Constellation has been an extremely valuable part of my first year studying at degree level. Attending the Key Note lectures within the first term of undertaking the constellation module opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. They taught me to think beyond what I see and to question a theory, artist’s work or object further than my initial thoughts and assumptions. I had never even considered philosophy within art before Clive’s lecture: do I have ideas or do Ideas have me? I found myself questioning this lecture for hours afterwards as it really grabbed me, it encouraged me to think about what art really is today. Although I was engaged in the lecture room, If I’m honest, I’m still not really convinced that I understand the literal and the phenomenal through no fault of the tutor and may have to research that further. Learning about artistic periods through history such as the arts and crafts movement has broadened my historical knowledge and within constellation, I have quickly learnt that you have to have knowledge of the past to create new artwork today inspired by what you know.
Study skills sessions not only allowed me to choose an appropriate tutor to aid me in my essay writing, but allowed me to gain a wider knowledge. As an artistic individual, I was not really familiar with the world of sonic arts and so it was interesting to learn about music and sound being considered and utilised as an art form. Although I’m not particularly interested in this medium, I saw how effective sound can be and within my field module thought far more carefully about the music I decided to add to stop motion animations that were produced. Something I found particularly overwhelming before attending John Clarkson’s skills session was being faced with a piece of academic text that is incredibly wordy and far away from the main point. I feel in this session, I learnt how to find the key points and to summarise academic text into my own words in order to understand its content a lot easier. This is undoubtedly a valuable skill to gain as when reading books as support for my essay and analysing artists work and information I feel I have been able to understand texts a lot better and in return been able to write a far more successful essay than if I had not attended this session. I have referred to the thoughts of Clive Cazeaux’s study skills session when writing academically also. Cath Davies’s option taught me how to analyse an image in depth and look beyond what I am seeing and consider why objects have been put a certain way or why a person created a piece of art and what message is being conveyed. I think this impacted on me as an arts person the most, as I feel I analyse my own work and the work of others a lot more successfully than when I first started the course. Ranking this as the most valuable skill I learnt, I chose her subcultural option which incorporated image analysis to write an essay from and I am definitely glad I did.
Cath Davies Subcultural Sessions that I have been attending every week have changed the way I read imagery and made me think a lot more about what I’m painting, why I’m painting it, What materials I am using, the connotations behind them and messages that I want to convey to the viewers of my work. Also, I look at other artists work far more in depth and aim to decipher why elements of their work are the way they are. I understand how artists make appropriate decisions now and how even if something looks abstract and like it doesn’t really represent anything, it most definitely does. In terms of subculture, I have learnt an incredible amount about how you can reclaim objects and change their meaning to portray a new one. My field work has been far more successful than my subject work in my opinion and I feel this is partially down to this constellation option. I have really thought about portraying a concept and how the imagery I use would portray a certain meaning. I have thought about how certain colours have connotations and will aid me in emitting a certain mood from within my work. I can confidently say that I would not have looked at images in such depth before being asked to produce my constellation case study. I chose to write about a punk aesthetic and I definitely approach my practice differently after undertaking this. Being interested in fine art, learning about destruction being creation in punk artwork could definitely inspire future projects.
Constellation has helped me achieve a lot really. It has equipped me with such a variety of tools that I will take with me throughout my degree. My eyes have been opened to the work of so many artists that I wasn’t aware of and I have learnt to consider decisions that I make within my artwork more carefully. I now think about statements that I am aiming to make and how powerfully they are being conveyed within my work. However, there is still room for improvement and I feel that my knowledge of analysing images, understanding academic writing and having a knowledge of the original meanings of objects in order to change them will grow as I continue doing so and practice. I am sure that the concepts behind my art, its appearances and the thought processes I go through will improve as I progress through the course. Constellation has been an opportunity to progress as both an artist and an academic. We have been given the chance to take the skills we have and improve them and I have been shown new ways to understand and develop. I am confident that constellation has already made me a stronger contender for whatever I may wish to do in the future.
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There are many different looks and complex changes within the Goth Subculture. There are many different stylistic strands at work within Goth, However it is quite easily stereotyped. Spooner (2006) states that Goth emerged as a visual style from Gothic Literature. It grew out of punk style and had its hay day in the 1980s. To outsiders, the subculture appears consistent, but its a combination of objects and style. Goth plays with the traditional notions of masculinity. Both genders involved themselves in Goth. Hodkinson (2007) suggests that Goth is more complex. A fusion of different styles being present, goth employs Bricolage and plays around with styles from elsewhere, clothing is highly important in this Subculture. The Birmingham school talk about “symbolic resistance” and a statement being made within the style which there is within Goth, whereas the post modern approach is that you can just wear a style with no statement, goth does not fit in with this approach.
