By definition, a subculture is an identifiable subgroup within a society , especially one characterized by beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger group. When I say this word the image that pops in my head is the opening scene of a high-school teenage American movie that portraits perfectly the division of people in the school, starting with goths and finishing with the hipster kids. All over the world people are united by things like music, fashion style or even political views.
In this article, I want to focus on the main subcultures of the decade and I will start with the well-known hipsters. An interesting fact is that the hipster culture is not actually a new trend at all and has its origins in the early decades of the 1900s. In the 1940s jazz music was at its peak, nevertheless the relaxing vibes were transmitted also from the lifestyle of the musicians that were considered detached from the rest because of their smooth non-monotone life which was very different from the rest of the people: this is how the “hipster” idea took shape. In short, it was born from the need of people to escape the mainstream. Of course, the hipsters that exist today are totally different from those of the past, but what connects them is the nonconformity.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, due to economic growth, the youth wanted to consume more, they were spending their money on clothes, books and of course music. These specific years were the start of the youth culture in the western world. The period from the ‘70s till the ‘90s was filled with the birth of many subcultures: hippies, punks, skinheads, metalheads, goths and the list goes on.
I bet each one of us had a skater or maybe a few of them in our class that we were lowkey envious of. The idea behind this group is not just controlling the skateboard itself, but also representing a state of being. The appearance plays a very important role, since you cannot be a real skater without specific shoes and clothing, indeed skateboarding reshaped also the fashion world; I am sure that everybody nowadays knows the famous Vans Old-Skools and the Supreme t-shirts that we see on people whenever we stroll the city streets.
Looking back there was another popular subculture that was spreading: the Emo one. I have vivid memories of high-schoolers back in the days dressed in tight jeans and t-shirts with eyeliner and long bangs. The word “emo” is an abbreviation for emotional. Musically speaking, it is a style of rock music with lyrics about depression, heartbreak and despair. This subculture was always the target for negative comments, and the critique was not just on the physical appearance but on the idea behind being emo. Many parents thought of it as a cult of self-harm, making their kids fall down into a deep dark hole. However, it is not that true, since being emo helped people to self-express and cope with life. The emo boom happened in 2006 thanks to online platforms like MySpace and Tumblr, where the young people were sharing their thoughts and struggles. What generally is not understood is that the subculture in itself is not inducing people into a sad state of mind, but it is actually the opposite, since the person in question in this way can open up and show their true colors.
Generally speaking, being part of a subculture means you want to move away from the norms and you want to be unique. Since we are living in such a judgemental world, the people that are “different” are strongly criticized.
Because of the internet and high consumerism, it became hard to distinguish between what is really a subcultural scene and what is actually mainstream. People are interconnected and they do not necessarily belong just to one niche. Because of mass consumption, things become mainstream, and also if a trend has its roots in a specific subculture, its originality disappears very fast nowadays because of how rapidly products are being bought by individuals that follow the trends. Many social media experts stated that subcultures are often targeted to generate revenue. According to Scott Huntington (a social media expert himself): “it’s common to assume that subcultures aren’t a major market for most companies. Online apps for shopping, however, have made significant strides. Take Etsy, for example. It only allows vendors to sell handmade or vintage items, both of which can be considered a rather “hipster” subculture. However, retailers on the site made almost $900 million in sales”. Businesses often seek to benefit from the allure of subcultures, labelling them as “cool”, just because “cool” sells. This is one of the reasons why many subcultures have disappeared. Mainstream is the death of a subculture. But looking from a different perspective, the Internet is not that bad after all. Back in the days, many teenagers were constrained from open-mindedness and expression of who they truly were because of the country they were living in; if you were not born in cities like New York or London, it was hard to get a taste of what it means to be “different”, so thanks to the web young people can get acquainted with new music or fashion trends and borrow the style of those living far away.
People have always tried to find the group where they could fit in and feel accepted, and this is why subcultures are an amazing way to unite persons, but, at the same time, they can also limit you in your preferences. Back in the days, you couldn’t listen to Iron Maiden and be a fan of Abba at the same time since then you were not considered a metalhead. Now a person can identify with more than one genre, which in my opinion is far more interesting, opening up your eyes to the great variety of styles that exist nowadays. We live in a very interconnected world and maybe not sticking to just one subculture is not that bad after all.