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'Fixies,' skinny jeans, and irony swarm Jakarta's streets

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Every other Sunday morning, Jakarta’s major thoroughfare becomes a bike superhighway. Thousands of residents reclaim the streets from the grinding traffic that makes the megacity a chore to navigate.

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But amid the tide of lycra-clad racers, mountain bike riders, and teens on BMX bikes is a new sight: the colorful, fixed-gear velodrome bikes known as “fixies.” Popularized in American hipster culture, fixies have crossed the Pacific. Male riders sport jean shorts, moustaches, beanies, and black-rimmed glasses. 

More than half of the nation’s 230 million people now have cellphones with access to the Internet and the latest trends overseas. With a more open society in the past 10 years, Western influence is everywhere. 

Hipster-oriented stores appear in Jakarta’s Western-style malls. At the youthful FX Sudirman mall, teenagers seek out skinny jeans, ironic T-shirts, and salons specializing in the latest New York look. In nearby Kemang, university students flock to such stores as Monka Magic Vinyl, where the latest record from Arcade Fire is sold alongside fixie bikes.  

“Indonesia is becoming homogenized,” says Eka Annash, advertising art director and singer for the popular punk-rockabilly band The Brandals. “We’re borrowing culture from the US.”