There is a Victorian aspect to Goth. It is borrowed from Victorian style and traditions of Gothic literature from the 19th century. It is highly inspired by Horror, Frankenstein or Dracula and has the idea of reverting back to the period when this literature was made.
The Victorian mourning dress is a valuable resource to Gothic style and corsetry. Steele (2008) states that elements of Victorian fashion became incorporated into goth dress. The mourning dress is a huge influence to the goth style however it has been changed by the use of make up. They did not wear black eyeliner and dark make up in the Victorian times.
The themes that emerge from Goth Subculture include: Ghosts, hauntings, the undead, liminal bodies, monstrosity and transgressing social forms. How far do these themes emerge visually in the look of Goth Subculture? Spooner (2006) says: it is clothing that most securely links Goth subculture with the gothic literary tradition “surface” features of gothic fiction such as veils and masquerade.
This is a costume for Morticia Adams (the Adams Family). In terms of Design it belongs to the victorian tradition of the mourning dress. The majority of flesh is covered and the arms are slightly shredded portraying decay and death. The motif of tearing clothes is a motif of decay and age of fabric. The spider on the front portrays the notion of creepy crawlies crawling on dead bodies. Death is an important theme within gothic literature.
Gothic Style is a fusion, it fits in with punk style and incorporates bondage and fetishwear. Re-appropriating bondage to mainstream sensibility. Punk connotations are emerging. There is a fusion of punk style and gothic literature themes. There are subgenres within an umbrella of goth such as gothic punk, steam punk, techno goth. Hodkinson (2007) says only in the 1990s did fetishwear become a standard element of goth style. Goth also suggests alternative rock culture and incorporated piercings and tattoos.
This is an image of the fans from a Marilyn Manson gig at Manda Place in Milan. You can tell that these aren’t 1980s/70s goths. There is lots of fetish wear included in this style and corsetry but it is still advocating the gothic literature tradition of pale make up. Dog collars are worn here which are very different jewellery to Victorian accessories. Cheap fabrics are used.
Hebdige states that Subculture will always become mainstream. Street style reappears on the catwalk and in the media. For example the gothic style of Trinity in the Matrix, influenced people to wear long leather coats. Media influences street style and street style influenced the media.
Goths are still around today and the gothic style and literary tradition continues to inspired media figures and designers. Most of Alexander Mcqueens designs are influenced by Gothic subculture. Armani have been inspired by Gothic connotations of the spider and many other fashion designers have also adopted goth as an inspiration for their designs and clothing items.
In this session, we summarised Groom’s (2009) perspective on Harajuku street style.
What are the style statements/influences and how can this be termed post modern style?
The style is self constructed, hyper-real, post modern, eccentric. excessive and exaggerated. The is a “superficiality of posed identity” within Harajuku style. They are not being themselves and are deliberately making it obvious that Harajuku is a role that they are performing. There is no sense of a “real me” an image of the people who wear this street style is projected as they want to be seen, for this to be true, they must be aware of the rules of posing. There is nothing natural about this street style, and fakery is a massive part of Harajuku. The image is adopted “through quotation marks”, just like words are borrowed when they are in quotation marks, so are the parts of this style, this is known as Bricolage, (Hebdige) bringing lots of different objects together and giving them new meanings. They know the original function of the items and change the meaning of them for example – using western childrens toys as fashion items. The style is highly exaggerated and is almost like fancy dress, something you put on and take off. There is no “ideological commitment” in Harajuku, it’s a style, not a message. You don’t buy this look on the highstreet, you make it yourself, “DIY Practice” and are not influenced by whats in fashion at the time. Harajuku is marked by Fusions and Fluidity. It is a fushion of then and now and a fusion of the east and the west. It fits in with Post modern theory as there is a blurring of subcultures and a “supermarket of style” (polhemus). They have taken many different parts from varied places and thrown them all together to make a style. The key to post modern style is that its been deliberately selected and put together.
What is suggested about social and cultural contexts regarding this subculture?
