Rust Belt Chic, what’s the attraction? Curbed Detroit phrased it as “Demand for Decay”. I’ve written a lot about Rust Belt Chic over the last few years. Concerning demand for decay, I’ve never encountered it or had the thought cross my mind. A more worthwhile debate is the idea of urban frontier (see Aaron Renn’s excellent essay about Detroit). “My neighborhood is not your blank canvass” is a concise way to sum up the backlash.
I model Rust Belt Chic geography in terms of brownfields and greenfields. Greenfields attract people and business. Brownfields are saddled with huge legacy costs (e.g. political corruption). They push people away. Rust Belt Chic turns that dichotomy on its head. Brownfields are the new greenfields. The suburban Sun Belt is the new brownfield. Rust Belt Chic is a demand for a landscape as different as possible from one’s suburban greenfield upbringing, a longing for a geography of somewhere. You might move to a rural town or a shrinking city. It’s not decay lust.
Rust Belt Chic, for better or for worse, is the search for a real place where you can explore a frontier opportunity. Any global city with lots of people moving in and out is a greenfield. You are anonymous. No one remembers that dumb thing you did in middle school. You get a clean start, a blank canvass.
Getting acquainted with your nihilistic self requires an inspired environment. No flimsy doors or fake shutters need apply. I want a dumbwaiter and a Pittsburgh Potty. Like a cookie table, a Pittsburgh Potty didn’t fall far from the apple tree. If you meet a hipster on the road and he doesn’t know what a cookie table is, kill him.
So there is a code. Do you know what a Rust Belt Babushka is? Poser.