[Written By: Rachel Gillett]
[Photographer: Annegret Maja Fiedler]
What happened to youth subculture? In 2017, the defining characteristics of dress and music – which made subcultures easily identifiable – are largely missing. Clothing and music taste has become a lot more homogenous in recent years. This has largely eradicated the distinct groups that were present in the 70s and 80s. Films like This is England (2006) highlight the significance of subcultures, with the film exploring early and later skinhead culture in the 1980s, and the creation of identities through being a part of these particular groups. Personally, I do not think in 2017 we have the same level of subcultures – however, have they completely disappeared all together?
In certain situations, it is easier to identify subcultures today. In Glasgow we have Cathouse, which caters to the emo and metal subcultures, and when you are there you can see the styles and music taste of these groups. Outside this environment, though, it is less obvious. While previously it was only certain subcultures of rock and punk that sported unusual colours of hair, the rise in popularity of bright and unnatural colours of hair has caused a blurring of lines between groups. And it is not just younger people who are adopting this fashion choice; I have seen many adults who are rocking the purple/pink/blue/etc hair look. This is possibly the influence of growing up with these more distinct subcultures – or maybe today there is just less of a boundary between what is deemed acceptable for adults and young people.
The development of the Internet has also massively impacted subcultures. While previously the choices you’d make regarding dress and music (among other things) would be largely influenced by the people you interacted with on a regular basis, we now have exposure to all kinds of different lifestyles. The access to different influences creates more variety within individual and cultural styles. The availability of music has greatly expanded past the need to trek down to the nearest music store in order to get the latest cassette/vinyl/CD – we have access to YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and many more services these days. Therefore, it is a lot easier and cheaper to discover new music. Instead of having to hope that a friend has a copy of an album that you wanted to listen to, but didn’t want to buy, or couldn’t afford, you will be able to find it somewhere now. This obviously means people are more likely to experiment with the kinds of music they listen to, thereby not limiting themselves to the same bands, genre, or suggestions from friends. Therefore, it is not surprising that the strict boundaries between subcultures have begun to blend into one another.
Furthermore, the Internet has allowed for the spread of fashion and makeup ideas. Makeup tutorials and sites like Pinterest give individuals more ideas for looks, which may stretch outwith their usual friend group. As a result, trends are made more global and, therefore, there is an increased accessibility to them. Instead of being limited to the subcultures surrounding you, you can access communities for every topic and interest imaginable. Personally, I am terrible at gaming – and so don’t enjoying playing video games – but I love watching other people play. If it weren’t for YouTube, I would have to find a group of friends interested in playing games who would be happy to let me watch. This would also add the further restriction of scheduling time when I could go over to see my friends. But since there are thousands (if not more) playthroughs of every game imaginable available on YouTube, I am free to watch one any time I’d like. Being part of a community online means that there is less pressure to define yourself by it all the time.
So youth subculture isn’t dead or missing; it is really just subtler than it once was.