Photo: inLite studio/Shutterstock

A Taxonomy of Youth Culture in Cape Town

Cape Town Insider Guides
by Mia Arderne Jul 23, 2013

Cape Town’s elitist subcultures consist of Hipsters, Poppies, Yuppies, and Zef riffraff. Being a Cape Townian writer myself, I am privy to the knowledge that they are all equally exclusive. From my house in the particularly Zef suburb of Bellville, I have taken the liberty of mapping them out.

Whether you smoke hand-rolled Golden Virginia in skinny jeans, or listen to YMCMB on your car’s 6×9 speakers, there’s a place for you in the Mother City. Growing up among the cliques, I have drawn up a mosaic of high-heeled glamour sluts, hopeful actors, aspiring models, stoned artists, young executives, proud Coloureds, and BEE-opportunists — all walking a road of broken dreams longer than the N1 highway.

Here is a quick guide through my subculture clique map of Cape Town.

Camps Bay: Home to the Yuppie

The Yuppie is the kind of person who sits drinking scotch on the rocks in a tumbler even though he’s under 32 years old. As I approach him, I am instantly blasted with an avalanche of corporate jargon; the words “McKinsey,” “Goldman Sachs,” and “Investec” were never spoken with more passion. I blow a ring of cigarette smoke into his face, hoping it will compromise some of his gym membership hours.

Try as I might to share in his annoyance at administrative and managerial banalities, I can’t contain my smile at just how desperately he’s trying to be a character from Suits. Looking out at the shore of Camps Bay, I marvel at his shameless scrambling for a BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) position and wonder how long it will take this number-cruncher to become a tax-rebate-scouting, philanthropist-posing CEO with a Bugatti in his garage. High risk, high returns, they say. But what does the world really need?

Obviously another accountant.

Claremont: Home to the Poppie

Later at Claremont’s prime club, Tiger Tiger, I scoff at the R70 entry free and meet the most basic of Poppies. She has hair extensions that flow down to her breasts and sways her slender hips to the generic musical genius of David Guetta. When I offer to buy her a drink, she opts for a strawberry mojito while lightly tapping her manicured nails on the bar. I politely ask the self-tanned beauty exactly how many wardrobes she owns?

“Three,” she says.

Her glamorous life includes shopping at high-end retail store Zara, reading Cosmopolitan, and studying Marketing. I am not exaggerating when I say this girl is familiar with every Jersey Shore character. When she eventually gets up to dance to Justin Bieber, I promptly leave without paying for her cocktail.

Observatory: Home to the Hipster

Walking down the streets of Observatory, they are absolutely everywhere. The Hipster may be the opposite of a Poppie, but it is clear these folk spend just as much time negotiating their outfits. The group of androgynous-looking, aloof youth sure appear “jaded.” Perhaps because their skinny jeans are compromising their fertility.

They are so preoccupied uploading to Instagram that they hardly speak. So I bring out the big guns: Nietzsche. Tubes of hand-rolled tobacco are lit and conversation ensues against a background of the Black Keys. A privileged, Ramones t-shirt-wearing deviant takes the opportunity to slash the establishment en cue. But shockingly, not one of his entourage can provide a single practical solution to any of the issues being bemoaned. I change the subject instead and take vintage fashion advice from the vapid and talentless kids.

Bellville: Home to the Zef

I go back home to Bellville, home to the phenomenon of Zef, where I drive my Volkswagon Polo through a street scattered with CY number-plated, boosted cars complete with dropped suspension and tinted windows. I join my usual clique of brandy-drinking riffraff (who do not take five years to get dressed in the morning) as they blast bass from car speakers. In my Ed Hardy hoody, I take a Klipdrift Brandy and Coca-Cola from a girl in aviator Ray-Bans. The glass is full to the brim with ice.

We drink at home because it costs less petrol and we shop at China Town because it’s cheaper. Down in the Zef Zone, we can’t see Table Mountain from the house. I look over to my drug-peddling gangster kingpin neighbor mowing his lawn in his boxer shorts and slippers. He waves, flipping his Premiere League Football scarf over his neck.

With the rap duo Die Antwoord in my ear, I open the newspaper and read the sensational crap that is The Voice. Another murder. The Ray-Ban-wearing friend rambles on in a hybrid language incomprehensible to every other clique.

Discover Matador