Does D.C.'s Hipness Really Matter? To D.C. It Does

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post I wrote the other day about the things inherent to D.C. that make it difficult for the city to get hip has a lot of people very upset, proving that the hipness factor of this capital really matters to its residents. The article did not debate if or if not of our nation's capital is truly hip. I took that as a given, with no ill intent in mind. (There are plenty of perfectly nice things about D.C. that don't equate with hip.) But my critics did not agree with that premise, leading them to call the entire discussion worthless. 

Beyond the objections here and there with parts of my arguments, most of the issues with the post started with the very idea that D.C. was not a hip place. City Paper's Will Sommer called the assertion "infuriating," mimicking some of the commenter sentiments in his takedown, which quibbled with some of my arguments. ("You just don't GET HIP," said one, for example.) These people want so hard to believe that the city is cool, without pointing to data that suggests otherwise. "Hey just because you work for/have worked for the government doesn't make you boring! I worked on the Hill and in the exectutive branch and I think I'm a pretty interesting person," wrote a commenter on Josh Barro's post "The Real Reason Washington Is Boring" over at Bloomberg View. All things interesting are not hip, nor are all things hip by definition also interesting.

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Others, defend their city for the unhip capital it is. Hip is overrated, they say. "Trying so hard to be cool and not like the rest of us must be pretty hard work. Being 'hip' seems to me to mean that you're actually kind of shallow - more concerned about what other 'hipsters' think of you than anything else," wrote Atlantic Wire commenter Scotty59. Yet, even some of these people seem to care that it doesn't have the reputation for coolness, pointing to benefits of D.C. living that they believe suggest some level of cool. The Huffington Post's Jamison Doran, also a D.C. resident, for example claims the lack of coolness doesn't bother her in her post "D.C. Might Not Be 'Hipster' But That's OK." But then she goes on to defend its hip-cred:

Greenfield notes that many people who live here work for the government and there are *gasp* Republicans. Us "professional squares" can't do "scandalous (fun and hip) things, because [our] job[s] drug test." I'm not sure why being "hip" automatically means taking part in illicit activity that would lead you to not pass a drug test. I know plenty of people, including myself, who work in nonprofits or government, and who love to take part in "fun and hip" activities (though those words just sound so middle school) which wouldn't necessarily look poorly on an "FBI background check." We go to bars and drink local beers, dance at divey "clubs," and eat far too much food on local rooftops.

Or, there are people like D.C. resident Sam Knight, who tweeted the following at me: "Just heard a mouse in my clean DC kitchen. At least it won't criticize my taste in music, film, and locally grown produce." A clean city full of nonjudgmental people are assets. But these things don't up a place's hip-factor. 

There is nothing wrong with having a square reputation, but clearly to D.C. residents it matters. Perhaps we can chalk it up to some sort of second-city inferiority complex. Or, maybe there is some correlation to happiness, or success, or health that comes with hip that we don't know about. Or, maybe it's a holdover from high school, when everyone just wants so bad to be the cool kid or just a respite from being constantly judged. I can't say why, this topic riles D.C.'s residents, but I do know one thing: anyone hip wouldn't act like they cared so much. Caring, like rules, chain restaurants, and "the man" is not very cool. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.