Subculture and Fashion “Fashion provides one of the most ready meansthrough which individuals can make expressive visual statements about theiridentities”.

This connotes that with youthsubculture similar trends are prevalent throughout history, one main trend seenwith different deviant youth subcultures is the fact that they all dressdistinctly in a way that’s seen as not a norm in society.  As Rouse (1989)explains, there were both  social andpolitical reforms that been carried out  by the government in the 1950s that in turnhad created a better standard of living in Britain. This head in turn made people moreconfident about their economic futures by increasing their incomes, due to thisthe youth also had more disposable income creating a gap between childhood andadult hood, thus becoming teenagers. As they noticed the divide in thegeneration gap due to are you wanting to behave dress and have differentideologies as they once had pre-walk, thus resulting in subcultures such asTeddy boys, mods and rockers, and punks. With clothing in particular showingthe values of each group.

  The clothing connoted fashion statements tosociety on the whole, showing the values that each group stood for; thussociety could place them, in terms of what they stood for, their social status,age etc, and this caused the rest of society that conformed to view thesegroups as deviant based on what they wore as it was apparent that they weren’tconforming to the same norms and values . Thus seen as deviant for rebellingagainst social norms. For example, currently in contemporary society there area few subcultures such as hoody culture, with youths following the currenttrend in grime music, so wearing tracksuits, trainers, and hoodies, caps etc.This subculture as seen in television shows such as the mockumentary ‘PeopleJust Do Nothing’ where the main characters run a pirate radio station and smokea lot of marijuana and cigarettes and indulge in acts deemed deviant.

 Furthermore,other significant deviant subcultures still making a rebellious impact onsocieties norms, according to The Guardian in 2014, is a new short-wavemovement called ‘Seapunk’, this is particularly made more popular by music artistssuch as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Azelia Banks. What these contemporarysubcultures have in common is that all dress in a certain way in order toidentify within a certain culture.  However, in contemporary times subcultures arehappening in short bursts as soon as they become appropriated by main streamculture they die particularly with female subcultures. Only certain ones suchas hoody culture and black UK culture has stayed relevant, as youth groupsparticularly with boys, they want to be seen as relevant. This is different toprevious youth subcultures of the past. As in the60’s the most deviant subculture that got a lot of traction in the news wasMods and Rockers, (Cohen 1972) a form of adolescent deviancy amongst workingclass youth in Britain. The Rockers were identified by their leather jacketsand a rock approach, scruffy and more like a motorcycle gang dress.

Mods wereidentified by their fashion sense of middle class dress sense, seen as moresophisticated and snobbish, aspiring to be somewhat competitive and feminine.They customized more existing styles and symbols for example the Air Forcesymbol. “By the early 1960s the Teddyboy’s drape- suits and brothel-creeper shoes had been displaced by the chic,Italian- inspired fashions associated with the mods; but mod style was also afocus for concern. Like the Teddy boys before them, the mods’ appearance wasoften presented by the media as a symbol of national decline”Furthermore,Skin heads emerged in the late 60’s and by the 70s they had become morepolitically active and participated in racially motivated acts, Skin headsdressed smart with long or short sleeve buttoned down shirts, sweater vests,jeans trousers, blazers Harrington jackets etc.

, and most importantly theirheads would be shaved, thus ‘skin head’ this would in turn allow people to identifythose with that particular dress sense and hair cut to those a part of the skinheads.  Moreover, inthe 70’s and 80’s the deviant subculture was punks, and it attracted both maleand female members who in turn dressed up in leather jackets with spikes,platform boots, had Mohawks, with different colours. Again dressing in a waythat doesn’t conform to a way that society expects us to dress, by dressingcontroversially as made popular by punk rock group the Sex Pistols, who in turnhad a reputation for being anti government and pro anarchy. Punkcame on to the scene as an expression of rebellion. Fashion plays acrucial role, in enabling individuals to construct, sculpt and express theiridentities, especially in larger cities where they “mingle with crowds ofstrangers and have only fleeting moments to impress them” (Bennett, 2005: 96).When speaking of fashion, people usually tend to generalize the term to merelyclothing but in fact, fashion goes far beyond that. According to Kratz et all(1998), “fashion can be defined as a cultural phenomenon as it is concernedwith meanings and symbols, thus is an rapid mode of direct of communication.

