Words & Deeds

Boise is a hipster haven, national study says. Stroke your beard approvingly

In recent years, Boise has become a popular destination because of its attractive quality-of-life resume. Outdoor recreation mecca. Low-crime urban area. Mayfield-like setting for aspiring Cleaver families.

But hipster haven?

MoveHub, a global website for people relocating abroad, recently compiled and released a U.S. Hipster Index. Crunching numbers about local breweries, tattoos and vegan food, MoveHub compared the 150 biggest cities in America.

Boise has been outed as the nation’s No. 4 most hipster city.

This is either amazeballs (that’s hipster lingo, Mom) or awful news.

It sort of depends on how you define hipster. And how you feel about quality coffee. And how terrified you are becoming as you grow older.

MoveHub’s criteria ranked cities based on the number of microbreweries, vegan stores/restaurants, thrift shops and tattoo parlors, plus year-on-year rent-demand increase.

Boise crushed it for density of tattoo parlors and thrift stores — fourth overall in both categories — vaulting Idaho’s capital toward the top of the hipster awards.


But the writing was already on the wall — and I’m not just talking about those murals covering every building in Downtown Boise. In 2016, an Austin, Texas, newspaper hyped our shopping with an article titled “Finding supermarket bliss in Boise.” And a Seattle Times’ travel writer declared “Urban, hip Boise defies potato jokes and other Idaho stereotypes.

Then came this summer’s NPR interview, “Is Boise the next Portland?” Among the revelations: Boise Weekly, apparently trying to save us all, once banned the word “hipster” from its pages.

If there’s an obvious cultural catalyst that rode us off the hipster cliff on fixed-gear bicycles, it’s Treefort Music Fest. Every March for the past six years, Treefort has lured hipsters Downtown by the gazillions.

In a phone call this week filled with soul searching, Treefort festival director Eric Gilbert and I tried to figure out how Boise realistically could be the fourth most hipster city in the entire nation.

Is Gilbert himself a card-carrying hipster?

He does not own a single-speed bike. “But I did at one point.”

He’s not vegan. However, “I’ve been tending to try to eat that direction,” he admits.

“I wish I knew how to talk about it,” he says, laughing. “I don’t really fit a hipster model. I guess there’s not, like, a checklist. For me, I come from the school that the root of being a hipster is just someone that likes to keep up to speed with what’s current, or takes seriously their taste in music or taste in food.”

Three cities beat Boise in the U.S. Hipster Index: Vancouver, Washington, was No. 1, followed by Salt Lake City and Cincinnati.

Salt Lake City?

“What the hell?” Gilbert responds, chuckling. “That’s so weird. I don’t even know.”

None of us do. The nebulous nature of hipsters renders the entire discussion ridiculous. In a preface to its Hipster Index, MoveHub explains that “hipsters are a subculture of 20- to 30-somethings who position themselves as non-mainstream pioneers; free-thinkers and non-conformist conformists. ... From the inside, this looks like independent thought, progressive politics, sustainable food, thrift store bargains, delicious local beer and groups of ardent individuals looking exactly like each other. From the outside peering in, it tends to resemble gentrification, sickly vegan dishes and groups of ardent individuals looking exactly like each other.”

I prefer a shorter definition: “The term ‘hipster’ has no meaning anymore” a commenter recently wrote on the Willamette Week website. “It’s simply shorthand for ‘young people I don’t like.’ ”

Can somebody please explain to me the difference between a hipster and a neckbeard?

And how can hipsters be known for drinking PBR tall boys while simultaneously being mocked by Budweiser for loving craft beer?

Does Boise deserve to be called a hipster city simply because of its prevalence of dudes with tattoos, conditioned beards and stylish lumberjack shirts?

Gilbert understands why Treefort gets lumped in with hipsters. He also sees irony in the situation.

“We get a lot of criticism from quote-unquote hipsters,” he says. “There’s hipsters in kind of every vein — like hipsters in the metal scene. It’s all a big spectrum of humanity. There’s plenty of non-hipsters that like Treefort, is my point.”

There are contrasting ways to throw around the word “hipster”: Either derisively — as in reference to an elitist or poser — or in an open-minded, neutral fashion.

“I prefer ‘nerd’ over ‘hipster,’ ” Gilbert says. “I’m a music nerd. And a community nerd. And a coffee nerd. Well, actually a semi-coffee/beer nerd.”

“I think there are people that look at the caricature of what they think a hipster is,” he says. “Everyone likes to turn humans into two-dimensional characters, and they don’t like that things are changing in Boise, and there’s newness coming, and some people are probably looking at that as a bad thing.

“We’re on the frontier of many things,” Gilbert says, his voice growing ominous. “Including the creeping influence of hipsterdom across America!”

Being uncomfortable with change is a universal trait. Gilbert has acquaintances who have noted the supposed hipster takeover in Boise, he says. As you’ve probably ascertained by now, he fails to see any threat.

“What, they’re taking over because we have good coffee now? That’s not a bad thing. Better food! That’s not a bad thing. If that’s what we have to deal with the hipster invasion — better everything — I don’t understand what the problem is.”

Take it from the man who runs Treefort Music Fest. In the city with the fourth-most tattoo parlors per 100,000 people.

“I have no tattoos!” Gilbert says. “There you go. I’m not a hipster.”

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