Subculture each group stood for; thus society could place

Subculture and Fashion


“Fashion provides one of the most ready means
through which individuals can make expressive visual statements about their

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This connotes that with youth
subculture similar trends are prevalent throughout history, one main trend seen
with different deviant youth subcultures is the fact that they all dress
distinctly in a way that’s seen as not a norm in society.  As Rouse (1989)
explains, social and political reforms brought about by the British government
in the 50s improved Britain’s standard of living, increased people’s disposable
incomes and made them more confident about their economic future. As the youth
now had more disposable income, they spent it on teenage gregariousness and the
fashion industry took advantage of this fact. However, the economic incline did
not last very long and this resulted in a generation gap that kept widening.
Young people who had not known pre-war Britain were now identified with this
changing world. As young people did not all share the same styles, cultures and
ideologies, this further gave rise to the birth of subcultures like the Teddy
Mods and Punks, who were easily identifiable by the way they dressed and
behaved socially. 

  The clothing connoted fashion statements to
society on the whole, showing the values that each group stood for; thus
society 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 these
groups as deviant based on what they wore as it was apparent that they weren’t
conforming to the same norms and values . Thus seen as deviant for rebelling
against social norms. For example, currently in contemporary society there are
a few subcultures such as hoody culture, with youths following the current
trend in grime music, so wearing tracksuits, trainers, and hoodies, caps etc.
This subculture as seen in television shows such as the mockumentary ‘People
Just Do Nothing’ where the main characters run a pirate radio station and smoke
a lot of marijuana and cigarettes and indulge in acts deemed deviant.


other significant deviant subcultures still making a rebellious impact on
societies norms, according to The Guardian in 2014, is a new short-wave
movement called ‘Seapunk’, this is particularly made more popular by music artists
such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Azelia Banks. What these
contemporary subcultures have in common is that all dress in a certain way in order
to identify within a certain culture.


 However, in contemporary times subcultures are
happening in short bursts as soon as they become appropriated by main stream
culture they die particularly with female subcultures. Only certain ones such
as hoody culture and black UK culture has stayed relevant, as youth groups
particularly with boys, they want to be seen as relevant. This is different to
previous youth subcultures of the past.

As in the
60’s the most deviant subculture that got a lot of traction in the news was
Mods and Rockers, (Cohen 1972) a form of adolescent deviancy amongst working
class youth in Britain. The Rockers were identified by their leather jackets
and a rock approach, scruffy and more like a motorcycle gang dress. Mods were
identified by their fashion sense of middle class dress sense, seen as more
sophisticated and snobbish, aspiring to be somewhat competitive and feminine.
They customized more existing styles and symbols for example the Air Force

“By the early 1960s the Teddy
boy’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 a
focus for concern. Like the Teddy boys before them, the mods’ appearance was
often presented by the media as a symbol of national decline”

Skin heads emerged in the late 60’s and by the 70s they had become more
politically active and participated in racially motivated acts, Skin heads
dressed smart with long or short sleeve buttoned down shirts, sweater vests,
jeans trousers, blazers Harrington jackets etc., and most importantly their
heads would be shaved, thus ‘skin head’ this would in turn allow people to
identify those with that particular dress sense and hair cut to those a part of
the skin heads.


Moreover, in
the 70’s and 80’s the deviant subculture was punks, and it attracted both male
and female members who in turn dressed up in leather jackets with spikes,
platform boots, had Mohawks, with different colours. Again dressing in a way
that doesn’t conform to a way that society expects us to dress, by dressing
controversially as made popular by punk rock group the Sex Pistols, who in turn
had a reputation for being anti government and pro anarchy. Punk
came on to the scene as an expression of rebellion. Fashion plays a
crucial role, in enabling individuals to construct, sculpt and express their
identities, especially in larger cities where they “mingle with crowds of
strangers and have only fleeting moments to impress them” (Bennett, 2005: 96).
When speaking of fashion, people usually tend to generalize the term to merely
clothing 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 concerned with
meanings and symbols, thus is an instantaneous mode of direct, visual


railed against traditional notions of gender, family and hierarchy, with punk
fashion being the strongest symbol of this.”