” Thisshows that fashion is a form of communication in which projects the statementand ideology you have as the way you dress talks about who you are as person,whether you wear expensive clothing you’re seen as rich etc. “Punksrailed against traditional notions of gender, family and hierarchy, with punkfashion being the strongest symbol of this.” This connotes that not only was it the views they shared but more so thefashion itself that conveyed their ideologies through the ripped and distressedclothing, the spikes on their bracelets, bondage and leather, extreme haircutsobviously showing those that conformed to society that they were here to fightagainst and didn’t believe in what the everyone was doing. This was to conveyan explicit ideological phenomenon, thus by wearing cheap clothes with such”trashy” styles it was according to Hebdige (1979 :107) an” ideological assaulton aesthetic values of dominant classes.”  Promoting views that manywould find shocking due to their austere nature of the British people. Theinitial passion for the punk passion is was affirms to the distinguishingfashion showing the political and cultural energy of the group. George Simmel and Thorstein Veblen aretwo important 19th century sociologists when looking at fashion as anexpression of social status and economic class.

Simmel’s work suggests thatfashion has to do with wider issues of power and status, and is a visualstatement of wealth. With the use of fashionable items, “individualsdemonstrated their membership to a particular social group, and their distancefrom groups who held a lower social position” (Bennett, 2005: 100).     Furthermore, goths another seemingly deviantsubculture in the late 70s/80s dressed controversially as it was closely associatedteenage rebellion as it was seen as an outsider culture that was an alternativeto the punk subculture. They dressed all in black, used heavy eyeliner with aneo-Victorian style. Goths often dressed like this to show that they don’tconform.  The Punks areprobably the most extreme subculture who, expressed the effect of the changingpolitical and economic structures had on their lives through their anti-fashionstyle of dress, and the general situation of post 50’s Britain.

With the reworkingof ‘bricolage’, Punks used everyday items in life and incorporated it withintheir overall dress, thus using normal items and re constructing a new meaningfor those items, as way of subverting the norm. As described by Barker (2000), thecultural responses of all time along with the creativity of their dress andideologies weren’t random but expressive of the way they were feeling at thattime in that scenario. Punks not only communicated the utter unemployment,poverty and changing moral standards but dramatised it through their severe outfitsthat embodied chains, safety pins, bin liners, dyed hair, symbolism of sexualfetishes etc., it was very much an anti-fashion ideology, that was there topromotes and advertise frustration that the youth were feeling showing thatthey were not conforming to the rest of society, to further reinforce thisnature, punks and goths took part in body more modification such as piercingsand tattooing to make bolder statements to the rest of society (Bennett, 2005:98). In the 90’s thepopular youth subculture was the ravers, which had been heavilyassociated with music and drugs use, tended to be less specific than had beenseen in previous subcultures.

It was all about being comfortable, and able todance freely. Loose and casual Sports clothing were often the favoured attires.This fashion style belongs to a deviant group due to the nation of the druguse, thus those who dressed loosely were often associated as those who are drugusers and quite obviously seen as lower than those who conform to rules anddon’t break the law.

Thus making the this subculture not just deviant but alsocriminal due to the hobbies associated with being apart of the group.  Mediarepresentation as explained by Miliband suggested that “given the economic andpolitical context in which  the massmedia function, they cannot fail to be predominantly agencies for thedissemination of ideas and values which firm rather than challenge existingpatterns of power and privilege.” (Milliband 1973:211). Connoting that themedia serves to reinforce hegemonic ideologies from those in power.

 Marxistswould argue that the hegemonic values of current society and past society haveforced groups to act out in turn creating subcultures in order to opposecertain values in order for dominant forces to maintain order Punk fashion wasseized by the fashion industry and reproduced for the mass media, which Hebdigesays represents the way in which capitalism neutralises dangerous youthsub-cultures. Resulting in perpetual cycle in which results in the mediaportraying said subcultures in a negative light. However postmodernists such as Roberts would arguethat young people pick up styles andfashions from the media and celebrities and there is no real meaning behindthem, thus meaning that the statements groups try to portray to push a messageisn’t necessarily having the same impact as it once did, due to mass mediabeing more and more influential in our current society, and it is also argued that youth subcultures arethe products of media manipulation by Cote and Allahar. Giroux states that “multinationalmedia and fashion companies exploit social divisions to make profit from them.”Citing  differences of religion, race,locality and gender as marketing categories. Finally, Muncie would argue that young people are actually very “conformist”.

