I put forward the hypothesis that places can only really be cool for a few years.
All cool places start out as shitholes. It’s a fact. Think of a cool place in a big city. Within the last twenty years or so it would have been a shithole.
A shithole can be described as boasting high crime rates normally centred on domestic abuse and drugs, scary-as-fuck staffies, betting shops, babies with earrings, an average tattoo count of 6.7 p/person and a local Farm Foods. Residents include Wayner, Trish and MC Pickaxe.
The populace is witty, brutally honest, and boasting a strong sense of community in stark contrast to their feelings for outsiders. They’ll make you laugh whilst they rob your phone.
It might be tough to truly identify a shithole because anyone who’s ever read a blog has never actually been to one in its embryonic form.
The struggling creative types
These guys have names like Noah or Jasmine. They’ve received decent educations but refuse to work for the proverbial ‘man’. Skilled with their hands but emotionally unstable – a combination of weed psychosis, alcohol dependency and unwavering millennial angst.
They complain about society but their solutions don’t stray much from backing the Greens or lofty, unactionable communist ideals. Their parents are upper middle-class and holiday six times annually.
Hunting as they do in packs, these struggling creative types soon find a cheap studio at the heart of the shithole. They make hideous pieces of art and jewellery from other people’s waste. Nobody buys them and the struggle continues.
But after about six months, Jasmine’s Dad relents to selling off part of his City insurance firm, giving her the cash to pursue her ‘dream’ – opening a vegan café called Zion.
Zion causes a frenzy in the shithole, becoming a pillar for the new community. The creative types flock in their droves to drink coffee wearing headphones, share quinoa recipes on Web WhatsApp and smoke rollies outside on their own. Conversation – “what’s the wifi?” – is electric.
Similar groups arrive and more and more businesses spring up. While Wayner’s spoon is only getting greasier, the refurbished boozer next door has started serving skin-on fries on upcycled bin lids at only six quid.
Soon the wave of new arrivals don’t just come to work. They actually live in the shithole.
Unbeknownst to all, but the Cycle of Cool is in full motion.
Cool kids can be split into two sub-groups. Tragically, the genuinely cool kids account for only about 3 % of the demographic to which they lend their name.
They like cultural stuff like photography, skateboarding, graffiti, for the simple reason that it genuinely interests them.
They eat healthy food but party way too much but that’s fine because they work hard and pay their taxes.
They dress well or, at least, they dress naturally because what unites them is the fact that they’re oblivious to the fact that they’re cool.
Soon, the cool kids visit the shithole because they appreciate the not-completely-shit creativity starting to manifest itself.
Another year passes – the cool kids, the creatives and the indigenous shitholians living blissfully side-by-side.
Business is booming. Sourdough sales are through the roof. Now, perhaps two years into the Cycle, this place is no longer a shithole. It’s actually pretty cool.
The area will be miscommunicated as ‘up-and-coming’, first by the digital press, swiftly followed by politicians and your parents. In that order.
However, it’s not up-and-coming at all. It’s the opposite. And disastrously, this means it’s too late.
We’ve reached peak cool.
The ‘cool’ kids
Monty arrived approximately 0.01 seconds after the peak of cool. How can we be sure? Because his mere presence is proof of its decline. He doesn’t just arrive at the tipping point – he is the tipping point.
You see, Monty belongs to the other 97%. He’s a ‘cool’ kid.
It wasn’t always like this of course. When he first begins frequenting this place he was not even ‘cool’, let alone cool.
Monty, from a proud upper-middle-class family, wears expensive clothes but had zero taste. You know the outfit; pale-blue shirt with white pinstripes, coupled with mustard chinos so long that they pretty much envelop his shiny brown brogues.
Poor Monty soon realises that, although he was one of the biggest jokers on his house hockey team, he’s got nothing on these state school kids.
But soon, a spark…
Monty remembers how loaded he is. And with money, he knows he can become cool pretty much overnight.
Soon, he dresses the same as the cool kids. Well, 97 % the same. The nuances are at once subtle, at once alarmingly obvious. New Era cap position 20 % too far, the skinny jeans just a little too tight around the arse. The genuinely cool kids know it instinctively and deep down, poor Monty does too: he’s still not cool.
A year after his transformation, he still can’t roll a spliff or truly appreciate trip hop. He can’t shake his understanding for voting Tory.
In fact, the only reason this sub-class even exists is because there are so many of his brand of dickhead constantly validating one another’s ‘cool’, namely through use of terms like #winning.
And so begins our slow descent.
The Cycle is dead. Long live the Cycle.
It’s Zion’s 5th birthday party.
Simon and Jasmine announce that they have signed on their first property together. MC Pickaxe, now behind bars, accepted a £900,000 offer for his two-bed ex-council house. Monty lived in the semi-detached London Brick directly opposite.
Once shit, then ‘cool’, now just fucking spenny. This Cycle is long since dead.
But what of the new wave of creative types? And the cool kids? Where will they go?
Well, you tell me. Because there’s a new cycle in motion, right now, in your city.
From Stokes Croft to Shoreditch, Mitte to Williamsburg, shitholes are never transformed in isolation.
Multiple cycles spin simultaneously across locations, all over the country, throughout the continent and across the world.
You should check them out – they’re really up-and-coming, serve great coffee, and will soon be pretty damn ‘cool’.