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5 Things That Hipsters are Gentrifying in Singapore

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Joanne Poh

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Everyone has that hipster friend who owns an actual typewriter which he displays proudly in his room right beside his MacBook. Things that were once considered old and decrepit are now considered hip and cool.

That’s all fine and dandy. The only thing that’s annoying is that once businesses targeting hipsters get their hands on anything that’s legitimately old and cheap, they hipsterise it and slap on a big price tag. Here are five things in Singapore that are, more and more these days, getting gentrified and thus, more expensive.

 

Hawker centres

Hawker centres are the real heart of Singapore, and the main thing that Singaporeans miss when they’re abroad. It’s likely that more family meals take place in hawker centres than in dining rooms at home. Hawker centres are noisy, greasy and filled with aunties and uncles—and for many, they’re one of the things that make Singapore feel like home.

But it was only a matter of time before hipster hawker stalls started appearing on the scene. Smith Street Taps sells craft beers to a retro soundtrack at Chinatown Complex, while Hambaobao at Beauty World Centre serves up burgers at about $5 apiece.

But it gets better/worse. Entire hawker centres are being gentrified even as we speak.

The newly revamped Bedok Marketplace (formerly the legendary Simpang Bedok Food Centre) now looks like a hawker centre version of Clarke Quay, with its brightly painted faux-retro structures. It has retained some of its old stallholders, but obviously prices have risen, and you can expect to pay a little more than you would at a typical heartland hawker centre.

At Timbre+, which looks like an industrial space that’s been broken into by—you guessed it—a hipster, you get to enjoy such delicacies as $10 chicken curry rice or $80 wagyu steak.

 

Housing estates

Tiong Bahru has led the way in the gentrification of old HDB estates.

While it was previously filled with old people who went about their daily lives without much interruption from the outside world, it’s been transformed into a hipster enclave thanks to the numerous cafes and eateries that have sprung up over the last ten years, leading to rising property prices.

Other formerly sleepy estates which are currently getting smothered by hipster establishments include Jalan Besar, Keong Saik and Everton Park.

This is great if you’re a lover of hipster cafes and chic restaurants, not so great if you’re an actual resident who’s suddenly finding your area flooded with visitors.

 

Barbers

Remember when you were in secondary school and a trip to the barber meant paying $5 to get the standard haircut (shaved sides, flat top)?

Well, don’t expect it to cost $5 at hipsterised barber shops, which to their credit still charge less than full fledged hair salons of the same ilk.

Of course, you’ll still pay a premium for your haircuts compared to what QB Hair House or Kcuts are charging.

That’s because you’ll be seated in a meticulously decorated, deliberately retrofied space that will you think you’re an extra in a music video. You’ll probably feel out of place without your bowtie and styled moustache.

Here’s a list of hipster barbershops if you’re determined to pay for the experience.

 

Bookshops

Singaporeans aren’t exactly the keenest of readers, which is why only Kinokuniya has survived in the city area, and our most popular bookseller is, well, Popular, and we all know it’s thanks to all those assessment books.

Meanwhile, the only smaller booksellers that are surviving these days are hipsterish ones that carry limited edition or specialty titles.

The most famous of them all is BooksActually, who’ve managed to carve out a niche for themselves by organising in-store events and stocking obscure local publications.

 

Food trucks

Anybody who grew up in Singapore has an inexplicable obsession with the Milo truck. To be fair, food trucks have otherwise never really been a thing here, but in the US they’re the source of food that’s cheap, quick and tasty.

But recently, food trucks have been popping up everywhere, and they’re predictably hipster. Some examples include Coffee Bandits and Kerbside Gourmet.

Don’t expect to pay kopitiam prices for a coffee at one of these establishments, as they’re not really selling street food in the typical sense of the phrase. Options tend to be on the atas side, so get your wallets ready.

 

So is the rise of hipster culture in Singapore going to mean higher prices for everyone?

Surprisingly, no. As we’ve pointed out above, prices at hipster establishments aren’t necessarily the highest in the industry, and the cheaper options aren’t going anywhere. Most of the time, the cost comes down somewhere in the middle. If anything else, it’s simply responding to a specific but growing consumer demand that is willing to pay a bit more for the complete hipster experience.

Are you delighting or groaning at the increase in hipster establishments in Singapore? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.