Though they follow the fashion it does not mean that they buy into the meaningsthat sociologist suggest reinforce them. This would suggest that inmodern day subcultures aren’t as prevalent due to the media manipulating groupsof people and suggesting that the population are doing what the media wants,also connoting that although the media conveys in a negative fashion, in moderntimes they create subcultures to follow certain popular trends, potentiallyhelping out big corporations thus benefiting capitalism. Furthermore, this is shown by  designers such as Vivien Westwood, MalcolmMclaren and Zandra Rhodes, the fashion world was introduced to a fashion lookthat was inspired something other than affluence. For the first time inmainstream culture, the population was introduced to clothing that was edgy asopposed to elegance made possible by tapping into the true grit anddisaffection of real working people. Thus further proving that capitalistgroups were trying to exploit such groups.

Inpart, to the angry and volatile UK punk scene of the mid 1970s, although thisremained staunchly outside mainstream fashion and culture for several years. Bythe 1980s, however, the full significance of punk had made itself known, andthe fashion community couldn’t resist a piece of the action. Thus linkingback to my current example where although the dress sense isn’t ascontroversial as it was with the punks for instance or the mods and rockers, howevera certain clothing style was used with each group of subcultures of thedecades, this in turn allowed for each person to identify with said subcultureand show society which group they belonged to almost as a middle finger tothose upholding the sort about norms and values of the decade. Thus, fashion is about identity, aboutthe self and as described by Roche (2000: 193), “the most talkative of socialfacts”  Newsreports having a negative impact on subcultures go all the way back to 60s withthe mods and rockers with reports blaming youths for violent clashes etc.

A BBCreport from 1964 (

stm)  opens with ” Scores of youths have been givenprison sentences following a Whitsun weekend of violent clashes between gangsof Mods and Rockers”. Thus suggesting that instead of referring to the youthsas young men, they are being generalised as youth. Moreover, amore recent report refers to Mods and Rockers as not cultures but as “Tribes”which is another very negative representation of both the groups, regardless ofthe violence. At the time reports came out with big stories such as “Days ofTerror by Scooter Groups” ( Daily Telegraph”, “Wild Ones Invade Seaside -97Arrests’ (Daily Mirror), in it they stated ” fighting, drinking, roaring, rampagingteenagers on scooters and motorcycles” by referring to Marlon Brando’s 1953film “Wild One” which was banned in the mid sixties, connotes a link to youthdeviancy and thus showing a negative representation. Other titles such asYoungsters Beat Up Town – 97 Leather Jacket Arrests” of the mods and rockersdue to them being youths and riding scooters, generalising the teenagers basedon the clothing, thus creating a moral panic, which in turn would make thegeneral public fear teenagers wearing leather jackets or riding scooters etc.

,resulting in stereotyping.  Withmodern day stereotypes such as ‘chavs’ in contemporary Britain being soprominent amongst the youth and what is known as the underclass, ‘chavs’ and ‘chavishness’ areidentified on the basis of their  tasteand style that inform their consumer choices. Usually focousin on theirclothing which is branded or designer ‘casual wear’ and ‘sportswear’) forexample Nike, Adidas, Ellesse etc, jewellery  for instance ‘chunky’ gold rings and chains,cosmetics ‘excessive’ make-up, and heavy fake tans, drinks ‘binge’ drinking,especially ‘lagers’ such as Stella Artois, and music  taste of R&B, hip- hop, rave music andhouse music.Thusconnoting that fashion and obvious statements such as accessories and behaviourcreate a stereotype to the public as it is not conforming to the norms of oursociety, thus being more deviant due to their laddish cultures and anti normideologies, with punks being anti government and pro anarchy, with theirclothing clearly mocking the clean cut good of society with distressed clothingand extreme hairstyles and piercings being a fashion statement to show those insociety who they are and what they stand for affiliating themselves with theirsubculture.



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