A stroll down Istedgade (Part 2): Istedgade the Hipster (and Istedgade the Kitsch)

by Tim Anderson (timothyanderson2005@gmail.com)

The previous article (A stroll down Istedgade (part 1): Is this the seedy or trendy heart of Vesterbro) introduced an allegorical character, a schizophrenic named 'Istedgade' who it was claimed would star in an upcoming Woody Allen movie (a film apparently attracting a quite a significant 'buzz')...so that is where this article picks up. Got it?


Istedgade the Hipster is unquestionably the most alluring of schizophrenic Istedgade's personalities.

First, about hipsters - in case you are
not one but were thinking maybe you could be, or you are one and don’t know it, or you know you are one but are simply in denial. A hipster could loosely be defined as one who distains the mainstream - known to coldly yet vigorously reduce anything possibly fitting into any mainstream categorisation to kitsch and unworthy. With rare exceptions, they are rather skinny - 1 or 2% excess body fat kind of skinny, Mick Jagger skinny. They have complicated hair, just might be gay (or not entirely heterosexual) and of course, there are the tattoos. And if it’s not indie, underground, literature, music, film or some other sort of artform, it’s probably not that interesting. So while a lot of people could claim to be halfway there, one must be quite a determined breed to truely earn the title.

Meaning that 'Istedgade the Hipster' is a very specific sort of being - one quite in contrast to the other parts of its (schizophrenic) personality.

most certainly a hipster magnet...

Returning to our allegory (from Part 1) of Istedgade as the schizophrenic star of a Woody Allen film, let's talk about what happens in the film. Istedgade the Hipster spends much time on the couch in therapy (being a Woody Allen flick and all).

The opening scene (set in the office of Istedgade's long-time analyst):

Istedgade the Hipster (probably a 'he' but possibly a 'she') is lying on the couch complaining,
agonising that in spite of their loud and continual protestations, he (or she) has become an object of fascination - the subject of the relentless and unforgiving talk of the masses. And this Istedgade the Hipster finds to be a terrible and rather soul-destroying plight. With amusing self-awareness, this fictional but ultra-cool hipster character worries that this film in which he (or she) is starring just may be Woody Allen's biggest film since Manhatten - a huge moneymaker. The buzz surrounding the film is ceaseless, and the very thought has left Istedgade the Hipster feeling more than mere anxiety. Istedgade the Hipster simply distains being associated with it all - this mainstream attention. Yet it seems there is no escape.

Rather, it has provoked a serious identify crisis within Istedgade the Hipster, one that could turn ugly (and into something more existential in nature).

So we return to the real world, briefly, once again.

A bit about Woody Allen movies. Woody Allen movies are always full of mainstream movie elements – the main characters are always Hollywood actors, the plot twists are often straight out of Hollywood and the endings are, more often then not, happily ever after. Of course, happily ever after in that trademark bizarre Woody Allen kind of way.

However, in spite of all this, they really are
not quite mainstream movies. As stories, they have too many schizophrenic quirks. Instead, they stand apart, a brand of their own. They have this odd, hard to quantify, hipster-like shell that over time has proven quite resistant to penetration from the outside. Because in Woody Allen films there is basically always something different.

And in this way, they are just like Istedgade. Chalk full of, well, something different.

So the thing with Istedgade is that there is a risk that with all the attention it continues to attract (in it's coolness), and with its popularity continuing to soar, it just might cease being
something different and instead become rather normal - just another not-so-distinct area of Copenhagen. If the graffitti should start to disappear (there's a fair bit of it at present), it will be more than a mere hint of what might be happening.

Now I'm not saying this is destined to happen, but surely sooner or later the chain stores and big money will get a whiff of it's potential and swoop in, no? And should this happen, as the composition of the shops and businesses shifts - Istedgade as we now know it will be no longer.

And should this turn of events take place, it will surely be the end of Istedgade the Hipster.

But we're not there yet. For now, Istedgade the Hipster thrives, genuinely non-mainstream (among many other identities as well, of course). The warmly welcoming local ecological bakery for bread, the numerous local design shops (mentioned in the previous article) for clothes, shoes and an assortment of other boutiques offering furnishing and other gadgets and gimmicks.

the local ecological bakery

funky light for the living room, anyone?

no brand names here...

or here...

or here...

or here...

or here, or here...you get the idea...

Yet when it comes down to it, of course, it's all very interesting, even if it's not quite a comprehensive in the range of 'stuff' you can find - you may need to leave Istedgade to get the rest of the 'things' you need.

And, of course, there's also Istedgade the Kitsch to contend with.

Istedgade the Hipster, of course, grudgingly accepts that lingering presence out of necessity, probably because Istedgade the Kitsch just isn't threatening in the way the mainstream stuff is. Istedgade the Kitsch is merely a bizarre and quirky part of Istedgade's schizophrenic personality.

Istedgade the Kitsch takes the form of a few peculiar shops selling an array of items presumably appealing to the (fairly numerous) immigrants of the area who have yet to acquire any sort of Danish design tastes and sensibilities. These immigrants are one of the features of the street that give it so much more character than other less diverse areas of the city.

welcome to the palace of kitsch...

see anything you like?

The junk being peddled at these kitsch places would make a great gag gift, if you’re looking for that.

But kitsch bits aside, Istedgade the Hipster has continued to grow stronger month by month over the last years - and this is without having even mentioned what is arguably Istedgade's the Hipster's best side - and that is the night time.

And this will be the subject of the Part 3, up next...

1 Response to "A stroll down Istedgade (Part 2): Istedgade the Hipster (and Istedgade the Kitsch)"

  1. Kim says:

    for a street-art photo commenting on the 'hipster'-thing in the Istedgade area.
    Kim Kafka

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