How does Södermalm score on the hipster scale?
Hipster (n): a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion)
Origin of Hipster
First Known Use: 1940
Rhymes with Hipster
The passage above is from the Merriam-Webster encyclopaedia and among the comments online, one Elena Maria says: “I have seen it used a lot and many times in a mocking way.”
Correct enough. The word became an insult about 20 minutes after it arrived in Stockholm, which pretty much says it all about hipsterism in general and in Stockholm in particular.
One of the cornerstones of hipster culture is naturally to be cooler than the next person; as soon as something shows the merest hint of becoming mainstream, the hipster needs to move on to keep her advantage.
The problem in Stockholm though, which Miike Snow singer Andrew Wyatt calls attention to in another interview in this issue of Totally Stockholm, is that it seems to be almost frowned upon to express your personality too much here – unless you are a rock star or come from New York. Andrew himself, being both, does alright on his visits, but he has a point. He thinks it probably comes down to the social codes developed over hundreds of cold and dark winters.
But what Stockholmers, fearful of expressing their personalities in any manner that might disturb this rock-solid Swedish behaviour code, have done is to move in unison and morph into this coherent mass of hipsterdom.
That advantage of being cooler than the next person mostly applies to Stockholmers compared to people in other cities or countries. The uncooler lot are probably blissfully unaware of their failing to match the unrivalled trendiness of your average punter in the self-proclaimed Scandinavian capital.
The one area where this phenomenon is supposed to be most significant is on our dear isle of Södermalm – open any travel report after a foreign press visit and you will be able to read about the unabated level of full-on trendiness on show everywhere, from fashionable people to fashionable bars, obviously with the rough and rugged twist that encapsulates the flavour of the day. Perhaps they have inserted a quote such as “it’s very Brooklyn”, possibly cited by someone they speak to in a bar (who probably has never been to Brooklyn, but that’s not the point).
But that is the key phrase I want to dissect in this article. In Stockholm and, possibly even more so on Södermalm – anything labelled with the currently magical word “Brooklyn” could be bottled and sold by the bucketloads. There is a reason why Brooklyn Lager’s second biggest market (after New York itself) is not another American city but, perhaps surprisingly, Stockholm.
In a recent Grub Street, New York article titled “Så Brooklyn: How Kings County Became the Coolest Thing in Sweden,” they focus on Swedes looking to New York for cultural influence, and state that we started to look towards Brooklyn around 2008 when local food, handicraft, folk music and a general DIY-approach became in vogue, in part due to the recession.
Stockholmers (still in a recession-proof bubble, it should be noted) associate anything viewed as alternative with Brooklyn and are probably the earliest adapters to any novelties in pop culture. The “Så Brooklyn” article explains that the Urban Lumberjack aesthetic so familiar to New Yorkers is the “Brooklyn” we obsess over and cite that the scene at Kåken – complete with indoor-hat-wearing beardos and lumberjack-shirted slick-back scenesters – could just as well have been Williamsburg. I quote: “’Brooklyn is the center of cool for Swedes right now,’ a customer at the speakeasy-ish bar Kåken in Stockholm explained recently over sips of a Park Slope Collins. ‘People here think it’s the best place in the world’.”
The ironic thing is that at the same time as people in Stockholm look to Brooklyn due to what they view as something very authentic, and the hub of alternative pop culture, some people in New York might at the same time be upset by the de-authentification of the same place.
A further irony; the assertion of Brooklyn as something wild and slightly dangerous adds to the appeal for Swedes who have grown up in a rather safe environment, but without the last ten years of gentrification, and if Brooklyn actually was that wild and dangerous, the influx of Swedes and the subsequent export of their culture to bars such as Kåken would probably never have occurred to the same extent.
So how well does Södermalm square up in comparison to the hipster hotspots of the US such as for example Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, viewed upon as the birthplace of the hipster movement of the last decade?
Last year Forbes magazine did an article about America’s Hippest Hipster Neighbourhoods, rating the top 20 districts with the most hipster appeal in the US.
The criteria taken into account ranged from building aesthetics through walkability, the number of coffee shops per capita, the assortment of food trucks, the number and frequency of farmer’s markets, the number of locally-owned bars and restaurants, all the way to what percentage of residents work in artistic occupations. The winner was Los Angeles area Silver Lake, nestled between Echo Park and Los Feliz. A hipster heaven with Modernist architecture, a booming arts scene, plenty of food trucks, farmer’s markets and funky bars.
Up until the mid-1990s, suburban homes only accessible by cars were a sign of social status. That has probably changed to a certain extent, over the last decade or so there has been a shift – especially in hipster think – towards wanting to live in a bohemian inner city neighbourhood where you can walk or cycle to whatever you need or want. And when it comes to walkability, the site Walkscore – with the simple slogan “Drive Less, Live More” has developed a method of digesting data to measure how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle. Their “board of urban planning experts” have constructed an algorithm where points are awarded based on the distance of amenities in each category. If you type in Södermalm it gets a score of 70 on a scale up to 100 points. But if you narrow the search down to a specific address like Nytorget the score goes up to 77 or Bergsunds Strand at 83. Compare this to Silver Lakes 78 and Söder is not doing that bad, although Williamsburg gets 93 and San Fran’s Mission district scores 94 and both get the coveted epithet of “Walker’s paradise”.
