent my teenage years in this city and found it exhilarating, although the fresh sea air had a lot to do with this. I'm still not sure it is the hippest city in the world. Shoreditch in London, where I grew up, is surely hipper, although its not being a city and its high population density has pushed it off the chart.

While being a very different city geographically – as with most American cities, Portland is far more suburban – there are lots of similarities to Brighton: brightly-coloured houses, fresh air, politically-charged residents, great street art and a high number of independent shops leading the charge against mainstream banality. In both places, you feel somewhat tragic asking for the Wi-Fi password.

White Stage sign in Portland, Oregon.

Up the road from my house in Southeast Portland's Mt Scott-Arleta, there's a shop dedicated to cupcakes and a brilliant cafe called Space Monkey Coffee. The coffee is as good as the name suggests; perhaps better. Down the road is Woodstock, which is also as cool as it sounds, and further into town are restaurants such as Marukin Ramen, that only exist in Portland and Tokyo. It's also a better city than Brighton for cycling, being mostly flat – although the distances are longer.

Brighton and Hove only beat Portland by a thousandth of one per cent – with a total Hipster Index Score of 8.1632 compared to Portland’s 8.1631. Brighton just better keep on keeping on: I’ll report more on Portland later.


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