Berlin Shoos its Hipsters Out

Clara Mazuir, traduit par Laura-Lise Reymond et Jane Zhang
5 Février 2013

Trendy, bobo, avant-garde, chic non-conformers – otherwise known as hipsters. They have disseminated across Berlin, but their mass settlement comes with consequences. In hipster-caused gentrifying districts, they have become the stigmatized targets of local anti-hipster groups. Le Journal International met with Julie Chrétiennot, a French student in Berlin, to seek her views on Berlin hipsters.

Berlin Shoos its Hipsters Out
Berlin: a young and trendy underground city and a multicultural epicenter of arts and culture. As Mayor Klaus Wowereit puts it, « Berlin is poor but sexy ». About ten years ago, the city welcomed its first hipsters. As a student in Berlin, Julie Chrétiennot describes hipsters as « mostly thin people with style; guys who wear skinny jeans, and girls who like to improvise improvise. They wear sunglasses frames as glasses and hand bags, often cloth bags. » While this is just a physical description of the fashion fad, the trend goes further. Being hipster comes with an attitude, a lifestyle. « They usually go biking and drink club Mate, a hype and energizing drink from South America. They generally hang out in the cool underground spots: dive bars and electro clubs, usually in artsy districts». Yet, this harmless-sounding lifestyle is the root of an anti-hipster movement spreading across town.

No f*cking American hipsters

Walking across Berlin, one may notice bar signs saying: « No fucking American hipsters ». Some cafes have blocked their front entrance with a barrier so that bobo mothers can’t wheel in a stroller  of baby hipsters. All this hate and refusal because hipsters brought to Berlin certain overly-rpriced organic stores and hip coffee shops…

Neukölln, for instance, a popular district of South-East Berlin, has become host to the hipster virus. The now-trendy area has caught the eye and wallets of the wealthy upper-class, rapidly driving up rent prices. All thanks to the hipsters.

At least, that’s what locals believe. Following the transformation of districts like Kreuzberg, middle-class residents, prey to the vicious cycle of gentrification, would gradually be displaced from the downtown area. For Julie, these locals are: « small extreme leftist groups. They are anti-tourists, so they criticize the hipsters. Observing the trend, hipsters move into hip, up-and-coming districts, raising real estate demand. And in Berlin, find a place to live is hell. Some people have had to leave their neighborhood because housing prices have increased significantly. » According to Julie, the most obvious phenomenon can be found in Prenzlauerberg, where the last generation’s gentrification has left « bobos in their forties who can now afford the very high rents ». 

A paradox subsists

Because of its traditionally low prices and unique history, Berlin is attracting more and more tourists and young people, which results in constantly increasing rent prices. Julie notes that « many apartment buildings have been converted into luxury hotels or rooms for tourists ». Many residents don’t have any choice but to leave their hipster-ridden neighborhoods. In some districts, Berliners are forced to move every week as their « districts lose their original soul ».

The anti-hipster wave began about five years ago, and is growing immensely today. A paradox prevails: Are hipsters benefiting the city by making it trendier? Or are they rendering it inaccessible to locals? These stylish young folks probably do not deserve such merit. According to Julie, the core issue is the intensity and rapidity of change in the city’s atmosphere. Berlin has become so tourist-ridden this past decade that it is quickly losing its authenticity. And nostalgic locals want their old Berlin back. 

Is Hipster the new mainstream?

Berlin Shoos its Hipsters Out
Hipsters stand out with their meticulously hand-picked fashion choices. Yet, despite their non-conformist attitude, they all seem to look the same.  Are they really underground, or are they the epitome of mainstream? One thing is certain: being called a hipster is not a good thing, as illustrated by Berlin’s harsh graffiti tags. When it’s not « Berlin I don’t love you », it’s « Kill the hipsters ». This sentiment, held by certain locals, has become the manifesto of certain media, including certain self-proclaimed anti-hipster blogs and websites. Anti-hipster miscellanea include the popular video « Shit expat Berliners say », a parody of Berlin hipsters. But if the mainstream keeps pointing fingers of accuse at hipster, however anti-conformist they may be, the battle will never stop.