Rust Belt Chic is easy to define. Concerning your struggling hometown, your attitude shifts from shame to pride. Far down the road in the future, the migration to Rust Belt cities will include people who wish they were from there. Then I might seriously consider the angst about the trend. Mayor Don Ness about Duluth’s transformation:
“For a long time, when I was growing up, if someone was talented they would feel a need to distance themselves from [Duluth],” Ness said without mentioning Exhibit A: Bob Dylan. The iconic troubadour was born on the city’s steep hillside just a few blocks from where Ness grew up a generation later, but Dylan only recently admitted it.
“I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at a certain point it became a point of real pride to say, ‘We’re from Duluth,’” Ness said. “That’s the most important change of the past decade for our city: People are proud of where they’re from and the cool things happening up here.”
Rust Belt Chic, it’s personal. The history and culture you once tried to escape, you now seek. That’s the extent of the revitalization. It takes someone from a place like Pittsburgh to appreciate the bones of Greenville, SC. What’s so troubling about this urban aesthetic? That it helps to sell jeans and automobiles?
Seeing Rust Belt cities in a positive light is a good thing. Doing so doesn’t gloss over the blight and social injustice. Rust Belt Chic is about action, not waving civic pom-poms. People care about what happens to urban Duluth and Detroit. Not too long ago, that wasn’t the case.