Subcultures: Goths, Hip Hop, Zoot Suit, Teds

So far in my constellation study group about Subcultures and Street Style we have covered Goths, Hip Hop, the Zoot Suit and the Teds.

All of these subcultural styles have certain aspects in common. They all show that mainstream fashion and beauty rules can be broken and changed. For example goths using white foundation and black blusher, something not normally considered desirable. Many subcultures take inspiration from the past which is then modified or exaggerated to create a new style. One example of this is the goths taking inspiration from Victorian mourning dress but combining it with white face paint. (Steele, 2008) Another is the Teds adopting the traditional Edwardian suit but making the trousers skin tight, wearing suede shoes, vivid colours and having a long quiffed greasy hairstyle to go with it. (Jefferson 1976)

Subcultures can “counteract a dominant ideology” through clothing choices (Tulloch, 2006, p304) for example, the Teds were not conforming to the ideas of the British class system by adopting the aristocracy style as working class youths. Another example of this is the Zoot Suit being worn despite being illegal due to rationing regulations in the Second World War. This was a way of questioning America’s actions in the war and used as an opposition to White Power. They were making a racial statement through their clothing. (Cosgrove, 1989 cited in Tulloch, 2006) This shows that subcultures can disrupt establishment values.

All of the subcultures we have looked at take existing meanings and change them to create a new style. (Clarke, Hall, Jefferson 1975) One example of this is the hip hop subculture combining sportswear with big gold chains and Trilby hats. (Kellner 1997) These items would not usually be put together, heavy gold chains aren’t suitable to be worn with a running jacket if you were wearing the jacket for its intended use. The Trilby hat was  associated with upper class gentlemen wear, not rap groups like Run DMC. They wore Nike Air Jordan shoes and took all of the laces out, once again changing the intended use of staying on your foot for running and walking. The combination of all of these things creates the new style.

These ideas are useful to me in my practice, in terms of considering combining objects and materials that don’t necessarily go together to create something new. I will consider how the past and present can be put together to create new meanings and that I can change the meaning of an object based on its use rather than appearance. Inspiration can come from everywhere: clothing, music, culture, literature from any time period.


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