People create their own culture, and that culture is their lifestyle; it is a way of being. From these cultures, subcultures arise. Subcultures are groups of people who have broken off from“normal” society and have made their own societal rules. These groups transform cultural beliefs into something that distinguishes themselves from the original culture; such cases like these occur when people refuse to adhere to the expected standards of a community’s culture. The rejection of normal culture comes from a nugget of individuality that is seeded and develops into a transformed culture, but that individuality is labeled as maladjustment by those who conform to a society because they are unused to differences such as individualism. However, those who cannot or will not accommodate a culture’s tenets truly do not want to be a part of it, which is why they seek their own subcultures where they can continue on their paths of individualization. The idea of individualization is to stand out from the mainstream culture, making a statement of being different; nevertheless, as subcultures are created, people take ideas that were individualized in subcultures and make them part of their own culture. This leads to subcultures having to redefine themselves due to their ideas, their identities, being made mainstream. Much of the stolen identity is what outwardly represents a person as an individual: fashion. The display of fashion as a unique identifier is an unavoidable impression. Subcultures use fashion as a way of embracing their differences and their maladjustment, but society is taking their style and making it mainstream.
Much of a person’s identity comes from his class, and the working class plays a large role in the formation of subcultures and their outward expressions; in the 1970s, the working class was considered the punk subculture because of the number of youths taking part in bands as their employment (O’Connor 410). This working class of punks was developed by society, a society that provides classes when people are born, due to how their parents were raised and into which class they were born (Abowitz 1). The punks developed their class into a subculture of working on stage; these punk subcultures expressed themselves on stage with a guitar, vinyl pants, and tattoos. Tattoos as a fashion statement were a large part of being punk, and although there was no rulebook for it, all punks had at least one tattoo, if not multiple. This comes from the influence that art had on the punk subculture. Being part of the working class, many youths could not afford the high costs of a university, so they attended art school; here, youths learned self-expression and fully developed their individual punk spirit (O’Connor 410). With art, came the notion that tattooing one’s body is indeed artwork, and punks lived by that. Punk subcultures also gained ideas of tattooing by looking into the past of ‘primitive’ cultures; in such cultures, tattooing was a way to express their maladjustment to society by literally masking their faces in extravagant ink (Gelder 198). To express their maladjustment meant they were accepting of it, and these ancient cultures wanted to be the odd ones out with their tattoos. Although the older cultures were more interested in tattooing themselves through scarring by blade, punks still used primitive patterns as an influence when getting tattoos. Regrettably, in recent times, that part of individuality, that fashion statement, has been taken. With tattoo parlors lining the streets,
anyone can walk in and get a tattoo for the right amount of cash; one novelty of being in the tattoo business is drawing art on newly aged eighteen year olds. Some of the more popular tattoos given are hearts, dream catchers, and birds; none of these symbolize the originality of an individual. This takes away the identity of punk subculture because a mass amount of people have begun to permanently stain their skin; the point of the working punks was to create a culture oppositional to the mainstream, but it has become a difficult task (Abowitz 3). Tattoos are no longer a punk fashion statement; they are a worldwide fashion statement. With this feeling of identity theft, punk subcultures find it harder to express their differences but find hope in the clothing industry of fashion.
Designers have begun creating more individualistic clothing for people to express their differences and the subcultures they represent, however as more of a style of clothing becomes available, the more mainstream it becomes. These designers start out their lives as being maladjusted in their own societies, and that is what leads them to create fashion that conveys individuality; they know what it is like to be shunned in a society but to then learn to embrace it, which is a lifestyle they wanted others to learn. However, when clothing is put on the market, there is no stopping anyone from seeing it, including the subcultures who strive to be different as well as imposters, those of the original culture. Though the clothing made by these designers are intended for the misfits of society, because they are not limited to their view, others swoop in and bring expected misfit styles back to their own culture. Because of this, the fashionistas in subcultures, the designers, have to create more clothing to re-establish the difference they tried
so hard to show in the first place (Gelder 197). For designers, the plan of action is to keep pushing upwards with their creations, opposed to downwards (Gelder 198). This is the best way to keep the original culture out; if the fashion created is too intense for normal society, designers will not have to continue re-establishing who they are. To spice up their style, subcultures also add hairstyle as part of their fashion (Abowitz 4). These can range from pixie cuts to mohawks and usually work well for the punk scene that the working class inspires; styles like these tend to keep the mainstream out because they are too extreme, and that is the point of their subcultures.
Subcultures are slowly working their way toward individuality through fashion, even with mainstream society acting as obstacles in their paths. Though it becomes difficult to embrace oneself when others steal styles, fashions, impressions, and identity, the expressive fashion community is always boosting upwards at great lengths and will continue to do so. With that in mind, subcultures will be able to show their difference and come out from the shadow labeled maladjustment.