Pitchfork at Union Park in 2006 (Tribune file )
Travel + Leisure magazine's latest list almost caused me to pee my skinny jeans and spit out PBR all over my Bon Iver record in disgust. That's because Chicago was named only the 14th-best city in the U.S. for hipsters—a criminally low rating.
Sure, one city of Portland is an obvious choice for Capital of Hipster Cool, but two of them? That's right, Portland, Maine, grabbed the No. 5 spot. What, did lobster fishing become the new dumpster diving?
Also landing in the Top 10 were cities I forgot existed (Providence, R.I.) and cities that would be awfully hard to get to on a fixie bike (San Juan, Puerto Rico).
Now, a couple of important caveats:
1. No cool person under the age of 35 has ever read Travel + Leisure. It's the type of rag you'd thumb through in your dentist's waiting room after realizing that issue of Entertainment Weekly is from April 2009. Surveying T+L readers about hipster cities is like asking Guns & Ammo subscribers to vote for their favorite vegan restaurants.
2. Hipster, of course, is a pejorative for a certain type of urban young person who remains ill-defined to the point of absurdity. There are countless Tumblrs, memes and YouTube clips devoted to making fun of them, yet ask 100 people what a hipster is and you're likely to get 90 different answers. Travel + Leisure clearly has trouble defining hipster as well, saying "they sport vintage bowling shoes and the latest tech gear—but know the best places to eat and drink." I'm pretty sure a single iPhone-clutching, old bowling shoe-wearing foodie doesn't actually exist on this planet.
That said, I think most of us can agree on a very loose classification of hipster (even if none of us will admit to being one ourselves).
They're the girls who groom like indie darling Zooey Deschanel or the guys who grow out their ironic facial hair until they could double as bartenders from the Old West. They're the art-school kids with tiny birds or lyrics from Smiths songs tattooed on their arms, the fixie riders with Chrome messenger bags and a hatred for stopping at red lights, or the neo-bohemians with the thick-rimmed glasses who really want everyone on the Blue Line to see that they're reading Charles Bukowski.
Under this admittedly reductive definition, Chicago should easily be in the Top 5, along with Portland, Ore.; Brooklyn; Austin; and San Francisco.
We boast several solid hipster-friendly neighborhoods in Logan Square, Ukrainian Village, Pilsen and Avondale that are full of vegan restaurants, craft beer bars, coffee shops that aren't Starbucks, art galleries, thrift stores and a ton of venues for indie-rock concerts, guerrilla theater and burlesque shows. Some of these places even have hipster-baiting names such as Cafe Mustache and The Owl. (Sorry, but Wicker Park is Lincoln Park for people who opt for Urban Outfitters over Nordstrom.)
We've got a booming biking community—Milwaukee Avenue might as well be called the Hipster Highway in the summertime, and the monthly Critical Mass ride is always crowded.
Chicago also has bragging rights to cooler-than-thou music fest Pitchfork and so-indie-it-hurts alternative underground fest, Bitchpork.
I rest my case. The only problem? Local hipsters might read this column and decide Chicago is "over" and all move to Milwaukee. Oops.
RYAN SMITH IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.