What Is A Hipster?
by Tyler Harman
What is a hipster? Usually, you have to see one to explain it. “There! That guy’s a hipster! Let’s get him!”
The concept is hard to really pin down. And without one available as a reference, they’re almost impossible to describe! People will say things like, “the man bun”, flannel shirts, thick-rimmed glasses, 20 year-old girls with gray hair, and so on. Some call it a counter-culture or some kind of sub-culture, and say it’s not mainstream. I got news for you… if you’re from Los Angeles, this IS the mainstream!
If you read my previous articles on hipsters, "God Bless the Hipsters" & "The Great Hipster Movement of L.A.", I mentioned that there are two main breeds of hipsters: the Early Movers & the Bandwagoners. I’m adding a third category today, so we are going to change the names a bit…
Long-Time Locals (Early Movers):
These are the real hipsters, and they don’t dress this way to make a statement. They dress this way because that’s what they picked up off the floor that morning. They don’t drive a Prius because they’re trendy. They live in these areas because they were cheap when they moved in. They are the most adventurous of the hipster species, but also the least obvious.
They use old flip phones because they broke their iPhone and don’t want to pay for another one. They’re baristas and waiters, or they have weird jobs like being a clown or painting the faces on crash test dummies. They have neck tattoos, nose piercings, crazy colored hair; they wear short shorts, combat boots, tank tops, and backwards hats.
Where You’re Most Likely to Spot the Long-Time Locals: Echo Park or Highland Park
These are usually friends and acquaintances of the Long-Time Locals who exposed them to the lifestyle. They are still adventurous, but they wouldn’t dare walk into a certain bar unless they were invited by a friend or read enough Yelp reviews online. They still buy cheap clothes, but they do it more to make a statement than they do out of necessity.
They are writers, artists, or they work in the entertainment industry. They own an iPhone and Apple Notebook. They have big beards, mustaches, “man buns”, and sleeve tattoos. Here’s the biggest distinction: they don’t have the big holes in their ears or neck tattoos because they still have to maintain a presentable appearance to be employed.
Where You’re Most Likely to Spot the Opportunists: Silver Lake or the Arts District in DTLA.
The Affluent & Trendy:
These are young professionals that change clothes after punching the clock. They’re accountants, lawyers, and engineers. They drive German cars, wear expensive hipster clothes, and the girls still carry the big designer purses. They have the iPhone, iPad, iWatch, and they wait in line for the newest releases.
You can usually identify this breed of hipster by their haircut which I have been referring to as “The Beckham” (short on the sides, long on top). This haircut is perfect for the young professional because it makes a statement while still being very clean and presentable
Where You’re Most Lokely to Spot the Affluent & Trendy: Los Feliz or Eagle Rock
Hipster Tip: All three breeds of hipsters can blur together at times, but you’ll know the difference when you see them and when you talk to them.
Where are the Hipsters moving?
Obviously, the Early Movers and Long Time Locals are the “tip of the man bun” as far as Hipster Real Estate is concerned… They were the ones that brought the Opportunists to Silver Lake, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, and so on. The Long-Time Locals don’t so much “clear the way” for the Opportunists, instead, they simply make it socially acceptable to move into the next Opportunity Neighborhood.
Long before the hype of Highland Park began a few years ago (which is still incredibly popular and increasing, by the way), the Long-Time Locals (Early Movers) ventured across the Arroyo River into East L.A. into neighborhoods like Lincoln Heights and El Sereno to make room for the Opportunists in Northeast L.A. Shortly after that move across the Arroyo, investors started pumping their money into flipping houses there, and today, I am actually seeing a heavy surge of Opportunists moving into the area already.
Most of the Trendys won’t move into places like Highland Park until the area has been a little more sterilized like Silver Lake and Eagle Rock (which, like Silver Lake, has recently earned significant notoriety as an incredibly hot real estate neighborhood). Once Highland Park gets a few more mainstream stores and restaurants, we’ll start to see the Trendys get a little braver and move in with more prevalence.
Interestingly, I am also seeing an Opportunist movement up into Western Pasadena & Altadena in an area called the “Lincoln Corridor”. There is a very large concentration of investor flips that are driving up prices. Usually, it’s the Opportunists driving up values which get the investors’ attention, but this one seemed like it was backwards. It’s close to Caltech and JPL, there are good charter schools available, and the price is right!
So, while the Trendys get to work on Northeast L.A., the Opportunists have begun moving into East L.A. I have it on good authority that they are moving into neighborhoods like Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, and Boyle Heights pushing right up against Monterey Park, which doesn’t need more rehabilitation as it is. I predict soon they will start venturing south of The 10 Freeway and underneath Downtown L.A. More on this in a few weeks…
What can we learn from the Hipsters?
Aside from being an easy punch line, Hipsters actually have a lot to do with Los Angeles Real Estate. They spot opportunities and exploit them. Even though most don’t see it as an investment, they follow the cardinal rule for investing: “Buy Low, Sell High”.
Highland Park is a perfect example. Back in 2009, nobody in their wildest dreams would have thought you could sell a tiny 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house for over $600,000, but in 2015, it happens all the time. More importantly, these opportunities are a moving target. What is hot today will be saturated next year, and what is ugly and unwanted tomorrow will be “on fire” in six months.
Whether you’re a buyer, seller, investor, or just a real estate enthusiast, you should be able to spot and identify the different breeds of hipsters and figure out which stage of real estate development and/or rehabilitation certain neighborhoods are in. This is important because you can’t base this transition on price alone. Some sellers might be trying to jump the gun on appreciating values and others might not understand the potential of the neighborhood.