“Detroit Suburbs Harder”

A store in the Detroit suburbs is now selling shirts with this phrase: “Detroit Suburbs Harder.”

Detroit Hustles Harder. Three words. A mantra that swaggers at you, bearing an unflinching gaze. A saying that suggests only one answer — just put your head down and work…

Now the Triple Threads t-shirt and printing company in Clawson want some of the myth-making. Thanks to a tip on Facebook, we saw a photo of a new top they’re hawking — “Detroit Suburbs Harder.”

There are some obvious questions here.

How exactly does one ‘suburb?’ Does this verb describe the act of enjoying a lunch in downtown Birmingham or raking leaves in Northville? Or is it a political philosophy eschewing mixed-use development and building re-use for more roads and far-flung McMansion developments?

Assuming “Detroit Suburbs Harder,” does that mean that our suburbs are more suburb-y than those of Atlanta? Are we out-suburbing Orange County and Chicagolandia? Was there a contest here I wasn’t aware of?

And if “Detroit Suburbs Harder,” is this shirt a companion wardrobe piece for people in Detroit who already hustle harder, or a philosophical distinction? Is ‘suburb-ing’ now supposed to be the opposite of ‘hustling?’

Perhaps this isn’t the meaning at all but here is a possible sociological/historical answer: Detroit may indeed be a poster city for suburban development in the United States, particularly for Northeastern and Midwestern cities (even as the prototypical region for suburbs is probably Los Angeles). While Detroit tends to garner attention for its Rust Belt demise in the last half century (see here and here), the suburbs have done decently well. In other words, while the core of the region has experienced difficulty, the suburbs go on. Detroit is known for “white flight” and segregation though recent data suggests more blacks are now moving to its suburbs. The fate of urban Detroit may still be bleak (particularly financially) but its suburbs might hold out for much longer.

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