A study of a place where only incredibly cool and good-looking people hang out.
Surrounded by a crowd, a dream sequence resembling a kind of fashion show, showcasing all of grandma and grandpas clothing, couture. Fuzzy-bearded 20-year olds smoking pipes whilst reading Nietzsche. Heavy-rimmed spectacles, hand-crafted bear and most importantly the use of the words “vintage”, “retro”, “old-school” used at least three times per sentence.
Mark Greiff, assistant professor at the New School and founder of n+1, recently did a sociological study of what it means to be a hipster. He found, “No one, it seems, thinks of himself as a hipster, and when someone calls you a hipster, the term is an insult. Paradoxically, those who use the insult were themselves often said to resemble hipsters — they wear the skinny jeans and big eyeglasses, gather in tiny enclaves in big cities, and look down on mainstream fashions and ‘tourists.’”
Greiff’s findngs are in fact rather intact, as the challenge of finding a “hipster” to interview is in itself a daunting task that no-one wants to take part in as real ‘hipsterdom’ appears to belong to an elite few. In his study, Greiff furthermore links the hipster-subculture to the late French philosopher, Pierre Bourdieu’s work, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, published in 1979. In “Distinction”, Bourdieu dictates the social logic of taste, namely that admiration and appreciation for music, art and even food came about from different groups endowing a form of cultural superiority, trumping that of a traditional economical hierarchy.
Sitting across from owner and designer, Adam Whiteman* of the ever popular institution to creatives and creative admirers, “The Power and the Glory” in Tamboerskloof, it’s time to test Greiff’s theory.
P&G is a quaint coffee shop and bar situated on the busy corner of Kloofnek and Burnside Roads. Whether driving past early morning or late at night, there are always beautiful people to be seen peeling out of P&G’s windows opening up to the street. I say “beautiful people” in the sense of extremely well-dressed individuals with sleek, cropped hair and fitted tweed jackets. Kiff Cape Town also named P&G the “most hipster hangout in Cape Town” because of “its attraction of creatives”. That’s also exactly how Whiteman wants to keep it.
“I started P&G because there were always friends hanging around my house. I opened the bar for friends, for regulars, for creatives, musicians, designers, actors. It’s the kind of place I would want to go to and also with the kind of people I would go to.” So how does Whiteman keep his ‘creative regulars’? “I cater for them. I stock the food and drinks they like, such as craft beers and wines, I keep tables for them on busy nights.” To receive Whiteman’s special treatment is simple, he has to like you, “I’d much rather have the place full of nice people than people I don’t know, or people who become pains in the ass” he explains
Whiteman has previously been labelled as “draconian” because of these elitist measures, “Everything here is done my way, in a good way. I don’t like people psyching me, and my regulars don’t like brash and loud people either. I would only show the door to rude and creepy customers,” he explains.
“My goal for P&G is to stay local product-wise, and keep a nice crowd. In 10 years I want it to be the place known for being where famous bands and actors hung out.”
P&G is not only famous for its entry requirements though, but also known as the ultimate hipster-hangout because of it. Whiteman doesn’t believe in any marketing or promotion of any kind, “I don’t want it to become mainstream” he furthers. It is thus that P&G evolved as the utmost underground spot for creatives to mingle. “People call this place often ‘hipster’, but seriously what exactly is a hipster. It’s a person who is wearing stuff a year before it’s cool. I have no problem with that.”
Sitting on old theatre chairs, next to a wall covered with Polaroid shots of his “creative regulars”, Greiff’s theory of hipsters and superiority based on appreciation of art return to mind. I would not describe The Power and The Glory as an exclusive hangout for artists and such intellectuals alone; however, Adam has made it clear the space has been designed solely for a certain type and its success proven tenfold through hearing the constant buzz of the espresso maker during our interview.
As all clubs do, one has to play with the majority’s rules. Should you want to be embraced as a ‘creative’, the alternative adjective to ‘hipster’, you need to do your homework to be allowed into the small inner circle of well-dressed creative intellectuals.
Upon finishing the interview, Adam picks up two giant bags filled with blue wool, Adam reads the confusion in my face, “Looking after customers also means dry-cleaning their sheepskins,” he laughs. And I thought I was just starting to understand these people…
Carla de Klerk