Annu Subramanian: In defense of the District

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Annu Subramanian

Being a “Washington insider” comes with quite a stigma these days.

In politics, it means you have become so embroiled in D.C. minutiae that you’ve lost sight of what really matters in America.

But being a Washington insider is an insult for another reason, too. According to the rest of the country, we’re unattractive, poorly dressed boring people who think a night of fun is riding the Metro all the way out to New Carrollton, Md. just to watch it turn around.

GQ Magazine’s November issue highlighted this, giving makeovers to eight Capitol Hill employees and chiding the fact that, in D.C., “blousy shirts and ill-fitting suits are what pass for fashion.”

At which point the magazine proceeds to dress these men in skinny jeans so tight that their blood circulation appears strained.

Forbes Magazine recently named D.C.’s H Street corridor the sixth-best “hippest hipster” neighborhood in the country, which drummed up so much pushback that you’d think an actual political scandal had broken out.

And then there’s the adage. The one that makes me wince every time a family friend or TV pundit says it.

“Washington is the Hollywood for ugly people.”

First of all, that was funnier about the first 50 times I heard it. Second, it’s not true anymore. D.C. is a fun city with hot people and hip potential, and I’m here to tell you why.

Now, for disclosure’s sake, I should probably own up to my own weaknesses when it comes to being cool. Namely, I’m not. I once had dinner with a famous neuroscientist for my birthday, and I only recently started coming around to podcasts.

But D.C. has a culture that pulses through each neighborhood. And it continues to grow and change as different people move into different areas of the city. From festivals and little cinemas screening indie flicks, to lectures, pop-up flea markets and DC Brau, this city is more than Hillterns and lobbyists.

It’s also growing as a city that cultivates cool.

The tech world is thriving in D.C., and the emergence of some notable District-based startups has drawn people who would otherwise take root in Silicon Valley or New York. The city is also increasingly becoming home to young people. A DC Neighborhoods profile attributed the District’s rapid population growth to the staggering number of young professionals here.

This might make way for competitive child rearing and even more farmers markets down the road, but right now it means more bars, more concert halls and more places where we young people can just be young.

As for D.C. being full of ugly people, it’s just not true. The District was ranked the second healthiest city this year by the American College of Sports Medicine – just another benefit of being young and active.

It also means the culture of the city is turning away from one of Beltway neighbors who flood the city during the week and leave it a ghost town during evenings and weekends. D.C. is a town that is known for its happy hours and bottomless brunches all week long.

And we’ve got a weapon most conventionally cool cities don’t have going for them: If we’re nerdy, we embrace it – but with style. Outsiders like to throw shade because they think they understand this city, but D.C. is the only place where you can party at the Newseum or see Common discuss the Anthology of Rap at the Smithsonian.

The rest is just hipster shit.

Annu Subramanian, a senior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet senior columnist.

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