The Birmingham school says that subcultures arise out of a wider condition such as race or gender. Hebdige says that is where the statement lies and forms a reaction against something. Social and cultural contexts are really important, our societies affect the way we think. Groom suggests that formalities exist within japanese culture and the youth have to conform to these formalities when they are in the house by taking their shoes off etc. but when they are not they adopt Harajuku to rebel against these formalities and it is only enacted on the streets or in public spaces. According to Groom, Harajuku is a reaction against the rigid formalities of being at home. However, the youth still live at home so that they have a disposable income to afford fashions and music etc. You still have all the benefits of being young and Harajuku is all about keeping the Childhood alive. The street is a need for escape to get away from parents.
We then went on to analyse to images of Harajuku style in preparation to analyse our own imagery and formulate a case study.
We found characteristics within the image, thought about possible meanings and applied subcultural theory. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate the same images that were analysed to I have included similar to show the vast range of style that comes under Harajuku.
Pink – Girly, Gender coded. Pastel Pink associated with young girls. Western connotations in this style.
Ribbons in hair, Knee High socks with Lace trim – femininity, western school uniform, girly, childish.
Fabric Polka dot skirt – Minnie mouse connotations
Cheap mass-produced plastic jewellery – excessive, objects that relate to being a little girl – cute rabbit hairslides. Bricolage is occurring here, some of the rules of little girlishness have been selected but elements have been added that do not belong to the style and the meanings have been changed. The hair slides are in the front of the hair whereas their original function is to hold the hair back, changed. The hair slides are excessive and there is a knowingness of this exaggeration which fits in with post modern theory. Grooms theory of “style in quotation marks” comes in here with parts of a certain style being borrowed and paired with new style connotations. Hair – Pink is little girl, but dyed hair is not little girl. This has come from a punk sensibility, there is a fusion of things that don’t belong – Groom, bricolage is again clear. The harajuku in the image given to us was also wearing converse trainers not cute shoes, which again takes away the little girl authenticity. A leopard print back pack was on her back, leopard print is associated with adults and a sexual print. Prostitutes wore it in the 30s and 40s. There is post modern theory evident, a definite “resignification of objects” and a “supermarket of style” (Polhemus).
The second image we analysed was a harajuku girl who had adopted much more of a punk sensibility and less little girlyness and so creating another signature look. There are different styles within Harajuku, it is far more diverse than the punks or the mods or the teds, its more post modern.
Ripped clothing, safety pins – not holding things together, meanings being changed, more retro and evidence of a British punk sensibility.
Brothel Creepers – teds used to wear them. In the 80s the punks and the teds combined together to form psychobillies, there is a psychobillie sensibility here, a “supermarket of style” (polhemus). She is not trying to look like a 1970s punk, she has adopted certain elements from the look. Within the Birmingham School, Hebdige claimed that subculture was rebellion – “resistance through ritual”. Groom says that there is possibly a resistance to rebelling against the formality of japanese Culture and may be why a punk sensibility is adopted by Harajuku.
I had never really looked at the Harajuku street style before this lecture and found it incredibly interesting and quite chaotic as a subculture, I found that there are no strict rules as to what you wear or how you act and it is visually very interesting. I was drawn to the idea that Harajuku girls are hiding the real them and performing and it is definitely apparent, as it is in many subcultures that this style is an escapism, from Japans formalities, but it is like a fancy dress, just for the streets and public spaces and not to be worn at home.
In this session, we looked at two academic research groups – The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies also known as The Birmingham School and Post CCCS also known as Post sub-cultural Theory.
What are the Characteristics of Subcultures according to the CCCS (The Birmingham School’s) Research?
The Birmingham School feel that Subculture is constructed in relation to a dominant culture and that it always defies society in some way. They state that Subculture is carried and associated with the youth of society and that it emerges when individuals in similar circumstances feel themselves to be isolated or neglected by mainstream society. They say that subculture has a delicate relationship with the media and was a reaction against it. The school puts high emphasis class and gender and makes the point that subcultures are derived by working class youths, predominantly masculine rebelling against society and the parent culture (the establishment). This is referred to as “symbolic resistance” (Osbergy, 2004 p.116) – a political or ideological act fighting the system through rituals. Rituals create a group identity mostly through appearance and style, they are how you can spot the punk in the room for example but they also suggest homology and Bricolage. Homology being a set of values and beliefs that are shared within a subculture and Bricolage meaning changing the meaning of objects to reflect these values. The Birmingham school are adamant that Bricolage is a part of sub-cultural identity. However, there are criticisms of their research.
