Since diverse social groupings have always had distinct styles and trends, subcultures have always influenced fashion.
In the past, a variety of music scenes like punk, grunge, or hip-hop have been associated with fashion subcultures. Members of these subcultures would adopt a distinctive style that would distinguish them from the mainstream; these styles had a significant impact on trends during their time.
Often subcultures can be about stepping away from societal norms and rebelling against the tight rulings of the upper class using those ideas which are produced by these new influences like music, for example. When a collection of people gain the same influences, they will begin to dress or act similarly, creating a form of subculture.
1. Teddy boys and Teddy girls
The first subculture to emerge after World War II was the “teddy boys” and “teddy girls.” They created their unique styles as a reaction to the post-war era and the strict attitudes of the time. In 2012, Ray Ferris and Julian Lord described the teddy boys as an original and independent fashion movement that was not driven by the fashion industry but by the youth themselves. Teddy girls embraced a style that repurposed clothing from the Edwardian upper class, reflecting the gender-neutral trends of the feminist movements at the time. Teddy boys, on the other hand, drew inspiration from American zoot suits and revived Edwardian fashion. The media portrayed teddy boys and girls negatively, considering them a threat to society, likely because they challenged societal norms during that period.
2. Mods and Rockers
During the 1950s and 1960s, another significant example of subcultures was the mods and rockers. These were two rival groups of British youths with distinct cultural differences, primarily centered around their preferred music. Rockers were influenced by rock music icons like Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, and Chuck Berry. They adopted an American biker-inspired style, often wearing black and leather, and riding motorcycles, projecting a tough and intimidating image. In contrast, mods drew inspiration from modern jazz, Jamaican, and Motown music, with artists such as Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, and Charlie Parker. They aimed for a more sophisticated, stylish, and modern look, often wearing slim-fitted Italian suits and riding Vespas.
‘I was there’: mods and Rockers 1964 – an article further explaining the history of the mods and rockers from those who experienced it.
In the mid-1970s began, the rise of the punk subculture, with Vivienne Westwood being a notable figure associated with punk fashion. Westwood and Malcolm McLaren owned a shop on Kings Road that underwent several name changes, reflecting different inspirations from teddy boys to rockers before fully embracing the punk aesthetic as “SEX.” Punk was characterized by a do-it-yourself attitude fueled by adolescent rebellion and rejecting authority figures. The punk subculture’s clothing, artwork, and music were intentionally created to shock and challenge societal norms. Punks expressed anger towards social conditions through ripped, worn, and homemade garments held together by safety pins and rough stitching. However, as punk gained popularity, mass-produced versions diluted the personalized and individualistic nature of the original style.
4. Rave culture
In the 1990s, rave culture and electronic music became very prominent. This period saw experimental fashion linked to cyber fashion, characterized by bright colors, metallics, neon, and unique hairstyles. Rave culture originated in Europe and involved underground parties focused on freedom of expression, happiness, and drug use, particularly ecstasy. Ravers were known for their non-judgmental attitudes and sense of community. The media often compared rave culture to the hippie movement of the 1960s. However, as rave culture gained popularity, authorities, and the press expressed concerns about drug use, leading to attempts to shut down raves. This resistance further transformed rave culture into a form of political opposition rather than a celebration of self-expression.
Does subculture still exist today?
Now in the 21st century, the transformation of subcultures is heavily driven by technology and the internet. The ease of discovering and sharing new interests with others has led to a huge expansion of subcultures, blurring the line between subculture and aesthetics. Social media platforms like TikTok accelerate the spread of trends, resulting in rapid popularity growth and shorter attention spans. This fast-paced consumerism contributes to clothing waste as trends quickly fade. However, the rise of thrifting culture offers an alternative, appealing to individuals concerned about consumerism’s environmental impact. Thrifting allows people to revive trends, reduce waste, and obtain affordable, higher-quality clothing. Nonetheless, criticisms exist regarding the use of charity shop clothing for fashion purposes rather than for those in need.
All of these subcultures have had a significant influence on fashion trends. The teddy boys, mods, hippies, punks, and teddy girls, among others, have left a lasting impact on the fashion world. The struggles and stereotypes faced by these subcultures have played a crucial role in shaping the evolution of fashion. The ability of these groups to challenge norms and break boundaries since the 1940s has paved the way for individuals today to be more experimental in expressing their true selves without fear of judgment. Moreover, people are now more inclined to voice their passions and work towards positively changing society.
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