Monday, May 31, 2010

The 905 Effect

Here in Toronto, there's a constant struggle for neighbourhoods to remain "cool" without becoming too "popular."

It's a difficult balancing act businesses in trendy neighbourhoods have to pull in order to keep the area "authentic."

An area that is up-and-coming inevitably starts to get more and more "cool;" independent businesses move into the area - funky bars, good cafes, etc -; and the area starts to become a local hangout (i.e. the hipsters flock to it).

But then, seeing that the area is now "cool," along come the inevitable douchey non-locals who only want to party in the neighbourhood on the weekends (this is what's commonly called the 905er effect). And, once this club-going sect moves in, bringing with it the trappings of "entertainment district-ish" venues, of course, the area becomes uncool.

It sounds ridiculous, but it's a very real phenomenon.

The chart below outlines the 905er effect. It is from a recent case study known as "The Little Italy Incident."

The red line represents the general coolness of local establishments and the blue line represents the actual popularity of these establishments in terms of the amount of people that frequent them.

You'll notice that by the time a bar or neighbourhood eatery begins to get very popular, it has long since peaked in terms of it's coolness.

Instead, you'll note that "coolness" peaks when just a relative few people are frequenting an establishment.

Just before the word spreads about a cool neighbourhood and just before the neighbourhood reaches real commercial success and mass appeal, it experiences what is known as "Hipster Prime Time."  During this time you'll notice a lot of people wearing plaid, rolled up tight jeans, tattoos, and thick black-framed glasses.  These people will say extremely enthusiastic things about the neighbourhood like, "This place is pretty cool, I guess."

Once the amount of "mainstream" people frequenting a neighbourhood gets too high, though, the coolness and, accordingly, the amount of hipsters around, begins to decline. During this time you'll notice that hipsters will say things about the neighbourhood like, "This place is past its prime," and "This neighbourhood used to be so cool."

This is a dangerous time for a trendy neighbourhood. As the hipsters' numbers fall and the 905ers' numbers rise, there is often a palpable, douchey tension in the air (See "Ossington").

During this time, you may hear a hipster, bitter at the loss of of his favourite watering hole, shout things like, "Go back to Woodbridge!" or "I've been coming here for years, man!"

Similarly, 905ers, with confidence bolstered by their growing numbers, might be overheard to say things like "Look at that fag's jeans!" "I love this jam!" or even "J├Ągerbombs?"

(This is also a period one might be able to spot the elusive Super-Douche, a weird hybrid hipster/gino found only in these neighbourhoods still struggling with their identity).

The next stage in a hot neighbourhood's life is called the "Ed Hardy Days." This when the 905ers takeover. The word about the neighbourhood's coolness has spread through the GTA and, like a pebble dropped in the pond of cultural relevance, the ripples have now reached the extreme edges - Newmarket, Brampton, Oshawa, et al. 905ers flock to the neighbourhood's nightspots, fueled by vodka-redbulls and generous helpings of cologne. It's a time when you'll notice a lot of popped collars, striped dress shirts, and orange women.

Of course, like all nightlife hot spots, the life of a cool neighbourhood is cyclical. Much as the hipsters will undoubtedly move on to new, darker, dirtier basement bars with ridiculous cover charges to see shitty pretentious bands, so too will the 905ers follow them; bringing with them their natural hipster-repellent hair gel, top 40 music and domestic beer.

And in the end, most bars and cafes wind up being just about as trendy and popular as they were in the beginning. This period, a newly created hipster and 905er vacuum, is, of course the ideal time to go check out these neighbourhoods.

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind, these results aren't standard. Some bars/scenes may actually retain a higher level of coolness than before they were considered hot. Some bars may feature extended periods of coolness or extended periods of popularity.

Likewise, some neighbourhoods might be immune to this phenomenon entirely. Some remain hipster havens for many years (see "Queen West") whilst some start as and remain 905er strongholds (see "The Entertainment District").

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