Criticisms of the Birmingham Schools Research
First of all, saying that working class people only did subculture isn’t accurate. Every sub-cultural gang is a variety of genders, backgrounds, classes etc. What about political statements against the system? Bricolage is evident in subculture but can you not just like a style and experiment with different fashions? They made general assumptions and stereotyped. They didn’t suggest that females were part of subculture whereas for example we know that there was a feminist attitude in punk, punk women defied the Barbie doll look and rebelled against the parent culture by doing so. O’Brien’s work suggests in fact that if women wanted to be equal they were attracted to the punk subculture. Gender Bias is a criticism of the Birmingham School. They oversimplified the complex social make up of many youth cultures but the Birmingham Schools work is important because it says that street style is a valid subject to study and that is their contribution.
What are the findings of Post-CCCS research into Subcultures? (Known as post sub-cultural theory or post modern subcultures)
Post sub-cultural theory refers to subcultures as Neo-tribes. Neo- tribes allow members to wander through multiple group attachments. The post sub cultural view is that there is a style in subculture but there is not necessarily a political statement or ideology behind it. However, they do say that there is a political statement in attitude, rather than style. They maintain that you can have punk views and sensibility for example without wearing safety pins and ripped clothes. The Birmingham School suggested everyone in subcultures has a look and an attitude but post sub-cultural theory suggests that there is a more complex process of selecting style. They state that the boundaries between subcultures are blurred. One week you could have a goth look and the next week you could be dressed like a punk, in their opinion, this doesn’t mean your beliefs have changed. CCCS suggested the fact that you were part of one gang, you followed the rules of a subculture in the 1970s but in the 1990s, the post subcultures said that you could float between cultures. The Post modern approach is that there is a mash-up stylistically, and there can be a mixing of styles. The media is important in their approach. The CCCS said subculture was a reaction against the media but the post sub-cultural view is that the media have always played a part in sub-cultural style and have helped define it, for examples inspiration from musicians in the media. They say they have a symbiotic relationship – subculture uses the media and the media uses them. Post modern research suggests that subculture is far more fluid with less clear boundaries and less clear identities. The picking and choosing of style is apparent and identities are not fixed by Gender and class. They maintain that you can wear a style without making a political statement.
What unites the Birmingham Schools research and the Post Sub-cultural theory?
Bricolage unites both teams, it is evident in both’s research. CCCS suggests that Bricolage always has a meaning relating to society. Post modernists maintain that people gather objects to create a style and say something about themselves.
SUMMARY: Academic Theories and Terms
(Muggleton, 2000) suggested that subculture is merely a “stylistic game to be played” committing yourself to a sub-cultural scene is far less evident in the 21st century.
The act of adopting many styles and creating a mash-up of them is known as a “supermarket of style” (Polhemus, 1995)
Neotribalism – (Maffesoli,1996) The feeling of togetherness but its is informal and not necessarily because of style. You can have a community, but it doesn’t have to be manifested stylistically. You may be part of a certain community if you go and listen to music and another if you are watching football for example.
Postmodern Spaces – “The airport departure lounge” (Turner,1999) – The Idea that you are only part of a community for a certain amount of time and then you float into another community/identity.
Distinctions between Travelers and Tourists (Sweetman,2004) – suggests that subcultures are one of the other. The travelers follow the rules of one subculture/part of a goth gang for example. The people are still around today but tourists are the ones floating around, hanging around with the goth for a little while and then moving on. Both are in existence. It is not the death of the 1970s subcultures, but 1990s floating subcultures exist alongside them.
Objectified Sub-cultural Capital (Thornton 1995) – Sub-cultural capital is objectified by well made hair cuts and music. Objectified sub-cultural capital refers to the objects that say “I am a punk” for example. (external)
Embodied Sub-cultural Capital (Thornton, 2004) is the idea of being in the know. Using but not overusing slang. Words, Speech and Attitudes. Part of being cool is not making it look like you are trying too hard.
This session was highly interesting and it was definitely beneficial in looking at the research of both groups. In terms of analysing subculture it was valuable to look at the opinions of researchers in the 1970s and the 90s and contrasting them. I would say that the post modern view is a lot more valid today, but without the Birmingham School I may not have been studying subculture anyway as they put across the point that is was valid to study.
