Thursday, 15 November 2012


Definition of subculture: In sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture (whether distinct or hidden) which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong.
Subculture being separate from style.

• Skateboarding/ parkour and free running/ graffiti as a performance of the city
• The Riot Grrrl movement as a feminine and feminist subculture
• The portrayal of youth subculture in film and photography
Subculture reactions
Dogtown and Z Boys (2001) used a mix of original photography and up to date documentary footage to investigate a skate board team, film provides a good history of skateboarding and to some extent surf culture.  Film is financed by Vans.  Interesting reuse of existing spaces, - recreated in contemporary skate parks.
In terms of style, the clothing was more chosen for practical use, protect from injury, no differentiation from males and females, not a particularly feminine aspect to it.
Ian Borden - 'Performing the City' 

Urban street skating is more ‘political’ than 1970’s skateboarding‘s use of found terrains: street skating generates new uses that at once work within (in time and space) and negate the original ones 

- Looks at skateboarding in a more political way, argues that it gives the body something to do other than skate around the city scape.  A way of being in the city that is resisting the direction of the city itself, 
Lords of Dogtown:
Skate culture as substitute family
“Skateboarders do not so much temporarily escape from the routinized world of school family and social conventions as replace it with a whole new way of life.” (Borden:2001)
Free running, potentially more creative, freedom of movement

a method of movement focused on moving around obstacles with speed and efficiency. Originally developed in France, the main purpose of the discipline is to teach participants how to move through their environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping. 

a form of urban acrobatics in which participants, known as free runners, use the city and rural landscape to perform movements through its structures
places more emphasis on freedom of movement and creativity than efficiency 
Here (on the street) real life and the issues which may divide and influence it, are put on pause.
On this liminal terrain you are not black, white rich or poor.
Unless you are female, ‘you are what you write’. 
-Status that doesn't come from the way you look
Black Graffiti writer Prime:
I mean I’ve met people that I would never have met, people like skinheads who are blatantly racist or whatever. I can see it in them and they know we know, but when you’re dealing on a graffiti level, everything’s cool and I go yard with them, they’d come round my house , I’d give them dinner or something. 
Describes the levelling on different cultural or racial groups, graffiti separating your identity from your visual appearance.  

Miss Van
McDonald suggest that women come to the subculture laden with the baggage of gender in that her physicality (her looks) and her sexuality will be commented on critically in a way that male writers do not experience 
-baggage of gender and looks more difficult to escape from if your a female writer.  Using her over sexual figure, could read it as a focus of appearance or putting femininity in peoples faces. 
“In the meantime there was a lot of attention coming my way for being female, and it just made me feel alienated and objectified, not to mention patronized.
‘Look at what girls can do-aren’t they cute?’ To hell with that shit. I don’t want it.” 
-US graffiti artist, black woman resting on top of the city, very politically motivated, does projects in areas that are needed urban generation.. The fact that the ares run down.
Angela Mc Robbie and Jenny Garber:
Girl subcultures may have become more invisible because the very term ‘subculture’ has acquired such strong masculine overtones (1977) 
suggests a powerfully sexual, almost deviant, biker female, suggest perhaps not true to the femininity of the time, exaggerated masculinity and femininity. 
Brigitte Bardot 1960’s
• Suggests sexual deviance which is a fantasy not reflective of most conventional real life femininity at the time 
In rocker and motorbike culture girls usually rode pillion
• Wills1978:girlsdidnot enter into the cameraderie, competion and knowledge of the machine
• Inthissubculturewomen were either girlfriend of.. Or ‘mama’ figure 
More style appearing, mod girls wear very similar style to mod boys, contrast to biker culture, mod culture fits better into the 'parent culture' where young people be log, allows it to be fit in without attracting to much attention.  Girls could be a face in mod culture, a status within the culture.  Working class people had jobs and money to spend to develop this identity.  This is represented in Quadrophenia (1979) with the cultures in London. 
Mod culture springs from working class teenage consumerism in the 1960’s in the UK
• Teenage girls worked in cities in service industries for example, or in clothing shops where they are encouraged to model the boutique clothing 

Hebdige outlines the hierarchies within the mod subculture where “the ‘faces’ or ‘stylists’ who made up the original coterie were defined against the unimaginative majority...who were accused of trivialising the mod style” 
Subculture arises through universities
of the late 60’s and early 70’s
• Middle class girl therefore has the space to explore subculture for longer before family etc.
• Space for leisure without work: encourages ‘personal expression’ 
Hippy girl, more likely to be middle class, comes out of university experience, middle class female more likely to have access to that space to find yourself, time for personal expression before you settle down, have a family.
'Bad' hippy/ 'Good' Hippy:
RIOT GRRRL - mid 1990's onwards 
A type of third wave feminism, a lot of the issues that were covered by the bands in this scene were serious, such as rape, sexuality, anything to do with empowerment at the time.  Less about the music and more about the protest, punk ethic, D.I.Y etc.  Its not about the music, assertive female figure in the industry.

