Punks, Rockers, Hippies and Skinheads.
With their sharp suits and Brylcreem in hair, a mainly British phenomenon, the Teddy Boy subculture started among teenagers in London. In the early 1950s, it spread across the UK and was strongly associated with American rock and roll music.
People’s individuality developed as time passed after the Second World War, and people were free to be themselves.
Over time, Mods, Rockers, Punks, Skinheads, Glam Rock, Goths, and New Romantics emerged onto the streets. Then in the late ’80s, the Acid House scene arrived from Chicago, and the early ’90s gave us illegal raves in fields and abandoned warehouses. Luminous jumpers and wrist bands took to the markets. Then, quickly followed by lad culture associated with Britpop. Somewhere, included in earlier years, hippies with flower power. Rasters introduced Reggie to Britain, subsequently leading to SKA. And squeezed in possibly unnoticed, no doubt another version of Goth, Emo’s, is it? Where did Rap and Hip Hop slot in?
Whether it was big boots, leather jackets, striking colours and shaped hair, or sharply ironed shirts and jackets, these all represented part of an image and youth Subculture. All I can gather from all these Subcultures is now we have a big mixture of images and looks. You only have to visit Camden Town or Brighton to see this. It’s great! You might not notice it so much in your local town or a tiny village Hamlet, nestled in the green rolling hills of the British countryside. Individuals who dress ‘differently sometimes get thought of as outcasts’, or worse.
But Hoddies are becoming more and more popular. Are they a new image & Subculture? There is some disagreement about who produced the first hoodie, an American? Is this the latest Subculture? Is it because they are cosy? So, do people wearing them bring more association with violence against individuals? In the past, the different fashion wearers would fight amongst each other. Sadly, an innocent bystander may get caught up in the commotion. You only have to watch Quadraphinia feel the passion between the Mods and Rockers on Brighton seafront. But now, it seems anyone can be a victim if the perpetrator decides to attack.
Individual subcultures go along with a music genre that fits their dress code and, maybe, their attitude.
Music and lyrics can help artists express themselves. Paul Weller, the Mod Father, once said he was a Mod and will always be a Mod. He expressed his frustration with society in the songs he wrote in The Jam.
The Subculture that follows a group can get self-engrossed with the meanings of the lyrics, and some may take it too far! In some cases, it can end in violence.
Gangster Rap seems to promote drugs and glamorise a violent way of life. Which, sadly, people adhere to.
So why do we fight?
It’s not right that, as a species, we fight against one another just because of different beliefs, music tastes, supporting other football teams or gender. The song ‘Do the Dog‘ by The Specials helps confirm that. As the most intelligent race on the planet, why do we dispute against each other and bite ‘The hand of the man that feeds it? I interpret this lyric as – why do we fight and cause our fellow man pain and hurt when we could all work together for a better future!
Back in the day
Growing up in a village with big towering chimneys of papermills, powered by the chalk stream, the River Wye, visible from most back gardens. I remember skinhead graffiti written on the stairwells of the flats, in the road behind where I lived. Nearby rows of grey garage doors had faded spray paint with football teams and racist words. Hence I always had an eery feeling riding my Raleigh Grifter pushbike around there, accessed through the alley between two houses that led to the road adjacent to where I lived. It felt like adventure riding around this area with my mates. To our knowledge, we weren’t part of a subculture. But were we, and have we developed into one without realising?
To be somone
Researching this blog started when I read To Be Somone by Ian Stone. Based on his life growing up in a London suburb, the book tells stories about a youth, Ian Stone, watching the Arsenal, listening to and watching the Jam play live. The book has an interesting reference to the different youth cultures, the different dress styles associated with cultures, and their hatred of each other.
It made me think, do we still have a specific British Youth Image & Subculture?
In the end, dress style and image are irrelevant to me now. I wear what I feel comfortable in. I sometimes wish I would dress smarter; perhaps I want to be a mod – as a Paul Weller fan. But then I like my cherry blossom Dr Marten boots, so is a little bit of me a punk, a skinhead? I like to listen to SKA music and believe in working-class ways. Skinheads are not fascists or racists; some might be, but so could any number of a particular group or Subculture – you can read all about skinhead culture here.
Back to my choices. They sometimes are difficult. All my tops get ruined at the sleeve, thanks to my wheelchair. My Dr Marten boots make my skinny legs look like 9 Iron golf clubs. The Harrington jacket hung in the wardrobe only comes out on special occasions. But when I look in the full-length mirror of my wardrobe door, it’s my wheelchair that catches my focus first, and I think ‘that will do’!…. I’m not too fussed about what other people think!