RECAP: Subculture is based around material artifacts, values and territorial spaces and is defined by the active organisation of objects that they employ. Subcultures inflect “given” meanings by combining things borrowed from different contexts and giving them a different code. Subcultures Intensify, exaggerate or isolate through the modification of objects. New meanings are achieved by the re-signification of objects. Subcultures combine forms according to a “secret language or code, to which only members of the group possess the key.
Dick Hebdige was the first person to write about Punk, and the first person that thought punk was worthy of being analysed as a subculture. He refers to three main subcultural theories within his work – Subcultural Bricoleur or Bricolage, Semiotic Guerilla Warfare and Style as Homology.
Below I have outlined my understanding of these theories:
Subcultural Bricoleur: Refers to Subcultures like the punks, gathering objects, signs and artefacts and combining them to generate new meanings out of them, different from their existing ones. It considers how subcultures use objects to respond to their environment and explain how they see the world. Bricolage is all about the visual, the aesthetics and all the items that styles incorporate to portray a message.
Semiotic Guerilla Warfare: Refers to the use of offensive language and poor attitude being displayed by punk culture which portrayed their rebellion against society. Offensive T-shirts that the punks wore were known as Guerilla outfits. The punks were waging a war on society and breaking societies rules. They adopted anti-establishment values via objects, music, style etc.
Style as Homology: Whereas Bricolage is about the visual within subculture, Homology refers to the values that go with the subculture, for example the anti-establishment punk statement that is being made through appearance and acts. A subculture looks like chaos, but in fact there’s entire structures and specific rules to follow if you want to be part of that culture.
Characteristics of Punk Style:
Ripped Clothes were not accepted in society. The punks either left their t shirts ripped or put zips in the rips. This is changing the meaning of an object to create a new meaning, zips are used to hold to bits of material together but this is not their function here. This also refers to the safety pins that the punks adored themselves with, their original function is also to hold material together but they used them in their cheeks and lips as a piece of jewellery, therefore creating another new meaning. The punks understood the accepted rules of society and because of this knowledge could rebel against them. Piercings are acceptable today because of punk.
On the subject of jewellery, the punks also wore lavatory chains, razor blades, television components, tampons and clothes pegs as necklaces or earrings etc. The punks wanted to shock society so they wore anything that was not accepted as jewellery. Shock is socially constructed. The breaking of societies rules is shocking and this is exactly what the punks did. Society changes over time and whats considered shocking changes with it.
Cheap, trashy fabrics made up the punk look. They purposefully chose fabrics that were not considered classy like PVC. They took bondage wear out of its original context and wore it on the streets. This was considered socially unacceptable. It had a shock factor and was seen to be threatening because of the fact that they were associated with underground society. They took anything “seedy” and wore it out in the mainstream.
Brightly coloured Dyed hair signified punk style. Hair dyes original function was to change the colour of your hair but so that it still looked natural or to cover up grey hairs. Hair dye is accepted in society if it looks as natural as possible. The punks are rebelling against societies rules again here because bright green or red or pink is never going to look natural. Punk was meant to look constructed. They deliberately advertised themselves as fake because societies beauty treatments are pushed as being natural. It is the same when considering make up – in society girls wear make up, so the male punks wore it too, make up is supposed to look natural and more beautiful, so the punks over did it, broke rules and wore make up to make them look unattractive and threatening. Part of Re-signification of Objects and Dress is to exaggerate.
The punks deliberately wrecked school uniform. School uniform suggests conformity so the punks slashed and put graffiti on it. The punks were very Nialistic and trashed everything Britain stood for. They claimed the symbol of the swastika and changed its meaning because of its shock factor. It was particularly shocking to the people of society who had lived through the war.
Music played a major part in punk subculture. Bands such as the sex pistols appealed to the punks. The music was angry and suggested that there was no future and no place for young people in society. At gigs, bands would spit on the audience and the audience would spit back. The lyrics of the music favoured by punks was deliberately shocking and antagonistic.
Above, is an image of cat woman, a groupie of the Sex Pistols. Her punk look is characterised by lots of eyeliner, masculine hair, black nails and nontraditional jewellery. The shaven short hair is making a statement here. In society it is known that hair should make women more desirable. The punks didn’t conform to this and it was threatening to society that women were doing more masculine things.
Punks invented the Mohican hair style. In fights, the punk would use the large, hard points in their hair to harm the other and hair literally became a weapon.
