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Keeping our cool

A hip check for the city: How do we look now?

Are we hip yet?

The cynical hipster's answer, of course, would be: "If you have to ask . . ."

But as the red carpets roll up and the limos roll off, the question does present itself: Did the Democratic National Convention's attendant influx of high-octane celebrities and power brokers leave Boston slightly higher on the coolness scale than it was a week ago? Or is that the kind of question only an insecure little sister would ask?

Amy Rutkin, who came for the convention, insists it's not uncool to wonder if you're cool. By way of a New York-centric analogy, she explains, "I think when Williamsburg was first coming up, you know, as the cool place for artists once the East Village had morphed into some suburban kind of thing, people were asking, `Is this the new hip place to be?' And, indeed, it became the new hip place to be."

As Williamsburg goes, so goes Boston? Perhaps. But Rutkin, who's chief of staff for Representative Jerrold Nadler -- "who, by the way, represents the hippest district in all of New York City" -- says Boston isn't just newly hip. In the years since she graduated from Brandeis University, she says, she's seen Boston become more sophisticated -- "and that probably played some role in actually convincing the DNC to come to Boston in the first place."

That's how Michael P. Wasserman sees it, too. "We are who we always were," says Wasserman, a Newbury Street event planner who was one of the organizers of last Saturday's DNC media party. "The impact is that people now have a different perception of us as being hipper, cooler, more interesting."

And, of course, this kind of question is all about perception. It's not really "Are we cool?" but rather "Do other people think we're cool?" Roger Sametz, whose South End communications company, Sametz Blackstone Associates, helps organizations create a coherent public image, points out that there's a crucial point to remember in any discussion of image.

"Image changes in other people's heads; it doesn't change because people want it to change," Sametz says. "People think they can define it in the boardroom. They don't understand that you have to reinforce it through behaviors and communications over time."

In other words, just because a local booster says Boston is hip now, that doesn't make it so. So is it? Sametz says it's just not possible to tell -- yet.

"If the circus comes to town, and the circus leaves," he asks, "has the circus actually had an effect, or is it just an event?" You can't know the answer until some time has passed -- enough time for you to know whether tigers, to speak metaphorically, prowl the streets all the time or only show up when there's a big top.

Boston party planner Bryan Rafanelli, though, says there are tigers all over the place. "It's not as though celebrities haven't come to Boston before. They come every day of the week," Rafanelli says. "Maybe it's not as publicized and not as clustered into four days. It's not like it's not happening. And it's not as though they're not going to come back."

Rafanelli says the convention, by getting celebrities to come here and see the city, will make it easier to draw them back. "The big challenge" in getting big names here, he says, "is that everyone likes Boston, but they don't think we have the style or that we're a modern city."

Lee Blumer, who works for the very hip Crobar club in New York -- just to give you an idea, her business card is a 2-inch square of lime-green plastic -- says she's going home from the DNC with a changed sense of Boston's appeal.

"My memories of Boston were very much of visiting a provincial town," Blumer says. "The changes are extraordinary -- the place looks gorgeous." Blumer had a good time at the DNC and the parties, calling them "very organized, beautifully orchestrated." She doesn't expect the GOP doings in New York to go so smoothly.

Why not?

"There's too much about New York that's unpredictable," Blumer says. "And Boston is more genteel."

Oh, great.

She said "livable," too.

It's like having your big sister compliment your comfortable shoes.

Geoff Edgers of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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