There are many subcultures created by musical genres. Sometimes a genre of music is so dynamic, the fans assemble together with a similar look, ideas, and values that the fans themselves become a cultural phenomenon. Of course not everyone in a music subculture fits all of the stereotypes of the group, but for the sake of the post I must generalize each of the subcultures since I don’t have the opportunity, time, or space to interview each person in these subcultures. So if you have ever wondered what exactly is different between a hippie and a hipster or an emo and a punk, check out my list of 7 subcultures created by musical genres.
One of the most well known subcultures created by musical genres is punk. The punk subculture was formed in the US and the UK in the mid 1970s. The punk subculture, is of course, centered around punk rock music. The music and the subculture are known for anti-establishment ideals and belief in independent freedoms. Aside from the distinct sound associated with punks, they are also known for their fashion. One way they buck the system is through body modification, tattoos, spikes, Mohawks, and lots of black. Hardcore punks, on the other hand, want the music to be the focus and the dress more modestly. Punks also have unique style of dancing – pogo dancing and moshing. You can find this style at most shows as well as stage diving and crowd surfing. Although many may argue that punk is dead, I beg to differ and believe punks are still one of the most important musical subcultures.
Emo broke out in popularity in the early 2000s, however the subculture has been around since 1980s. Emo began as a subgenre of hardcore punk music and the band Rites of Spring are credited with starting the subculture. In the early 1990s, the term “emo” shifted meaning and is more similar to the emo we know today. However, emo gained mainstream attention with the success of bands such as Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance, Dashboard Confessional, and Paramore. Emo is characterized by its confessional-style lyrics. Emo is perhaps one of the most stereotyped music subculture. Emos are said to wear tight fitting colored pants, short sleeve band tees, side swept bangs, and horned rimmed glasses. This look was typical in the 2000s, but as the emo subculture developed a negative connotation, the look as begun to shift. One reason for the negative reputation from the emo subculture is that many believe the lyrics of emo music glamorize suicide and self-harm. Another reason for the backlash is that the subculture rose to popularity almost out of nowhere. Now, “emo” bands that helped create the genre, like Paramore, have shifted from their roots and developed a new sound.
Hipster just might be the emo of today. A strange thing about this particular music subculture is that many of the members do not want to be identified as such, partially because of the bad rap the subculture has. Some even theorize that the subculture was created as hype by the media. No matter what you believe, the hipster culture is known for its association with trends and indie music. Many people use the term hipster as an insult to call someone out for being overly trendy. Because the culture does follow and create trends, it’s hard to pin down the fashion of hipsters. Some fashion trends in the subculture flee as quickly as they were created, such as mustaches, but there are some hipster trademarks that always seem to stick around, like flannels and trucker hats.
Straight edge is a subculture of hardcore punk. The punk scene has always had a reputation for using drugs and alcohol. Hardcore punk band, Minor Threat, did not partake in these practices and therefore created this subculture. Straight edge originally applied to punks, but it now applies to any rock subculture. Straight edge simply means you refrain from smoking, drinking, or using drugs. Some take it as far as meaning following a vegetarian diet, not drinking caffeine, and not being sexually promiscuous. People who are straight edge can identify themselves by an x or by a series of three x’s.
Gangsta rap is technically a subgenre of hip hop, but I believe it to be a subculture as well as it promotes the gangsta lifestyle. The culture began in the 1980s by Schoolly D and Ice-T. Other notable gangsta rappers are N.W.A. and Snoop Dogg (or should I say Snoopzilla). This genre promoted gang lifestyle and many of the rappers in the group were members of either the Blood or the Crips. Gangsta rappers talk about the struggles of growing up in the hood and lyrics often focus on drugs, violence, and sex. The influence of gangsta rap can be seen in other hip hop genres as well and especially in rap subcultures. Those in the gangsta rap subculture are known to wear baggy pants, do-rags, and gold chains.
Scene is an interesting subculture because it is a combination of several genres. Scene kids have a distinctive style, but they are known for always being on the “music scene.” Scene kids take inspiration from indie, electronica, rave, punk, and emo fashion for their one-of-a-kind look. A typical scene kid look is bright colors, heavy eyeliner, band tees, skinny jeans, studded belts, Converse shoes, colored hair, and loud accessories. Although, the scene kid look is starting to evolve to feature a more hardcore look by wearing combat boots and doing away with some of the more cartoonish prints. MySpace was huge in the growing popularity of the scene subculture although there has been a decline in the subculture in recent years.
Hippies were one of the first music subcultures that gained notoriety. Hippies were more than just a subculture however, as they created an entire movement. Hippies are characterized as the youth who moved to Greenwich Village in NYC or the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco in the mid and late 1960s. During the time of the hippie revolution, there was another cultural revolution at work – the sexual revolution. Hippies participated in this revolution, which is why we characterize them as valuing “free love.” Hippies listened to psychedelic rock and also experimented with psychedelic drugs. Hippies influenced society and culture in a large way and they continue to have an affect today. For example, music festivals are the perfect example of the influence hippie culture still has on society. Hippies loved wearing unusual fashion and many sported bell-bottom jeans, vests, peasant tops, tie-dyed clothes, beaded jewelry, and headscarves. Hippies also had a political agenda. Most hippies were pacifists who promoted peace, homosexual rights, feminism, and other aspects of civil rights. Hippies have influenced popular culture more than any other music subculture.
I have always found music subcultures fascinating and love researching them. They are the perfect example of how impactful music and artists can be. These 7 subcultures garnered mainstream attention for their fashion, style, ideas, and values. What music subcultures do you belong to or find fascinating? Share with us in the comments.
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