Fashion + Community

Subcultures, Their Communities and Political Change

A subculture within fashion is a group of people categorised together based on their appearance and clothing, which is normally at variance to mainstream culture at the time. Because you’re among supporters of a common cause, being a member of a subculture provides a sense of community and belonging. Weather that be a political movement or a protest against conforming to popular culture, subcultures have been a key driver in creating communities in fashion.

The Punk subculture

The majority of subcultures throughout history have been about creating a sense of identity and community for a group of people, without a political catalyst. Punks, Goths, and Grunge are just some of these types of groups. They are obviously recognisable because of their distinct difference in appearance from the dominant fashion during that time.

The 1970’s punks is one of the most notable from history. It was so far from the norm, it sent shockwaves through society. The Punk era wasn’t just adopted from ordinary people either, acclaimed designers did too. Vivienne Westwood is renowned for her outrageous and daring punk designs and her first shop, SEX, still holds a monumental location in Punk culture. Westwood stimulated the formation of the Punk subculture and its relationship between music, fashion, and counter-culture. The Punk youth of the 1970s listened to The Sex Pistols, wore daring DIY clothing and opposed the government. Uniformed together through their fashion. It was provocative and fetishised; safety pins, leather, zips and ripped skinny jeans. Fitting with the definition of subcultures, Punks were disruptive to what dress codes was accepted in society and challenged gender identity norms.

The Hippie subculture

On the other hand, some subcultures are formed as a result of a political cause or protest. Fashion has symbolised many political movements throughout history. Some have created some of the most poignant images we see today.

In the 1960s, the Hippie Subculture was created. The counterculture group acted as a protest against capitalism and globalisation. One of the biggest motivations was the US involvement in the Vietnam War. The subculture soon influenced Europe too, and a community of youths from across the globe wanted to use their ‘flower power’ to change capitalist Western way of living. Their beliefs of love and peace were not the only thing that grouped hippies together, their choice of fashion did too. Flares, tie dye, flowers and long hair meant the subculture could easily be identified. These common characteristics create a community among members and allowed their movement of love and peace to make such an impact on history.

The Roadmen subculture

More recently, in the UK, the Roadmen subculture has been formed. Whilst their fashion has not been a direct political statement, its association to grime music is. This is often the case for many other groups, like the ones already mentioned. Stormzy, Skepta and Dave are just a few successful grime artists that represent the Roadmen subculture. Their grime music and performances are what makes this group of young men a political statement and as by definition, different from societal norm.

Society has branded ‘Roadmen’ as part of gang culture. However, in grime music, one of the things that brings Roadmen into its category, is actually a strong political movement. Dave’s performance of his song ‘Black‘ at The BRITs received huge applause, it illustrated eloquently about the inherent racism still prevalent in the UK today. Stormzy’s lyrics in his song ‘Vossi Bop‘ state a clear protest against the Conservative government and their mistreatment of young black men today, which so many listeners of grime music relate to.

This subculture is clearly unmistakable through their choice of fashion, as demonstrated in Skepta’s 2015 ‘Shutdown’ music video. Tracksuits, Nike Air Max, caps, puffer jackets and the infamous side bag. Roadmen’s beliefs, political protests, and their dress code have all helped create a community of people that want to make significant change in the UK in regards to racism and stereotypes.

The importance of community

Subcultures will continue to form and create communities within fashion as they have done already. They have been a crucial part to important movements in the past and have helped aid political change. Fashion is often not seen as a cultural thing but as an assistance in vanity. When in actual fact, its impact on culture and communities across the globe is profound and will continue to be.

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