If we look at the recipe of other ingredients that get mentioned as a contributing factor to a good score in their hipster index and apply it to Södermalm, we will be able to see how it all stacks up. Follow me.
The Recipe For Success
Micro breweries – Nothing is brewed on Södermalm itself, but the Omnipollo beers are developed in Henok Fentie’s kitchen on Tjärhovsgatan. Apart from that there’s a great beer selection at pubs like the Bishop’s Arms and Oliver Twist, although neither attracts a hipster crowd. 4/10
Live music – Debaser caters incredibly well for hipster tastes at the Slussen, Medis and Strand venues. Indie bands and live music of the more alternative variety on show several nights weekly. 8/10
Arts scene – It would be a stretch to call what’s on offer at Södermalm “a booming arts scene” but there are a number of art galleries. Unfortuntely not much in terms of disused warehouses, but Temporära Konsthallen at least used a disused mental hospital for their first exhibition. And Fotografiska is probably unmatched in another hipster hood. 6/10
Barbershops – There’s no question that the recent hipster revolution has influenced the recent influx of old-fashioned barber shops in Stockholm, and no surprise either that pretty much every single one is located on Södermalm. Barbers & Books, Roy & Son and Honest Al’s Barbershop all score high when it comes to hipster appeal. 8/10
Food markets – Urban Deli is our choice for a modern grocery store-slash-restaurant-slash-deli-slash bar. Good stuff served and sold in a great environment. 7/10
Street art and building murals – well, it exists but not much to talk about. 4/10
Restaurants with locally-sourced food – Locally sourced ingredients have been a watchword in the new wave of Nordic cooking that has gained such a reputation of late. Södermalm is no different with an assortment of establishments adhering to the concept, but without any exceptional highlights. 7/10
Coffee shops with specialty coffee – An incredible amount of cafés, and most are the opposite of soulless Starbucks-type chains, but the places to go for specialty coffee are few. On the other hand, they’re very good. Drop Coffee and Johan & Nyström are both incredible. 8/10
Locally-owned, smaller bars with original interiors – OK-ish. Nada and Indigo are small and you can’t look past Pet Sounds and Marie Laveau if you’re looking for a hipster crowd. 7/10
Building aesthetics – It seems a prerequisite is to have low buildings, two stories or so, plus disused mills or factories. There’s not much in terms of converted industrial buildings hosting anything of interest, but most buildings are four stories high. 6/10
Restaurants featuring gimmicks like speed bingo alongside their meals – Sadly, speed bingo is unheard of, at least outside the conventional bingo halls. 3/10
Street Fairs and markets – We have both farmer’s markets and street food markets on Katarina Bangata and a vintage market at Trädgården. The regularity might be a problem though. 7/10
Second hand – Södermalm does have a great reputation for second hand clothing, Lisa Larsson and Judits Second hand and Stockholm Stadsmission the leading lights. 8/10
Impromptu street parties – Hmm, the Grolsch Block Party is the only thing we can think of, and we’re unsure if that would qualify as an impromptu street party, but we guess not. 4/10
Beer gardens – For that correct flavour of hipster cool they should preferably be located in an industrial surrounding, or why not under a highway bridge and complete with a ping-pong table? Trädgården is where to go. 9/10
Bowling – Unsure how much hipsterism there is to Mariatorget’s Rock & Bowl, but alternatively we have spotted hipsters bouling at Boule & Berså. 6/10
”Retro cool” – The example mentioned in Forbes was Hampden’s ”Hon Fest” where “women tease their hair in 1960-style beehives”. Södermalm is at least on par with Sivletto, The Royal Jazz Joint and the Sugar Hill event to call upon. 8/10
Burlesque – Stockholm International Burlesque Festival once a year, but no regular clubs on Söder. 5/10
Health food stores – 8T8 on Swedenborgsgatan plus Cajsa Warg on Renstiernas gata and Urban Deli. 6/10
Rooftop bars – Hornhuset is just about to open at Hornstull. 6/10
Music festivals – Make Music on June 6th and SVMK at Munchenbryggeriet ok, but Popaganda at Eriksdalsbadet is probably the only thing of hipster note after Accelerator’s demise. 6/10
Independent record and book stores – Pet Sounds and Bengans cater for the crate-diggers. As for books? Not much. 6/10
What’s missing: Art walks, Bike trails, Converted warehouses, Converted gas stations and Food Trucks (see separate article).
The Top Hipster hoods according to Forbes Magazine:
1 Silver Lake, Los Angeles
2 Mission District, San Francisco
3 Williamsburg, New York (well, being number one would have been too mainstream…)
4 Wicker Park, Chicago
5 Pearl District, Portland, Oregon
6 H Street Corridor, Washington DC
7 East Austin, Austin, Texas
8 Capitol Hill, Seattle
9 The Uptown, Oakland
10 Warehouse District, New Orleans
11 Downtown Portland, Portland, Maine
12 North Loop, Minneapolis
13 North Park, San Diego
14 Northern Liberties (NoLibs), Philadelphia
15 Hampden, Baltimore
16 Little Five Points, Atlanta
17 LoHi (The Lower Highlands), Denver
18 Allston-Brighton, Boston
19 Wynwood, Miami
20 Lower Westheimer, Houston, Texas