Whole Foods and the evolution/migration of the hipster

I live close to a Whole Foods store. It’s one of the first places Mr Ang brought me when I got to Chicago. “You can drink while you’re grocery shopping,” he said, picking out a craft beer from one of the many chalkboards around – the always-reliable signal of authenticity and handmade goodness. For the vinophiles, there is also a wine bar, and yes I’ve walked around the store like a pretentious douchebag with a glass of Zinfandel in my left hand while pushing a giant cart with my right. (It also makes you more likely to buy things you never expected to – oh, look, breaded chickenless nuggets. Whole Foods (and other organic foods purveyors) like to sell things that are not there i.e. sugarless, fat free, free from preservatives.) If you’re hungry, there’s a food market at the end of the store where you can pick up some sushi, or Chinese noodles; Chicago-style pizza, or a fresh salad. It’s as much a place to pick out your vegetables as it is to eat them.

In Whole Foods, you can do some serious flirting with someone you would otherwise have dismissed as a homeless guy. The carefully calibrated degree of facial hair care, designed to look like a lack thereof, coupled with some serious winter clothing makes it really hard to tell who is achingly, fashionably, nonchalant and who simply wandered in to get off the bitterly cold streets. But it is not just hipsters that frequent and staff the store – yuppies, health conscious mothers, socially conscious female consumers, wine and cheese connoisseurs, lovers of organic food (you may argue that these are variants/sub-genres of bourgeois hipsterism) – all find themselves welcome. This is a new kind of luxury brand that traffics in authenticity instead of exclusivity, although you may also argue that organic spinach, at $4.99 a pound, is just another form of exclusion: for hipsters that’ve made it; the brohemia instead of the bohemia.

Alas, we are moving away from this neighborhood, with its Whole Foods and Starbucks, Crate and Barrel and American Apparel. Mr Ang read an article on Old Town in the 60s, when it became an enclave for the then-hippies, and that’s where we’ll be heading. We have a habit of moving to the hottest scene, 40 years after the fact. (Suffice to say, we’re not fixie owners.)

Nevertheless, I’ve always been fascinated by hipsterdom, and stumbled upon the migration history of the hipster in Chicago:

from the South Loop to Hyde Park to River North to Old Town to Wicker Park to Logan Square to...

from the 1. South Loop to 2. Hyde Park to 3. River North to 4. Old Town to 5. Wicker Park to 6. Logan Square to…

According to outraged comments, this article missed out on a number of places and events in Lakeview and Lincoln Park, not to mention failing to define the evolution of the term and the people it is supposed to describe. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for someone to write a history of the hipster…


2 thoughts on “Whole Foods and the evolution/migration of the hipster

  1. Great post. I live in Florida and occasionally go to Whole Foods, my wife works near one. Beautifully described and I love the reference to flirting with a homeless guy. I think the only way I can tell the difference is one smells of body odor and the other of patchouli.

    • haha yeah I’m catching on to that, as I am with other aspects of this country. I imagine you don’t have to be quite as bundled up in Florida!

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