When we first started learning about subcultures, I assumed I was quite knowledgeable about this topic because I had studied sociology at A-Levels and we learnt about the Mods and the Rockers. Which I just assumed would be a standard subculture to learn about.
However, during these eight lessons we have talked about lots of different subcultures in depth and I have started to take my learning into real life situations and judge the fashion choices of some with the history I have learnt about.
My favourite subculture that we learnt about was Hip-Hop. ‘The capitalist boom of the 1980’s bought with it a focus on materialism’. The Hip Hop scene started in the hoods of New York and ‘competition was an integral way to [earn] respect in the culture’, Written by Whitley, referenced in a book called postmodernism. Style and subversion. (Whitley, 2011, p187).
We looked at the fashion aspects of this subculture. For example, the large bomber jackets that were branded and their chunky, long, gold chains as a significance of wealth. ‘proving one’s self worth…flaunting one’s belongings, branded goods’ (Whitley, 2011, p187). However, we can also see a trend of them wearing sportswear. Including the brand adidas, which is a sports brand. This is where I find it most interesting, because it’s a juxtaposition between the heavy chains and the sports wear. Obviously sports wear is designed for you to complete sports in, but wearing heavy, long chains around the neck, undermines the meaning of the sports clothes. I also loved the idea of this subculture making a status symbol by stealing things, in this case it was VW (vaults wagon) ornaments, from random cars within the neighbourhood. Projecting the idea that they are taking someone else’s wealth, and also allowing themselves the stupidity of wearing them in the streets during the day, in order to perhaps get caught by the police. I love the whole idea of contradicting themselves within the subculture. However, when I looked into writing about this subculture for my final essay, I couldn’t find much in terms of studies of books written about this subculture, in comparison to Goths, Punks, or even Harajuku.
I am also really interested in the skin head subculture which was popular in England during the 1960’s. I am really interested with their fashion choice of the skin head scene. When you look at past images of skin head gangs, the thing I love most is there choice of bleached jeans. We recently focused on denim in my Field module in Textiles, and I particularly focused on the manipulation of denim threw bleaching. I have a keen interest in this myself, so seeing something which you could say is current being portrayed nearly sixty years ago I think is great. When I was sixteen years old one of my friends decided to take it upon himself to look like a skin head, and at the time I didn’t even know what he was trying to achieve but when I ask him now, he says that he got into a different crowd and that’s what they all looked like. So clearly in these days maybe they aren’t doing it to rebel against the state, or at least maybe they didn’t realise that’s what they showing themselves to do. However, I feel like he pulled of the look quite well, and really showed that, that was the look he was going for. Right down to the the blood red Dr. Martens with the long laces tied around his calves.
While looking on the internet about female skin heads, I came across an article about a female skin head (http://www.merc.com/mercblog/merc-scenes—a-skinhead-girl ) basically telling the story of how she became a skin head. Within this article, she states that she has skin head friends, however she also hangs around with ‘punks, mods casual and everything in-between’. With my own previous experiences, last weekend I was back home and went into a rock pub with my friend who is into that scene of music. And while I was there I saw a group of three guys talking but all had very different looks. One was a skin head, clearly by his fashion choices and shaved head. I would say another was a modified punk look, with a piercings, and long beard and leather jacket and the last guy was very casual. Seeing these types of people all together makes me think there is no longer homology within subcultures today. If you look up subcultures within history is shows that they tend to stay within there ‘own kind’ of people who dress and act the same, and they would most likely never speak to members of other subcultures. However, from my point of view, it seems people dress the way they want to because they like this style, but with regards to belonging to a group, there fashion choices don’t subject them to hanging around with certain people.
I watched the movie ‘This is England’ and found it really interesting focusing on the skin head subculture and in particular the violence within this subculture. However, this is not the only subculture that participated in ‘gang’ violence. We also learnt about the zoot suit subculture which was around in America in the 1940’s. Particularly members were part of the African-American or Italian community. During 1942 riots broke out between the zoot suit subculture and service men for prejudice towards the Mexican American community.
During the first term we had a really interesting key notes lecture on the history of the Doc Marten boots. It was said that the original design of the Dr. Martens were made purposely to be worn for service men. It was during the 1960’s and 1970’s that different subcultures started to recreate the boot to their own style. Dr. Martens claim on their website that they became ‘a symbol of self expression’, and individuality within a group. By the 1980’s groups had started to customise their own designs onto boots to make there’s stand out. I just think the history of these shoes is interesting because it’s the people they weren’t made for that made them a famous icon today. Furthermore, I like the idea how each subculture in British history have been seen wearing these boots but each in their own way.
Since starting this study group we have learnt a lot of key words that allow me to have better understanding of the theories:
Bricolage– a concept creating new meanings from found objects.
collective identity was less a question of belonging to just one group.
Fluid boundaries– there are no boundaries, no distinct look and no affiliation to one scene.
Homology– A group that share the same values- Group Affiliation.
Neo-tribes– Allowing members to wader threw multiple group attachments so that
Semiotic guerilla warfare– Antae establishment warfare, a visual trashing threw a style statement.
Subcultural Capital– What defines cool.
Supermarket Style– A modern concept that new subcultures take parts of old subcultures and re-work them into new styles.