'Yuccie' power: economy boosted by hipsters with money and morals
With old tastes but new cash, young urban creatives are breathing fresh life into the economy.
Since the crash, young people, like almost everyone else, have been living frugally.Painting their fixed-wheel bikes and trawling the second-hand shops of Temple Bar for that pre-owned Harris Tweed jacket became the norm, not just because it was hip but also because it was economical.
But now, in a recovering economy, they have cash in their vintage handbags and the poor-as-church-mice hipsters have morphed into "Yuccies" shorthand for Young, Urban Creatives. Think of them as Yuppies with a modicum of social consciousness and intellectual engagement.
They are now a potent driver of the retail and hospitality sectors - but they are eschewing traditional luxury brands.
Not for them bottles of high-priced Cristal, Lulu Guinness handbags or a mad dash to the Big Apple to hit the high-fashion outlets before Christmas. Nor will you find them gorging on the latest designer goods in Brown Thomas. Instead, you will have to step away from the mainstream (sorry, main street) and wander through Clarendon Street in Dublin, around George's Arcade or into the nooks and crannies of Temple Bar.
Here a whole host of young entrepreneurs and creatives are invigorating the city. New shops, restaurants and bars have popped up, led by bright young creatives who want to offer their very own brand of luxury to other like-minded millennials.
Their success is based on selling a new kind of luxury appealing to a market for whom Celtic Tiger excess is still an embarrassment. Wanton excess is tacky. They don't want to swell the coffers of corporate drones.
But now, as these young, independently minded consumers come back into money, how can they self-righteously splash the cash without selling out?
Well, it seems they have simply upscaled the markets they indulge in, with artisanal restaurants, craft beer bars and independent vintage stores reaping the rewards. And rather than feeding the corporate machine, they are instead funding other young creatives expanding their small, local businesses.
"People are buying experience over highly expensive brands and products," says Tom Gleeson, owner of the minimalist burger joint, Bunsen. "That's what my friends are doing, whether it be going travelling or going to a restaurant and going to a gig, that's what they want now. I think there's a cohort of people who still want the expensive designer product but it's probably diminishing."
Gleeson credits the rise in young people running small, independent businesses to the recession, which meant rents crashed.
"When things got cheaper it allowed more interesting things to come into the market and allowed more creative people to have a crack at it. Over the last three or four years, because rents and VAT were a bit lower, some people could get into places they mightn't have got into before."
The businesses have now become established, refined their offering and the emergence of a new market of reasonably affluent Yuccies has created a perfect storm for growth.
The R.A.G.E. record store on Fade Street is one of those businesses.
"Initially, I set up the shop I wanted to go to," says owner Nicholas Dimayo (35). "When I opened first, Fade Street was empty, nearly all the shops here now didn't exist. There was a time period where rents were slightly cheaper, there was the opportunity for people to start things up fairly affordably, for taking a chance. We're five years here now and this shop is on a pretty steady increase, which is great.
"I think it's a new generation with new tastes. For a luxury item it's about going back to simple pleasures. I think people are buying it for happiness as opposed to just buying it for status," he says.
Even so, R.A.G.E. records sells anywhere between two to five old-style record players every week with a price range of €65 to €150 and he sold 350 record players over the 30 days of Christmas last year. Vinyl is back. His best-selling newest release? Kendrick Lamar's latest album, priced at €22.
The market is changing quickly. One of the city's favourite craft beer bars, Against the Grain on Wexford Street, is planning a revamp to keep up with its more moneyed clientele.
"When we started, we catered to very young people," says assistant manager Sean Hoyne (23). "We aimed at getting some people in the door, the pub was quirky and we were trying something different. But now we're getting older crowds in and we're changing how we display ourselves. In January we are completely redoing the place to suit a more high-end clientele aged 25 to 35."
While the average beer is €5.50, the more high-quality beers are around €6.75 and the most expensive brew, Brooklyn Cave Creek, is priced at €44 for a 750ml bottle. Against the Grain is amongst several craft beer bars run by Galway Bay Brewery, including the Brew Dock and the Black Sheep,
"It started around five years ago and there's now 10 craft beer bars. It's working, whatever we're doing," says Hoyne.
Editor of Totally Dublin, Ian Lamont, says: "The attitude that was espoused during the Celtic Tiger era, the hubris and big spending, is now frowned upon." However, Ian admits that Yuccies are not immune to pretention.
"There are things that are extremely expensive that I think you're still just paying for the prestige of being there."
However, he argues there is a preference among young people to support their own, be that backing young entrepreneurs opening up a bar or a burger joint rather than spending the money that will swell the balance sheet of some American corporation. It seems that while young people are beginning to spend money again, supporting local Irish businesses will leave them feeling a little bit less, well, . . . yuccie.