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British Airways High Life


Where to eat, drink and see art in Houston, Texas

December 2012

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Gone are the Stetsons. Now the biggest city in Texas is staking its claim as the coolest cat in the South, says Antonia Quirke
A skate park in downtown Houston
Jack Thompson for High Life magazine

this article

'We're having a rodeo party in one of the suites,' says the woman with hair rising from her head in a copper-beech dream of curling tongs and Elnett. On her feet are little blue cowboy boots covered in studs. I'm at a hotel reception in Houston, Texas, early on Saturday evening — so far so normal? Actually, no. In the few days I spend here, these are the only cowboy boots I see, and the one Stetson was fixed to the duffle bag of a pensioner boarding a Greyhound bus for Tampa. Houston's profoundly non-Texan Texas is startling. It gets so acute I kind of miss my more caricatured movie-Texas — where Jeff Bridges pulls up his huge-buckled jeans in The Last Picture Show — and start to feel a little cheated, although tell any Houstonian this and they give you a look of triumph: they like to be different.

Houston has just been placed by at the top of the list of cool places to live. Houston is unique in the United States. It's the only city with no ethnic majority, just an even spread of large populations from Nigeria, Vietnam, Korea, Mexico, India and so many others that 83 languages are regularly being spoken in Houston's schools. Where first-time buyers might have thought of California as a clement place to settle and prosper, three years ago they started moving to Houston, drawn to the sun, cheap housing and new jobs in clean energy (the convention centre here is run entirely by wind), all of which started a shift in the city's decades-long reputation as the middle-aged hub of oil and pharmaceutical companies. The average age of a Houstonian is now just 34. And yet, it's a very nascent scene. Seven eighths of the people living in Houston don't know it's cool. In fact most people will keep flooring it along Highway 59 arguing the opposite — and it's easy to see why.

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Posted by Antonia Quirke


USA, Texas

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