Portland, Brooklyn, and the 1890s

Which city wins the award for artisanal authenticity - and which is exporting localism to the global market?

By Kristin Belz April 9, 2013

A photo posted by pokpokpdx (@pokpokpdx) onNov 15, 2014 at 11:06am PST

Isn't it a little loco when localism goes global? Loco, as in: makes no sense at all? The ultimate oxymoron? Take "Brooklynization." Supposedly, Brooklyn is being imported to Paris, Nashville, Los Angeles, Stockholm, and Berlin, among other world cities – even to Portland. Yes, Portland is being Brooklynized – i.e. filled with young people wearing chunky eyeglasses, plaid shirts, big beards (for the men among them), and pickling everything they can get their hands on. 

This breaking news comes from the New York Times, which certainly knows it all when it comes to anything related to Portland. Stephen Metcalf, in a recent article in T: The New York Times Style Magazine, informed us of the global export of Brooklyn culture ("small-batch production, urban husbandry, period facial hair, a fixed-gear bicycle, 'Girls.'"). He also mentioned that "everything we now associate with the word 'Brooklyn' actually originated 10 years earlier, in Portland, Ore." (Except "Girls," but we've got "Portlandia" to make up for that.)

Photos accompanying the article included Andy Ricker posing outside Pok Pok – the Pok Pok on SE Division, not the one in NYC. Meanwhile, Food & Wine, in its March 2013 issue (looking back over 35 years of "Trendspotting"), referenced its 2000 article about the “Manhattanization of Brooklyn, as classically trained chefs moved out to the borough for the low rent and creative vibe.” They noted that now, 13 years later, “We’re observing the Brooklynization of America, as cities like Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California, become centers of food ferment. We all want to be Brooklynites now,” they proclaim. Really? Is that so?

Maybe Portland is just the westernmost stop on the W train line of the New York City subway. Maybe Brooklyn and Portland are twins separated at birth. Do we even care who gets credit? We're in Portland; it's all good. Let Brooklyn take the credit. Rents are higher back east. People move to NYC, or Brooklyn, because they want to be hipsters and make money. Who moves to Portland to make money? Besides, we know our beer – and everything else – is better here anyhow.

Maybe it's a battle of who can best reinterpret the methods and styles of the 1890s for the 21st century. Portlandia (yes, I'm tired of that show too) might have nailed it in their skit, "Dream of the 1890s."

My theory is that we're going through something akin to the late 19th century Arts and Crafts reaction to the Industrial Revolution. We're reacting to our post-industrial Digital Revolution by heading back to the late 19th century, trying to un-Apple-ize our daily lives while creating apps to export our own brand of localism to a global market. And if Brooklyn gets all the credit, that's fine. It's all one big open source, wiki mash-up anyway. 

Filed under
Show Comments