Subcultures: Has The Old Alternative Become The New Mainstream?



Subcultures and their alternative fashion


Subcultures are cultural groups of like-minded individuals with the same beliefs and attitudes, who commonly tend to dress a little (or a lot) different from the mainstream. Rather than conforming to widely popular societal trends, subcultures choose to adopt their own alternative sense of style which has the power to make them widely recognisable in society. Each group has their own distinct style which plays a huge role in constructing and expressing its unique sense of identity.


New subcultures are constantly emerging. You may even be a part of one without even realising it yet. Some of the most well-known subcultures include the Bikers in the 1950s, Hippies in the 1960s, 80s Punk in the 1980s and Emos in the early 2000s, all of which still exist in society today but do not seem as prominent as what they once were. Yet in recent years their once alternative style appears to have become increasingly mainstream, with more people within wider society rocking their looks that were once considered to be alternative.


Is the old alternative the new mainstream?


Subculture style now finds itself being less alternative, as you can now shop their looks from any mainstream brand on the high street. The Bikers in the 1950s were once renowned for their leather jackets. This iconic item of a biker's wardrobe was born out of their need for practicality and safety, and to protect them against bad weather and potential motorcycle accidents. Featuring a belt at the bottom, lapels, snaps, pockets, and a zip all the way up. The leather jacket was once a symbol of rebellion, resistance, and masculinity whereas now, mainstream people choose to wear a leather jacket for absolutely none of those reasons and purely for fashion purposes. The leather jacket no longer has the same connotations it once did - it is now just another ordinary piece of clothing in someone's wardrobe.


The Hippies subculture were an advocate for non-violence, love, peace and equality, and their fashion reflected such attitudes and beliefs. Think Austin Powers, florals, psychedelic prints, tie-dye and vibrant colours, the hippies were not afraid to make a bold statement. The Hippie style almost channelled everyone's inner child, as they wore mismatched prints and clashing colours which was not generally done before (unless you were under the age of five).


Previously, fashion houses were targeted towards a very sophisticated and adult-like clientele but the Hippies and their incredibly energetic style opened the doors to a newfound youth market. This proved very popular amongst teenagers and younger women as they were able to be more innovative and adventurous with their style. Zara's 2021 spring-summer collection is very much embracing the Hippie style with its vibrant colour palette and an endless array of retro-inspired prints this season. Multicoloured is the new black it seems.


The future of the subculture


It could be said that subcultures no longer have the sense of purpose they once did. There is nothing for them to rebel against so they have simply become less of an alternative option for people who felt different or individual. That is not to say that subcultures no longer exist because they are not as visible or relevant as they once were. Subcultures will never entirely die out, but just like everything else in this world, they become old and new ones will then rise to popularity.


With the rise of the internet, subcultures have taken on a new digital form. This has meant that subcultures are no longer restricted to a particular location. Rather than just acting on a local scale they have the power to become a global phenomenon. The newly emerged K-Pop and Kawaii can be just as popular in Tokyo as in the UK. It may also be possible that these groups choose to come together online rather than in person, which could explain the lack of Punk Rockers or Goths you see out on the street.


The 21st Century has definitely recognised a shift in how people live their lives. What was once considered unusual or daring is now frequently overlooked. As time and attitudes have progressed we have all become more accepting towards those who were once considered different to the mainstream.