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Did you hear that sudden collective gasp earlier this month from our neighbors in the hipster enclave to our north?

Ah, Portland: It's like a little country unto itself. It's possible that residents don't understand (or, more likely, just don't care about) the love-hate relationship that the rest of the the state has with its largest city. On one hand, it's a fun place to visit. On the other hand, good luck finding a place to park. Drive safely on your way home!

The city has a certain, shall we say, attitude that can rub outsiders the wrong way. Let's call it, for lack of a better word, the "Portlandia" effect: The sense you pick up from its residents that their city is just so cool, so special, so hip, so much better than where you live. Why, Portland is just so precious, just like an adorable kitten, but one with a full beard and tattoos and a taste for microbrews. Did we mention that this kitten plays bass in an indie-music band? You probably assumed as much.

So, yes, Portland, we get it: You're hip. Everybody loves Portland. Everybody wants to partake of your relentless hipness. Maybe some of it will rub off on us as we drive home, an empty box of Voodoo Doughnuts tossed carelessly into the backseat.

Which is why it must have come to a shock to Portland's psyche earlier this month when the relocation firm MoveHub released its new list of the world's most hipster cities.

Portland was not at the top of the list. In fact, the location dubbed as the most hipster in the world was Brighton and Hove in the United Kingdom. Portland was No. 2.

Now, the Think Too Much staff routinely gets emails from organizations that purport to rank cities on how they stack up on some ridiculous standard  — number of self-identified vegan cowpokes per 100,000 population, for example, or accordion jam bands. (Extra points if the accordion jam band covers only Shins songs.) 

Normally, we understand that these surveys are public relations stunts prepared for amusement purposes only, and that they have little value as serious-minded, science-based efforts.

This latest survey by MoveHub, however, examined the number of vegan eateries, coffee shops, tattoo studios, vintage boutiques and record stores in each city per 100,000 city residents. If that's not scientific, what is? Sure, we can quibble (I might have added high-end eyeglass boutiques to the list), but MoveHub has that kind of quibble handled: "All flaws in the Hipster Index are ironic and actually really clever," the author of the piece, Frederick O'Brien, notes at the end.

Ironic and scientific, at the same time: As a hipster friend might put it, that's "awesome."

But there is no awesomeness here for Portland: When MoveHub added up its scores, Portland was not No. 1, although, to be fair, it was close. Brighton and Hove racked up a Hipster Index score of 8.1632, narrowly edging Portland's score of 8.1631. (The new survey excluded cities with populations less than 150,000.)

O'Brien noted that Brighton and Hove "has long been renowned for its hipster credentials" and is fashionable and overpriced. It's the only place in the country that has elected a Green Party member to Parliament. 

All that sounds familiar.

Portland may be inconsolable over this loss, but it has remedies: The City Council could bankroll the creation of just a handful of additional vegan eateries, coffee shops, tattoo parlors and so forth. The margin between Portland and Brighton and Hove is so small that even another half-dozen vintage boutiques could tip the balance.

The rest of the MoveHub list has a familiar (and in some cases, suspicious) Northwest United States flavor. Somewhat surprisingly, Salt Lake City landed in the No. 3 spot, just behind Portland. Now, I've heard that Salt Lake City is moving up on the hip list, but the following sentence still doesn't exactly roll off the tongue: "The third-hippest city in the world is Salt Lake City."

Three Florida cities (Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando) landed in the Top 10 list. And so did two cities in Washington state. You've already guessed Seattle, which came in at No. 4. Can you guess the other city in Washington state, the one that was recently named the 10th-hippest city in the nation? Olympia, state capital and indie-rock mecca? Too small. Tacoma, Wenatchee, Pasco? Good guesses, but wrong.

The correct answer is Spokane. 

Spokane, the center of the Inland Empire, is the 10th hippest city in the world? That ruckus you're hearing from the north is Portland gearing up to ask for a recount. (mm)

Mike McInally is editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald and the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He gave up the last of his hipness credentials last year upon turning 60. Contact him at


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