YOUTH & POPULAR CULTURE





FI2010


“”Dick Hebdige argues that style is used within subcultures as a weapon of ‘semiotic guerrilla warfare’ to challenge and resist dominant culture’. Examine this argument looking at specific examples of subculrtural style.”


NB: This essay concentrates on fashion style.


In the beginning there was style. Invented by our earliest ancestors some 100,000 years ago, this approach to transforming appearance served to mark out the boundaries of each tribe, to indicate differences of role and status within the group and to emphasise the unchanging continuity of traditional ways of life. Then, in the Renaissance with the birth of modernism, fashion was born - demonstrating and celebrating constant change and progress. In the last few decades, however, fashion has gone out of fashion and style has re-emerged as the dominant force but, now, with the emphasis upon individual, personal expression.


“Subcultures represent noise (as opposed to sound): interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to their representation in the media. We should therefore not underestimate the signifying power of the spectacular subculture not only as a metaphor for potential anarchy \'out there\' but as an actual mechanism of semantic disorder: a kind of temporary blockage in the system of representation.”


(Hebdige, 1979:90)


Hebdige (1979) is reiterating the point, that style is a language, a nonverbal system of communication that through its symbols conveys much about the wearer to the viewer. Before people speak to one another, their clothing makes a statement that expresses their sex, age, class, occupation, origin and personality, as well as what they are or what they want to be at a particular moment. These assumptions help form underlying prejudices. For example, A businessperson is recognized in a well tailored suit. The assumption may be that the suited person is a more credible.


As a language clothing can range from conventional to eccentric styles. Dress can identify its wearer with a social group or role that the individual wants to emulate.. Importance is often placed placed upon style, cost and labels that identify them as designer. For example, as a nonverbal language, the wearing of jeans by teenagers may signal that individuals are all members of the same group, no matter how different they may be socially or intellectually. Some teenage girls carry the group identification a step further by sharing clothes. In this way they share their friendship and group identity, just as they share their slang in creating their own verbal language (Lurie,1981) . But clothing can and does express more than identity with a group or role. It can also express the value of that group.


Teenage clothing communicates messages other than that of belonging and similarity, for teenagers are working out their own set of values different from those of their parents. Clothing can also express the psychological need for adolescents to rebel against their parents and other adults in authority in order to seek autonomy.


The process of personal development and growth in adolescence is a complex one. Protest and rebellion against parents and adults in authority are commonly observable behaviours. Protest can take the form of enjoyment and pleasure seeking. Enjoyment conveys messages of freedom and autonomy. The objects and activities important to the teenager are valuable in developing his/her independence (Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg-Hulton, 1981:140)


Style is vital component of our global popular culture. The term fashion implies change; in the production, marketing, and purchase of apparel, change is fast and furious. Clothes and related accessories share characteristics with other commodities of popular culture. Styles in both music and clothing, for example, are assimilated not only by designers and performers in the marketplace but also by consumers in their everyday choices and actions. Recent influences in clothing fashion may be traced to styles from a variety of subcultures, racial/ethnic communities, and leisure-interest groups. Elements of popular culture become fused when a person\'s appearance - a "look" - is associated with a preference for reggae, heavy metal, or country-western music, or skateboarding, biking, or golfing. Like popular music, media, and literature, fashion is incorporated into everyday life: taken for granted because it is so familiar and accessible because it is so populist in orientation. Yet fashion comes to us with a price tag (both economically and socially).


What is for sale in the