How Williamsburg, Brooklyn became a hipster community

Many believe that the world capital of hipsters is Williamsburg, a neighborhood located in northern Brooklyn, New York. Williamsburg is today practically synonymous with hipster culture and as such it has even become something of a must-see tourist destination for people visiting New York City.

For a very long time, Williamsburg was just another Brooklyn neighborhood with mostly middle-class residents of various ethnic communities, most notably Jewish, Italian, Puerto Rican and Dominican. It was also mostly known for its large and influential Hassidic community. Starting from the 1980s, New York’s artists started escaping increasingly high rents in Manhattan and started settling in much cheaper but equally lively neighborhood just across the bridge. They started slowly transforming the neighborhood through a process known as gentrification, turning abandoned storage spaces and lots into art galleries, studios and bars. Brooklyn’s characteristic brownstone houses became something of a status symbol and as more and more people from outside of Brooklyn bought them and moved in, the rent started going up. This caused a demographic shift and changed the economic profile of Williamsburg (and the rest of Brooklyn, for that matter), resulting in many of the original residents moving out, not being able to sustain the increased cost of living.

Today Williamsburg still boasts a highly varied ethnic community and is still far from Manhattan in terms of economic status, but it is certainly not what it was some forty years ago. With these new residents, many of whom belong to artistic circles, the cultural profile also changed. Today, Williamsburg is a neighborhood with hundreds of art galleries, indie coffee shops, restaurants, concert venues, microbreweries, bars and nightclubs. People from all over New York City flock to Williamsburg on weekends to have a drink at a hip new underground bar no one is supposed to have heard about, to see a show or an art exhibit or just to stroll the streets and enjoy an ethnic vegetarian mean from one of many food trucks that swarm the area. Williamsburg is ideal for people-watching too, since both the residents and the visitors mostly belong to what we today call the hipster subculture. In fact as soon as you get off the train at the Bedford Ave L train stop you will just know that you have found yourself in the world’s capital of hipsters. Many new trends are born there, fashion choices are validated there and there isn’t a cult underground band that hasn’t played a Williamsburg venue at least once. In fact, Williamsburg is now so well-known as a hipster capital that the hipsters themselves have started fleeing the neighborhood fearing it became too mainstream and lame.

Still, if you want to emerge yourself in hipster culture, if you are looking for a community where you as a hipster will feel at home or you just want to see what it’s all about, there is no better place than Williamsburg.


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