During the 20th century, there were many different fashion subcultures here in the UK. From Northern Soul to Punk, Teddy Girls/Boys to Goth, every decade had defining fashion subcultures that shaped them. Many of these subcultures are still around today. Many have evolved to create different subcultures for the new generations. The 21st century is an evolution of the ideas that emerged over the last 100 years, and we are still seeing these ideas and influences in fashion today. A lot of these subcultures spark cultural evaluations, with famous people often at the centre of them. These famous faces, as well as the subcultures they represented, still influence fashion choices today.
Subcultures that defined the 20th century
During the 20th century, there were many defining fashion subcultures across the UK. The first to appear was the Dandy and Flapper subculture. This subculture came about in the 1920s, though it is unclear if their fashion influenced the music or vice versa. The clothing became more risqué after the end of the first world war, and it matched the up-tempo dancing.
Then after the second world war came the Teddy Boys/Girls. Teddy fashion featured a mix of Edwardian and rock and roll influences. For women, Teddy fashion included loose-fitting velvet-collard jackets and narrow trousers. Sometimes women added broaches and star boater hats for a more feminine swing. For men, their clothes of choice were high-waist drainpipe trousers that were short enough to show their shoes and socks, which were either oxfords, loafers or motorcycle boots. They paired this with a white T-shirt and dark drape jacket.
In the late 50s and early 60s, Mod fashion became popular in Britain. Mods were modern and cool. They were the young generation trying to break away from the factory working life that overtook life after world war two. Their fashion included tailor-made slime suites paired with either brogues or boating shoes. They added the Parka jacket to the look, helping the jacket gain popularity. In the 50s and 60s' artists like The Beatles inspired Mod fashion, and today it can still be seen in artists like Jake Bug.
The late 70s and the early 80s saw the rise of the Punk subculture in the UK. It was a movement created to make a political statement surround the ideas of non-conformity and anti-authoritarianism. Fashion helped Punks make a statement and often included mohawks, tattoos, studded chokers, Dr Martens boots, and tartan. Women in the Punk movement would often wear leather skirts and ripped fishnets. Slogans and band logos on their t-shirts. Vivienne Westwood made Punk mainstream with her fashion designs in the 1970s.
As well as Punk, the '70s saw the creation of Glam Rock. It was heavily influenced by men in rock music, with bands like Slade and Queen and solo artists like David Bowie and Marc Bolan bringing Glam Rock to life. Later on, the movement became close to gay rights activism. Glam Rock was all about standing out in clothes that drew attention. They often wore bright, shiny and glittery items, and the fashion pushed an androgynous look. Today bands like Måneskin are bringing new life to Glam Rock.
Other notable subcultures include Northern Soul in the 60s, Skinheads in the 60s and 70s, New Romantics in the 70s, Goths in the 80s and Ravers in the 90s.
How these subcultures still influence fashion today
As mentioned, the 21st century is an evolution of the ideas that emerged over the last 100 years. Even though subcultures like Mods and Punks aren't as prevalent as before, we can still see their influence on modern fashion. Punk has featured heavily on the fall 2020 runways. Designers such as Marc Jacobs and brands like Matty Bovan have given their clothes some Punk flare. Much like the 70s and 80s, the 21st century version of Punk is an aesthetic rebellion against traditional fashion norms.
Glam Rock is another fashion subculture that influences a lot of the fashion we see today. There are many music artists today that draw inspiration from Glam Rock. Lady Gaga has referenced David Bowie as one of her fashion inspirations. She often adds a lot of twists to her looks by incorporating Glam Rock staples. Many male artists like Harry Styles, Sam Smith, Måneskin and Youngblood incorporate makeup into the stage looks. Makeup is one of the main elements of Glam Rock fashion, with artists like David Bowie and Boy George paving the way for male artists to wear glamorous makeup looks on stage.
A lot of new subcultures use influences of past ones to create new and exciting looks. Seapunk first appeared in 2011, and it combines the classic elements of the Punk subculture with aqua and green colours and oceanic iconography. Normcore became fashionable in 2014 and incorporated styles from the 90s like Mom Jeans into its look. The simplistic looks are similar to those of Northern Soul from the 60s and Ravers from the 90s.
While fashion is an expression of who we are as individuals, subcultures from the past 100 years have helped to shape and influence our aesthetics. Much of the fashion we see today takes inspiration from subcultures and movements that were large back then, with many adding modern twists to make it their own. New subcultures have also emerged with Skaters, Roadmen, Hipsters, and E-Girls/Boys becoming more popular over time. In the coming 100 year's these could be the new subcultures that help inspire generations, much like Mod, Punk, New Romantic and more have inspired us.