What’s All this Talk About Swagger Jacking?

by Borderstan.com August 9, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,379 2 Comments

"Swagger Jacking"

The intersection of 14th and U Streets NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 

Swagger Jacking: It’s a phrase that has popped up on several DC blogs this week. So what does it mean, exactly?

Well the phrase, used by Stephen A. Crockett Jr. on The Root DC, alludes to the social, economic and cultural shifts that are taking place in the District. More specifically, Crockett uses “swagger jacking” to describe the sense of “faux black ethos” that is running amuck on the U Street Corridor.

What was once the cultural center of Chocolate City (the name for DC a couple of decades ago when it had a large African American majority) is now home to loft apartments, high rent prices, chic restaurants and restored theaters — that all pay homage to the past in an ironically expensive way. To sum it up, today’s U Street is a trendy misrepresentation of the area’s history.

Crockett writes, “There is something inherently inauthentic about homemade sweet tea out of a mason jar,” referring to a U Street restaurant that emulates “some memory of blackness.”

Change is an inevitable fact of life; a fact to which urban areas are especially prone. Cities will continue to experience on-going social and economic shifts as races and cultures migrate and populate different city neighborhoods.

City Paper writer, Alex Baca, points out that many of the buildings in the U Street area (specifically The Brixton, the target of Crockett’s article) have been vacant and decrepit for years. Now, the U Street Corridor is one of the city’s most vibrant and desirable places to live and visit. Undoubtedly, it is also one of the city’s most lucrative areas, generating both revenue and jobs for the District.

“Crockett’s just saying what we already know: DC isn’t what it used to be,” writes Baca.

So then, what?

As the racial, cultural and economic dynamics of the city change, do we just rebuild and erase all of the District’s history? Is some preservation better than no preservation? Or is what is happening along U Street more exploitation and less preservation as we continue to swagger jacket our way into a bustling neighborhood?

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  • T

    Goooooooood questions.

    Although I enjoy this new, ridiculous term, I think Crocket didn’t do his thesis justice. How much ‘authenticity’ was left on U Street as of 2000 in the first place? Is there a better alternative to the Brixton, Marvin, and the rest? And if so… why hasn’t Bohemian Caverns simply bought up the block?

    In any case, it’s still worth talking about. But who can take a term like that seriously?

    • Pretense

      does ‘the co-option of African-American aesthetics’ suit you better?

      I don’t think the point is to ‘take it seriously.’ Swag and is a playful term. Maybe you’d appreciate it more if bar opened up on U called SWAG with bold-typed Helvetica menus, $12 Gin&Juice cocktails and jazz renditions of Souldja Boy’s greatest hits?

      I think you may be the problem here 🙂


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