Race, Class and Georgetown’s Suit Shops

Georgetown, home to some of the priciest retailers in town, has community activists clamoring over what they feel is their neighborhood’s losing appeal. One resident and developer even wants the city to commit millions of dollars to help spur more development in the neighborhood, a notion that Washington City Paper reporter Lydia DePillis describes as “ridiculous.” At the center of their gripes, she writes, is “the kind of tacky retail” that doesn’t “fit what they think the high-class image of Georgetown should be.”

This post has been updated to reflect a correction made by the Washington City Paper.

“What’s with all the suit shops?” asked Councilmember Jack Evans. “Who buys a $15 suit? I get asked that every day. That’s the dead zone.”

It’s hard not to notice the class and race implications of all this. Wealthy white Georgetowners don’t shop at those stores—where suits go for $99, not $15—and they think they don’t contribute to the neighborhood. They’re the remnant of an earlier time, when Georgetown actually had a black residential community, and not all the retail was Calvin Klein and H&M. But instead of viewing them as small independent businesses that Georgetowners say they love, the kind of diversity that keeps the place from becoming entirely an outdoor suburban mall, they’re seen as seedy and therefore undesirable.

* Corrected from an earlier version, which identified the suit shops with the African American community that lived in Georgetown in the 50s and 60s. The suit shops came later.

Read more at: www.washingtoncitypaper.com