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Nolita Dirtbag Beckons You Into the Clout Matrix

The first six months to a year of the account “was just making fun of Aime Leon Dore.”

(Courtesy of Nolita Dirtbag)

I asked Alex Hartman, who runs the thriving Instagram meme account @nolitadirtbag, what a Nolita Dirtbag is. "Making fun of new-ish trends, and the main character energy in New York that a lot of people, myself included, have," Hartman replied. "The first six months to a year of [the account] was just making fun of Aime Leon Dore." 

The goings on around that store, and its accompanying café, at the corner of Mulberry and Spring Streets in Manhattan, were where the world of Nolita Dirtbag began. "That was the north star," Hartman said. "You wanted to avoid that sidewalk, but you also wanted to see what sort of clout-adjacent heads were standing outside." Those clout demons came to inhabit a wider see-and-be-seen underworld of wine bars, restaurants, parties, and online content, chronicled by the Nolita Dirtbag Instagram account and his "hyperlocal" newsletter Medium Rare.

Hartman, who is originally from Westchester, stressed that "90 percent of it is things I somewhat participate in, of course." He told me that through the success of the account, he's been hired as a consultant working with brands like NOAH and Puma, and that he's never gotten into a room with anyone who was sour about being mocked on the account. This makes sense, because any advertiser worth their salt knows now that soft mockery is the currency of the clout economy. 

"I never try to make it too mean, or too poignant. It's all a joke, and it's shocking how people have started to want to be on there, because it's a signifier that 'people are talking about it!'" Hartman explained. "Honestly I like it when people start to philosophize it, to some degree. Because I'm literally just looking at TikToks of Turkish Quandale Dingle." 

Okay, yeah, but I can't help myself: "Nolita," a non-neighborhood imagined into reality by real estate developers, is the ideal venue to set the world of this meme account, with its hyperfixation on imagined-or-real struggling artists with trust funds, imagined-or-real loft parties full of "Miu Miu baddies with the tiny tats," a place where veil is thinnest between being seen in real life and being adored, hated, or ignored, in the corresponding internet clout imaginary. (Hartman told me he actually lives in Bed-Stuy.)

Picture a door behind which you hear the soft thump of the latest Charli XCX single. Look once inside, and it's a sweaty room full of men in socks and penny loafers, look twice and it's the most important room in New York, filled with burgeoning celebrities at the bleeding edge of culture, complete with a writeup from GQ or Office Magazine. Wherever that room is, that is Nolita. Whether you enter or not, just by looking, you have already become the dirtbag.

But I must relay that, at least to Hartman, it's not that deep. "It's mostly just observational based on things I see, both in real life and online." 

That duality of declaring your participation in a "culture" by making fun of it and declaring it risible, reminded me a lot of the blog Hipster Runoff. "Someone on the newsletter commented that it was the new "Hipster Runoff (complementary)," Hartman told me. I wasn't in New York at the time that HRO thrived, but the sense I always got was that Carles, the blog's proprietor, was pioneering something new by cultivating this ironic distance from the culture in which he so clearly thrived. I don't know what happened, but somehow that became the dominant way of being among those of us who choose to live the internet content treadmill: Mockery with a whiff of desire.

"My friend, when I first started it, he was like man, you're going to run out of restaurants and things to make fun of pretty quick." He hasn't, but I asked Hartman where he actually wants to hang out, in real life.

Wednesday, June 12: City Hall hearing on Broker Fees. Free.

"To try and reform the 15 percent broker fee, where essentially the landlords will fucking pay. Sorry if this isn't like, 'oh, this cool pop-up.'"

"If a landlord hires a fucking broker, they pay the fee. I know so many people that are making $130K that are like, I can't shell out $11K to move to a $3K a month apartment. And I know the Real Estate Board of New York and all those freaks will be there, probably in casual attire so they can seem like "we're working class people, too!"

Daily: The smoking room at Wall Street Bath & Spa 88. 88 Fulton Street, Manhattan. Prices vary.

"You can smoke inside at the bathhouse. You get a schvitz, you get a hot borscht soup. It's a little, you know, gross. It's not like a TikTok, like, come with me for a day at BathHouse, but it's cool that it's one of the only indoor rooms in the city that you can smoke at."

Anytime: Riding a Citibike to Red Hook. $4.79 per ride.

"There's a little… not like a beach, but a little opening there. But it is really nice to just ride your Citi Bike all the way down until you see the Ikea, then you know you've made it. You can see the Statue of Liberty."

Nightly: Overstory. 70 Pine Street, Manhattan. Expensive.

"Super bougie. It's on like the 80th floor in FiDi and it's like a wrap-around patio. It's fucking expensive drinks, but I remember I was up there, I was like, I feel like Bruce fucking Wayne or something."

Daily: Doubles. 12 Amagansett Square, Amagansett, NY.

"If you're in the Hamptons, go to Doubles. It's like a Roti place in Amagansett Square. Good smoothies, totally owned by one of my friends. But it is good! You've gotta plug your friends."

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