Underground punk movement based in Washington DC, Olympia, Portland, Oregon and the greater Pacific Northwest 


The Raincoats, Poly Styrene, LiLiPUT, The Slits, The Runaways/Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Exene Cervenka, Siouxsie Sioux, Lydia Lunch, Kim Gordon, Neo Boys, Chalk Circle, Ut, Bush Tetras, Frightwig, Anti-Scrunti Faction and Scrawl.

Referring to the unpleasant race riots, she writes:

Mount Pleasant Race Riots in 1991
• Bratmobile member Jen Smith (later of Rastro! and The Quails), reacted to the violence by prophetically writing in a letter to Allison Wolfe: "This summer's going to be a girl riot." 

They produce fan zines that are based around issues they are reacting to, reproduces that PUNK D.I.Y aesthetic.
What makes this a true SUBCULTURE?

Zines revived from 1970’s DIY punk ethic
• In turn this was influenced by posters and graphic design from the Dadaists in the 1920’s 30’s
• Women self- publishing their own music 

This influence, historical influence from the Dadaists in the 20's/30's.  Gives women a voice in the music industry 

ABCD Self-portrait
• “Like the author of the the surrealist collage typically juxtaposes two apparently incompatible realities” (Hebdige: 1979) 

Media attention turns to GRUNGE scene:

Courtney Love and Hole
• Style without the subculture
• Distorts even further as the 90’s continue into the more more media friendly Spice Girls use of phrase “Girl Power” 

Distortion of the riot movement, an example of the style but without the sub culture, without the politics, this is highlighted more in UK with Spice Girls

Band styling presents a set of visual ‘types’ that are easily consumable by the target audience
• There is no empowerment for young women as there is nothing but the reduction of young women to cartoon representations 

Dick Hebdige subcuture: The meaning of style

“Subcultures represent ‘noise’ (as opposed to sound): interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to their representation in the media.” 

Hebdige is getting us to look at subculture in a separate way as opposed to the media.
The commodity form:

Subcultural signs like dress styles and music are turned into mass produced objects
• Eg: clothing which is ripped as an anarchic anti-fashion statement becomes mass produced with rips as part of the design 

A threat to the family?
Makes the punk culture unthreatening, they are being represented unfairly. Attack on a very British ideology

Womens Own 1977 runs a feature on “Punks and Mothers”, smiling, reclining next to the family pool etc.
• Non political threat that ultimately will not disturb traditional values 

Hebdige suggests that the press set up this perceived threat as away of neutralising something that could not be conceived by the petit-bourgeois therefore has to be ‘domesticated’ 


Although punk seems to challenge eventually and surprisingly quickly it goes mainstream/high end and is turned into “To shock chic” which marks the end of the movement as a subculture. 

Punks transforming the object in a rebellious statement.
Similar thing happens with Grunge, the rise of Nirvana, subculture - appears on catwalks before its even begun
Hoodie becomes the symbol of the demonised aspect of social society, a strong identity but means you can be unidentifiable within that group

“Style in particular provokes a double response (in the media): it is alternately
celebrated (in the fashion page) and ridiculed or reviled (in those articles which define subcultures as social problems)” 

BRICOLAGE: a sampling of different cultures, looks at teddy boy from Edwardian society, looks at the meaning of the clothing as its context is changed.  Garments moved into mass production as time goes on.
ROGER MAYNE (1956) produced quite substantial work on teddy boys

Teddy boy culture was an escape from the claustrophobia of the family, into the street and ‘caff’. 


The new kid on the estate transforms into a British Skin
• His dad has been killed in the Falklands War and his new friends become a surrogate family

Kid is example of individual that has been alienated from traditional family, new friends become a type of surrogate family, film is interesting in its investigation between the skin head style and the politics of the national front, film is effective in making that definition really clear, from the time media demonised skins as national front supporters.  The film ends with the disturbing scene where Combo beats Milky up, violence triggered by Milky inviting Combo round, Combo can't get his head round the combination of himself and someone who is different to him.   You get an example of this working class conflict in a sub culture.
The film explores the difference between the skinhead style and the politics of the National Front skins as they infiltrate the working class estate in the UK in the 1980’s.
The subordination of Milky as ‘other’ by Combo 

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