This connotes that not only was it the views they shared but more so the
fashion itself that conveyed their ideologies through the ripped and distressed
clothing, the spikes on their bracelets, bondage and leather, extreme haircuts
obviously showing those that conformed to society that they were here to fight
against and didn’t believe in what the everyone was doing. This was to convey
an explicit ideological phenomenon, thus by wearing cheap clothes with such
“trashy” styles it was according to Hebdige (1979 :107) an” ideological assault
on aesthetic values of dominant classes.”


 Promoting views that many
would find shocking due to their austere nature of the British people. The
initial passion for the punk passion is was affirms to the distinguishing
fashion showing the political and cultural energy of the group. George Simmel and Thorstein Veblen are
two important 19th century sociologists when looking at fashion as an expression
of social status and economic class. Simmel’s work suggests that fashion has to
do with wider issues of power and status, and is a visual statement of wealth.
With the use of fashionable items, “individuals demonstrated their membership
to a particular social group, and their distance from groups who held a lower
social position” (Bennett, 2005: 100).





 Furthermore, goths another seemingly deviant
subculture in the late 70s/80s dressed controversially as it was closely associated
teenage rebellion as it was seen as an outsider culture that was an alternative
to the punk subculture. They dressed all in black, used heavy eyeliner with a
neo-Victorian style. Goths often dressed like this to show that they don’t
conform.  The Punks are
probably the most extreme subculture who through their anti-fashion style of
dress, expressed the affect the changing political and economic structures had
on their lives, and the general situation of post 50’s Britain. With the
adaptation of bricolage, Punks borrowed items from everyday life and
incorporated it within their overall dress, re-contextualizing them to
communicate new meanings. As described by Barker (2000), the creativity and
cultural responses of the punks and other subcultural groups were not merely
random but expressive of the social contradictions and overall scenario of the
time. Punks not only communicated the sheer joblessness, poverty and changing
moral standards but dramatized it through their severe ensembles that
incorporated chains, safety pins, bin liners, dyed hair, iconography of sexual
fetishism and so on. The items and anti-fashion ideology adapted clearly
communicated the anger and frustration felt by these youth but it is also
important to note that the very resistance of fashion bubbles up as a fashion
statement in its own right, and this is most evident when looking at
subcultural identity. Furthermore, the rituals of body modification like
tattooing and piercing by subcultural groups like Punk and Goth generated an
even more impact-making statement about their identities considering its
permanence on the fashioned body (Bennett, 2005: 98).


In the 90’s the
popular youth subculture was the ravers, which had been heavily
associated with music and drugs use, tended to be less specific than had been
seen in previous subcultures. It was all about being comfortable, and able to
dance 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 drug
use, thus those who dressed loosely were often associated as those who are drug
users and quite obviously seen as lower than those who conform to rules and
don’t break the law. Thus making the this subculture not just deviant but also
criminal due to the hobbies associated with being apart of the group.


representation as explained by Miliband suggested that “given the economic and
political context in which  the mass
media function, they cannot fail to be predominantly agencies for the
dissemination of ideas and values which firm rather than challenge existing
patterns of power and privilege.” (Milliband 1973:211). Connoting that the
media serves to reinforce hegemonic ideologies from those in power.


would argue that the hegemonic values of current society and past society have
forced groups to act out in turn creating subcultures in order to oppose
certain values in order for dominant forces to maintain order Punk fashion was
seized by the fashion industry and reproduced for the mass media, which Hebdige
says represents the way in which capitalism neutralises dangerous youth
sub-cultures. Resulting in perpetual cycle in which results in the media
portraying said subcultures in a negative light.


