This essay I am going to discuss contemporary youth culture, and how fashion and appearance are being used to communicate a certain identity. My main focus will be on trying to explain how they are characteristic for the post modern are and how they are distinct from “authentic” subcultures. Furthermore I will look into the central role consumption have in post modern youth cultures. When discussing these different ideas, I have chose to look into two contemporary youth cultures; the hipster and the clubbers.
Fashion and appearance are about showing who we are. Kratz and Reimer (1998) state how fashion is a cultural phenomen that we use to communicate to others our identity. This identity could be social and cultural, it can be showing belonging to a certain group, and distance to another group, or it can be the different identities we have in our everyday lives (kratz & reimer, 1998). Historically this identity was essentially about social class and economic capital. Fashion was used to show of wealth, and the upper classes used it to differentiate THEMSELVES FROM THE LOWER CLASSES. (Bocock, 1993). When the youth subcultures started to develop in modern times this changed. In his book on subcultures Hebdige (1979) identifies how the function of fashion now changed. Instead of representing hegemony, and making it more noticeable, fashion was challenging it.
In the concept of style as communication in relation to subcultures Hebdige (1979) proceeds to point out how style is used to show deviance and work as a function to differentiate. He argues, by drawing on Eco (1973), how fashion can be viewed as socially constructed codes, and by wearing a specific outfit, you communicate a certain character. Subcultures distinguished themselves from this by creating their own codes, or breaking the ones that already existed. They used fashion to express their distinctive identities, to show resistance against the dominant culture (Hebdige, 1979). Post modern youth cultures are still using style to differentiate themselves and to show what groups they want to be related to, and to who they seek distance but, the concept of resistance is gone (Muggleton, 2000)
What is similar in the postmodern youth cultures and the authentic youth cultures are the wish to be differentiated from the mainstream society, to be a part of the alternative (Hebdige, 1979; Thorton, 1995). In thortons(1995) work on clubcultures she writes about the contrast between “us” – the hip, alternative world, and “the others”- the mainstream. This difference is being explained by the concept of subcultrual capital. Subcultrual capital is the knowledge you got whitin areas of importance to your subculture. It is about knowing what is “hip”, for example how to dress, what to listen to, where to hang out, etc. In eyes of the members of the subculture, the people belonging the mainstream have low subcultural capital (Barker, 2000, drawing on thorton, 1995).The issue of class is raised in connection with subcltrual capital. Even though subcultures refuse the standardised class system, and are trying to achieve classlessness, subcultrual capital creates a kind of class system. The more subcultrual capital you have, the more respect you get with in the subculture, and the higher “class” you belong to (thorton, 1995).
This concept of subcultrual capital is applible to the hipster culture. Since the hipster culture builds on the interest for the non-mainstream, “indie” culture and fashion, the distinguishing between “us”- the alternative and “them”- the mainstream is very important. It can even be argued that this is one of the main aspects of this culture. Having high subcultrual capital within the hipster culture would for example be to know about culture, politics, independent art and music. As Arseal and Thompson (2011) argues in their work, that it is all about the field of indie consumption. This field being about consuming what...
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