by Paula Smith
A typical subculture is a smaller group of individuals who share interest, mannerisms and often clothing, which are different from the overall majority. So what are the reasons for such groups emerging? Past research from the 60’s claimed that it was a product of delinquency and deviance. The assumption was that the cultural group went against what was considered the norm not for identity but just to protest and rebel.
We have come a long way from this research fortunately and people are now aware of the importance of such subcultures for our identity, sense of belonging and autonomy. Within British culture we have had numerous subcultures including ‘mods’, ‘skinheads’ and ‘goths’. More recently there has been a ‘vampire’ subculture with the emergence of vampire literature. Some groups will be more historical and others culturally based but whatever their origin they offer people a way of being, which encourages individuality.
So from punk to bohemianism and grunge to northern soul subcultures play and have played a significant role in British society. They evolve and other cultures develop such as ‘emos’. Clothes are a strong element of belonging to a subculture. Today’s fashion is influenced by the street and this is apparent even in the top fashion shows such as Gucci where skin heads are portrayed on the cat walk. ‘New wave’ has brought high street and high fashion together.
Fashion shows often display subculture items from Britain such as union jacks and turbans. Dior also played tribute to British style. Givenchy has models with huge nose rings and earrings. So even when it comes to ‘haute couture’ the models represent the varying groups of people within our culture. This can only enhance our sense of having something to relate and connect to.
Sociologists in the 70’s revealed research showing that a subculture is a group which serves to motivate a potential member to adopt norms, behaviours and value characteristics of the group. In today’s social media driven society it is easier to address potential members and for people to find a group which they can identify with. The distinctiveness of each group sets them apart and gives a form of escapism from mainstream values.
So are subcultures a thing of the past? Many believe they are not as prominent as they used to be but of course they still exist in abundance. This year in Brighton there is an event called the ‘Great skinhead reunion’, which lasts for three days. It celebrates the fact that it was at the same beach where skinheads were placed on the map in the 1960’s. This is its seventh year.
By the very nature sub cultures die and new ones are created as life changes and develops. Some last long such as the ‘skin head’ group and some may be forgotten after a few years. There is a difference between a subculture and a passing popular phase and the ones which last the longest hold the strongest, most committed and loyal beliefs.