However postmodernists such as Roberts would argue
that young people pick up styles and
fashions from the media and celebrities and there is no real meaning behind
them, thus meaning that the statements groups try to portray to push a message
isn’t necessarily having the same impact as it once did, due to mass media
being more and more influential in our current society, and it is also argued that youth subcultures are
the products of media manipulation by Cote and Allahar. Giroux states that “multinational
media 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 meanings
that sociologist suggest reinforce them.

 This would suggest that in
modern day subcultures aren’t as prevalent due to the media manipulating groups
of people and suggesting that the population are doing what the media wants,
also connoting that although the media conveys in a negative fashion, in modern
times they create subcultures to follow certain popular trends, potentially
helping out big corporations thus benefiting capitalism.


Furthermore, this is shown by  designers such as Vivien Westwood, Malcolm
Mclaren and Zandra Rhodes, the fashion world was introduced to a fashion look
that was inspired something other than affluence. For the first time in
mainstream culture, the population was introduced to clothing that was edgy as opposed
to elegance made possible by tapping into the true grit and disaffection of
real working people. Thus further proving that capitalist groups were trying to
exploit such groups. In part, to the
angry and volatile UK punk scene of the mid 1970s, although this remained
staunchly outside mainstream fashion and culture for several years. By the
1980s, however, the full significance of punk had made itself known, and the
fashion community couldn’t resist a piece of the action.


Thus linking
back to my current example where although the dress sense isn’t as
controversial as it was with the punks for instance or the mods and rockers, however
a certain clothing style was used with each group of subcultures of the
decades, this in turn allowed for each person to identify with said subculture
and show society which group they belonged to almost as a middle finger to
those upholding the sort about norms and values of the decade. Thus, fashion is about identity, about
the self and as described by Roche (2000: 193), “the most talkative of social



reports having a negative impact on subcultures go all the way back to 60s with
the mods and rockers with reports blaming youths for violent clashes etc. A BBC
report from 1964 (
 opens with ” Scores of youths have been
given prison sentences following a Whitsun weekend of violent clashes between
gangs of Mods and Rockers”. Thus suggesting that instead of referring to the
youths as young men, they are being generalised as youth.


Moreover, a
more recent report refers to Mods and Rockers as not cultures but as “Tribes”
which is another very negative representation of both the groups, regardless of
the violence. At the time reports came out with big stories such as “Days of
Terror by Scooter Groups” ( Daily Telegraph”, “Wild Ones Invade Seaside -97
Arrests’ (Daily Mirror), in it they stated ” fighting, drinking, roaring,
rampaging teenagers on scooters and motorcycles” by referring to Marlon Brando’s
1953 film “Wild One” which was banned in the mid sixties, connotes a link to youth
deviancy and thus showing a negative representation. Other titles such as
Youngsters Beat Up Town – 97 Leather Jacket Arrests” of the mods and rockers
due to them being youths and riding scooters, generalising the teenagers based
on the clothing, thus creating a moral panic, which in turn would make the
general public fear teenagers wearing leather jackets or riding scooters etc.,
resulting in stereotyping.  

modern day stereotypes such as ‘chavs’ in contemporary Britain being so prominent
amongst the youth and what is known as the underclass, ‘chavs’ and ‘chavishness’ are
identified on the basis of their  taste
and style that inform their consumer choices. Usually focousin on their
clothing which is branded or designer ‘casual wear’ and ‘sportswear’) for
example 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 and
house music.

Thus connoting
that fashion and obvious statements such as accessories and behaviour create a
stereotype to the public as it is not conforming to the norms of our society,
thus being more deviant due to their laddish cultures and anti norm ideologies,
with punks being anti government and pro anarchy, with their clothing clearly
mocking the clean cut good of society with distressed clothing and extreme
hairstyles and piercings being a fashion statement to show those in society who
they are and what they stand for affiliating themselves with their subculture.



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