Are suburbs now cool or are they just an attractive option at the moment?

An analysis of why the suburbs are currently attractive to millennials starts with a headline about the suburbs being cool but mainly discusses practical life issues:

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Changing attitudes about commutes.

Credit analyst Kailyn Hart was living in a 1,300-square-foot apartment in bustling Mid-City, Los Angeles with her fiancé, Dominic Wilson, and their 1-year-old son when the pandemic forced her to begin working from home. Being able to work remotely gave Hart—who had been watching mortgage rates for a good buying opportunity since 2017 —the kick she needed to purchase a 4-bedroom, 2,300 square-foot house with a backyard in Fontana, Calif, a 47-mile drive from L.A. “My boss told me that I’ll at least be working remote until December, and after that I may only be going into the office just once or twice a week,” says Hart, 32…

A need for more space…

“We’ve seen a surge of buyers who want to leave downtown for the suburbs,” says Nicole Fabiano-Oertel, a real estate agent at Compass in Chicago. “The most common reason is they want more space, whether that’s indoor space or outdoor space, or both.”…

Why pay city prices, when you can’t live the city life?…

Corey Jones, a real estate agent with Better Real Estate in Plainfield, N.J., says affordability is a driving factor for a lot of urban residents who are decamping to the suburbs. “What we’re hearing from clients more and more now is: why rent and pay city prices when you’re working from home?”…

Good public schools.

Generally, public school systems in the suburbs outperform schools in urban areas with respect to test scores, graduation rates, and college placement. Suburban schools also usually have more outdoor space for sports and other recreation. And, a number of parents who send their kids to expensive urban private schools have expressed that they’re less willing to keep paying if the schools go remote this year.

None of these reasons sound particularly cool. They sounds more like calculated decisions given the current circumstances: Americans tend to like larger private spaces, they have a lot of stuff, and they think certain places are better for raising children. These are all part of the ongoing appeal of the suburbs.

Going further, I wonder when suburbs were cool. Even as Americans moved to suburbs in large numbers in the twentieth century, were they ever the place to be? All during this period, critics of the suburbs pounded away at the problems: exclusion, conformity, soulless, mass produced, overreliance on driving, and on and on. Even as millions adopted a suburban lifestyle, it was not always portrayed in media products as the exciting or hip or sophisticated choice. Suburbs may have more entertainment centers than ever but they do not compare to the vibrant cultural centers and neighborhoods of big cities.

Perhaps the connection here is that millennials may be more interested in suburbs right at this moment. As relatively young adults, they have a higher cool factor and are not as locked into life paths. Just moving to the suburbs suggests younger Americans think the suburbs are a viable option…and this may be as cool as the suburbs get.

NPR reports on the state of American hipsterdom

NPR sums up the state of the American hipster scene:

On the streets of Franklin and Nashville and almost every town throughout America now, hipsters scuttle by on scooters, zip around in Zipcars or Smart cars, roll by on fixed-gear bikes or walk about in snazzy high-top sneakers and longboard shorts. They snap Instagram photos of each other — in black skinny jeans and T-shirts with funky epigrams like “If You Deny It, You Are A Hipster” — and turn the pix into iPhone cases. They buy cool-cat snuggle clothes at American Eagle and down-market monkey boots at Urban Outfitters. They drink cheap beer, listen to music on vinyl records and decorate their lairs with upcycled furniture.

They follow indie bands and camp out at Occupy movements. They work as programmers and shop clerks, baristas and bartenders. They are gamers and volunteers, savvy entrepreneurs and out-of-work basement dwellers.

In case you haven’t noticed, hipsters — and those who cater to them — are everywhere. And that really galls some hipsters…

You might think that as hipsterism ripples out, in concentric (and eccentric) circles farther and farther from its big-city epicenters, the ultra-coolitude would lose its authenticity, Furia says, “but the opposite may be true. Cities are known for setting trends; hipsterism is about anti-trends. It sounds funny, but hipsters in Omaha may actually be cooler than hipsters in New York City — everyone knows about New York City.”

I don’t know that this report adds much to what has already been noted about hipsters – see an earlier example here. Here is the question I would really love to hear people answer: what comes after hipsters? How long until hipsters are no longer cool and another group takes over? What’s the next “cool” group?

Young evangelical says churches shouldn’t strive to be “cool”

In the Wall Street Journal, 27-year old evangelical Brett McCracken suggests churches shouldn’t try so hard to be cool:

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.

McCracken sounds like he is suggesting the church should be counter-cultural rather than go along with the culture. This seems fairly obvious given the radical message of Christianity – it is difficult to reconcile this with today’s American culture. But churches also want to attract members and the glitzy and glamorous ways to do this seem attractive.

Follow-up questions: does this approach from churches lead to long-lasting attendance or spiritual growth? Is “real” what most emerging adults are looking for in church and religion? And what is “real” anyway?

McCracken recently published a book titled Hipster Christianity that further examines this issue.