How to write about Brooklyn like a clueless outsider

The first thing you’re going to write about is hipsters. It’s inevitable. There is no way around this fact.

This is Brooklyn. We manufactured the template for the ‘Hipster 2.0’ here. I say ‘2.0’ because we don’t want the ‘hipster’ moniker to be confused with the original Converse-sporting, thin black jeans-wearing, shaggy Ramones-haired hipster. They were the first versions to strut around New York City in the late seventies. They listened to The Velvet Underground and Patti Smith records. The ‘2.0’ version now dance to electro-pop and Tinder swipe for recreation.

You’re going to have to talk about man buns. This will hurt you deep inside. There will also be much discussion about beards, which may consume more of your time than you anticipate. Are you writing about the faux-west mountain man sort of beard, or the well-groomed, curled, carnival barker of the 19th century kind of beard? You’ve got to get your beards right. There is also the rise of the mustache. This could be the 70’s gigolo version on the more acceptable side or the creepy child molester style on the less-than-attractive spectrum.

Women’s fashion will also be a hot topic. Which version are we going to be referring to – the Stevie-Nicks Salem witch trial strolling in black boots version? Or are we talking the “raiding grandma’s closet” with oversized glasses (a la Barb from “Stranger Things”) motif? Yes, the mom jeans thing still does exist. Don’t forget the inevitable side-boob conversation – mildly camouflaged by an assortment of bralettes (generally a taupe or a straight black color). During the summer months, be sure to reflect upon the Kylie Jenner inspired bra-less look every girl on Bedford Ave. will be sporting.

Gone are the art parties held in the abandoned warehouses off of Wythe and Kent streets, respectfully. Indicate that those same buildings now house Levis outlets, an Apple Store, and of course, the two-headed hydra of gentrification – a Starbucks and a Whole Foods. At this point you’re going to declare that Williamsburg is played out.

Now you’re going to write about Knickerbocker Aven. We’re talking anything east of the Jefferson stop. Discuss the sleeveless, cut-off black t-shirts and the tattoos – so many tattoos. Think long hair, think a lack of deodorant, think suburban kids who hate their parents; you’ll get the hang of this.

Bushwick is the new bohemia.

Scratch that. Before the ink is even dry on that sentence – the hip bourgeois will have already been priced out. You will hear talk of other ‘changing neighborhoods’. There will be names like Crown Heights, Boerum Hill and Sunset Park to fill the mind with wonder.

Live music venues such as Williamsburg Music Hall and Brooklyn Steel have cropped up to wet the appetites of music lovers, but you’ll have to kiss any homegrown bands goodbye – unless they’ve been booked by Live Nation or featured on the cover of Nylon magazine. The days of the felt tip drawn ‘x’s’ on your wrists are over.

You’ll have to explain to the reader that all the real artists exchanged Brooklyn for Berlin back in 2006.

Your article also must include the following: the rise of milk bars, skyrocketing rents, how crime is going down, how crime is going up, shout-outs to fallen Brooklyn staples like: Trash Bar, Glasslands, The Grand Victory, Supreme Trading, Sugarland, Public Assembly, Monkeytown, Death By Audio, Red and Black, Cokies, Zebulon, The Wreck Room, 285 Kent, the Verb Café, the Read Café. Even if you’ve never heard of any these places, don’t forget to include how much you missed it all.

Other important things to note: baby strollers, overpriced cocktails, everything rustic, old-timey anything, suspenders, beard oils, an endless barrage of $1 oyster happy hours, how to find a one bedroom in Greenpoint for less than $40,000 a year, not watching HBO’s “Girls” on purpose, dogs on long leashes, hating on cargo shorts, wide brim black hats, cronuts, hollering out to Biggie Smalls, and the inevitable closing of the L train.

Remind people about expectations. Tell them if they really want to live in a bohemian, alternative, cultured world with fellow health-conscious, global-serving, NPR-listening, “woke” individuals, then try the southern beauty of Richmond, Virginia, or Portsmouth, New Hampshire for that matter. Go ahead and forget about Portland, Oregon – oh, you haven’t heard? It’s just so Brooklyn nowadays.

Brooklyn is everywhere but in Brooklyn.

And if you have any last-minute questions – don’t watch “Two Broke Girls” on CBS. Everybody knows that’s about as authentically Brooklyn as the guy wearing a Brooklyn t-shirt manspreading next to you on the G train.

Checkout The Bayou Brief’s style guide for writing about New Orleans as a clueless outsider.

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This article has been edited and updated, originally published in 2017.


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