Since my return to the US in 2020 and most recently after the partial lifting of Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, I’ve become aware of youth subculture groups in my community. I live in an Oregon college town with a diverse youth population. Each subculture has a decidedly unique “style,” and I’ve wanted to take photos but decided against it.
Tattoos and Piercings
While waiting behind a young goth couple in a shopping line, I noticed them cautiously eyeing me. I must have seemed like a relic…. They didn’t appear to have any visible areas on their body that weren’t covered with tattoos or piercings. I tried not to stare while remembering how I squirmed years ago when getting my ears pierced and wondering if piercings to the tongue, eyebrows, and nose were painful. While we waited in line, I overheard their loud discussion of body “cutting”. Wishing to be non-judgmental, I didn’t react or flinch. Today’s subcultures seem severe to me, but then so are the times in which we live. sigh
I’m not a prude or stranger to punk subculture which emerged in the UK and US during the mid-1970s – who could forget Sid and Nancy? The 1970s are sometimes described as a “pivot of change in world history, focusing especially on the economic upheavals that followed the end of the postwar economic boom”. At the time, I was living in San Francisco, a “city heavily affected by drugs, prostitution, and crime, and known for its hippies, radicals, and a greater tolerance and acceptance of diverse cultures”.
Oregon v Berlin
Even during a recent three-month visit to Berlin, subculture garb I saw didn’t rival Oregon – a unique place in its own right. I confess to purchasing studded black leather boots during my time in Berlin, but stopped short of shaving my head or getting a more bizarre hairstyle to blend with the locals. Over the years, Berlin subculture fashion seems to have tamed – not so much on “the other side of the pond”.
Some of the Internet articles I read expounded on examining youth subcultures online. They considered how “things had became blurred and confusing, compounded by the fact that online subcultures seemed to come cloaked in layers of knowing irony”. I felt the same, and wondered if what I was reading and looking at was “a joke or meant to be taken seriously”.
The conclusion was that “there’s plenty of stuff out there that seems weird and striking and creative, but there’s something oddly self-conscious and non-committal about it”. A final thought – “perhaps that’s the result of living in a world dominated by social media, where you’re under constant surveillance by your peers”.
At the moment, these appear to be some of the major subculture groups, and I apologize if this list is outdated. Surely there are more. These subcultures leave me a bit dazed, and some might have come and gone before I ever heard of them. Click on the categories below to read more: