Lavish and Squalor, Queen St (top photo)
Popular-taste isn’t what it used to be – and in a great many ways this is a good thing. More and more diversity of flavours and aesthetics, even in something like street-level retail, can often serve to make life more visually entertaining, at very least – even if the offered array does not personally appeal.
But every so often a particular cultural demographic coalesces in a strong way which is still (thankfully) beyond the ability of the marketing gods to artificially create – and when it’s especially cool and interesting, it even defies many corporate bids for cooption, because it’s very character is other-than big-market impersonal and mass-production.
I remain very fond of the darkling theme – which had prominent early beats in early sci-fi (Bradbury!) the comic strip and later television series of the Addams family, and was developed much further in the eighties pre-goth (but only because not yet so-named) era. Neil Gaiman, Tim Burton and Guillermo Del Toro are all bright lights here – proving this subculture vital to this day.
But I have to hand it to the hipsters – they really have got something very funky going – and not only are they launching some ridiculously cool businesses of their own, they are also keeping a lot of old retail traditions alive, that looked to be utterly doomed, just a few years ago. New growth in fallow fields!
Junction of old and new
Barbershops are an oft-discussed beneficiary (even beard treatments and scalp massages are making a big comeback) – but there are also fantastic used book shops, and a myriad of places which are somewhere in-between junk-shops and antique stores (without the boutique pricing) which have started to pop-up again, after decades of slow-decline.
Naturally, areas which are still comparatively affordable see the most vital activity – the Junction triangle is especially nifty lately – enjoying a veritable hipster renaissance – but for the daring even Queen St – despite it’s now terrifying rents, justifies the risk by virtue of splendid (destination) street-traffic.
All over town now, in odd pockets, we find custom bicycle makers – hat stores and haberdasheries resurgent – wild new high-design furniture from traditional-joinery carpenters, or even a hammer and tong metalsmith – galleries for fine original photography – in fact, more independent street-level galleries of every sort – all lead by a vanguard of wildly eccentric cafes and restaurants. Food and clothing and art, all with the human touch.
Things made not simply for blind unthinking consumption, but for savouring.
Enjoying simple pleasure in life is incredibly important stuff, under-discussed, especially in still weirdly sanctimonious and puritanical North America – where we’ve somehow contrived it so that even the atheists think everyone else’s ongoing sin is designed most especially to vex them, personally.
It has to be chill-time at least some of the time. Strong action comes not from pyrrhic exhaustion, but stillness!
Definitely an emporium
Read those poems aloud. Play frisbee. Take that trip by bike, or on foot.
Oil that beard! Enjoy that soothing aromatic bubble-bath!
And take your time with my Americano – no problem, I really do like the local artist you’re exhibiting this month – and in any case, I haven’t yet finished picking out my penny-candy!
Standardized cheap and speedy is for soulless machines.
Laughable at times? Well sure they are, that is an inevitable function of youth (and let’s face-it, we all know they’re far less ridiculous than most of their elders were, on the grand scale).
But I vote hipster-YES – emphatically, every time!
What you do AND how you do it.
Smiling and open wins anyhow. Add that little bit of style – and suddenly it also swings and giggles.