Disclaimer: I’m a native Brooklynite, born in Brooklyn Hospital. I attended Brooklyn Tech High School and in the words of Jay-Z, “Brooklyn till I die.”
Nonetheless, in the past five years -or ten if you’re a native- Brooklyn has had a renaissance. Gone are the scathing comments when you travel away from New York City, “Have you ever been shot?” Or still funny but not as harsh, “Did you know Biggie?” Instead, when you say you’re from Brooklyn, it’s as if this automatic halo of coolness surrounds you. Brooklyn transplants start to envy you and get nervous as though they will never tell their children how they inherited the cool package they give you in the delivery room.
The Brooklyn effect is a global phenomenon. Urban planning and real estate developers in the Midwest are marketing converted warehouses as “Brooklyn-style lofts.” Young women like Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City” fame, who a generation ago wanted to move to Manhattan and wouldn’t be seen in Brooklyn, are now creating vision boards based on Bushwick, the Brooklyn neighborhood where the cast of HBO’s “Girls resides. Across the Atlantic in Sweden, if you slap the world “Brooklyn” onto anything, people will buy it. There’s even a restaurant named “Bar Brooklyn,” modeled after hipster-filled bars in Williamsburg, at the original Kings County.
Recently, I stopped by the Goodwill at Livingston Street, in what natives call downtown Brooklyn. The store is located on the cusp of Fort Greene and Cobble Hill, two areas recently crowned as affluent due to rocketing real estate that has been there since the 1800s. I saw the melting pot that makes Brooklyn so cool. Little old ladies dropping off coats from decades past, hipsters buying up all things flannel, an older gentlemen looking for a suit for work, college students looking for early nineties “retro goods,” And then me, a fashion stylist who dreads department stores. For one moment, I took it all in, the different walks of life, the different reasons everyone was here: donating, shopping, and finding career wear. I realized that in no other city would I see true coolness but in a Goodwill in Brooklyn.
What made Brooklyn so cool? Was it the once cheap rents? Could it be the non-pretentious natives or slower pace? Was it the ability to zone commercial and residential as such to live, play and work without the fast-pace of Manhattan? Do the Barclay’s Center or the artisanal shops opening every five minutes make Brooklyn now cool? Or has Brooklyn always been cool and those seeking a cool factor just discovered it?
What do you think? Include your comments below and let me know!
And if you have not been in Brooklyn, let me be your tour guide. Write any questions about anything Brooklyn!
Native New Yorker Shaunya is the owner and curator of VintageShaun, a collection of vintage clothing with a contemporary vision that has been featured in NBC’s The Today Show. She is a longtime Goodwill fan and style expert. Last May, Shaunya collaborated in Goodwill’s Spring Fling the Excess, our Earth Day/spring cleaning promotion. Most recently, she styled models for Goodwill Suits You, a fashion show to mark October, National Disability Employment Awareness month.
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