Homology implies the set of rules and shared values that go with subculture. For example, you couldn’t have been a punk and voted for Margaret Thatcher. A punks sensibility would be that you don’t vote for a political party but you go to vote and trash the voting paper to make a statement- anti-politics. It is implied, that subculture always has an anti establishment attitude, but we can challenge this. Today, items can be isolated from their meanings, for example, you could have a mohican and a safety pin through your nose and still vote for David Cameron. Punk is now merely a style. This poses the question: Can things now just be a style with no meaning? You are not making a statement about punk values when you go to a fancy dress party dressed like a punk, you are merely wearing a style.
Subcultural meanings do not just have to relate to clothes, hair and make-up…
Above is an image of the album cover of “God save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols, designed by Jamie Reed. The song “God save the Queen” was banned in the 1970s and no radio was allowed to play it. It was not allowed to be advertised as number one and has a strong punk sensibility.
The Flag within the image stands for establishment and Britishness and Patriotism. Jamie Reed has used an official photo of the queen within this cover, he hasn’t drawn here as he wanted her to be instantly recognisable to all. Both the queen and the flag are linked in this image. She is the figure head of Britain and both imagery stands for establishment. The punk meaning comes into this image through what Jamie Reed has done to existing imagery. Dadaism was a huge influence on punk style. Dadaism mastered the art of collage and showed how new meanings could be generated from combining and altering existing imagery. The Punks adopted this “cut-up technique”.
There are meanings within the image due to where the words are placed. The eyes and mouth of the queen have been ripped off. Ripped is a key motif in punk and here a damaged face implies violence and threat. This illustrates the semiotic violence towards everything the queen stands for by the punks. The punks are making a statement here saying that they are not patriotic and trash the establishment. The typography within the image displays a ransom note look and therefore implies a crime. A crime is being committed against the queen. This is strongly linked to Dadaism where things look deliberately put together but were not originally. Everything about the punks cup up aesthetic looks amateur. This is clearly visible in a page from the punk fanzine, “Sniffin Glue” below.
The cover of this sex pistols album fits in with Bricolage because traditional symbols of Britain have been taken and changed to have a new meaning. The punks changed these patriotic images to be rebellious and to shock society. It also demonstrated semiotic guerilla warfare because it is the epitome of an anti-establishment statement and they are waging a war against typical Britain. Homology is highly apparent, as within this image there is a Re-signification of Objects portraying the values of the subculture.
In his text, Hebdige makes the point that “the cycle leading from opposition to diffusion, from resistance to incorporation encloses each successive subculture”. He means that eventually, anything alternative becomes mainstream over time. Subcultures are only shocking at a particular time.
In conclusion, Punk as a subculture was incredibly shocking in the 70s and broke all the rules of society. They went against conforming to anything accepted into society and were all about being anti-establishment. Punk style demonstrates all three of Hebdiges subcultural theories and includes examples of bricolage, semiotic guerilla warfare and homology.
THE ZOOT SUIT
The Zoot Suit was a cultural statement. Its characteristics included baggy trousers with tight ankles, shoulder pads which over emphasised the physique, a wide-brimmed hat and they were usually brightly coloured. The suits were very over proportioned and exaggerated. There was an excessive use of fabric accompanied with Dutch type shoes and conked hair straightened into a point. The straightening of the hair was considered no difference to whitening your skin. It portrayed the idea of claiming a common white person suit and changing it for the Black man.
The Zoot Suit protested against racial tension, it broke rules. Particular the rule of Blacks not being as valued as the whites in 1940s wartime. The use of excessive fabric in a time of war-time rationing was a statement being made in itself. The Blacks wearing the Zoot suit were basically putting two fingers up to the governments rules. The Zoot Suit was highly related to the breaking of rules and became associated with criminal activity and therefore creating a sense of panic and anxiety about people’s looks to do with hip hop culture. A few years ago, the wearing of the Hoodie had a criminal meaning, it was no different to the wearing of the Zoot suit. The way the wearers of the suit walked and presented themselves enhanced the meanings behind the suit. This is showing us that style is not just about clothing, it is about mannerisms, us and them. The way people speak can sometimes come into subculture – not knowing the language or slang of a subculture could make you not part of it.
Everything the Zoot Suits stood for was then revisited in the Hip Hop movement in the 1980s. There were many statements and meanings relating to racial identity hidden within the wearing of the Zoot Suit.
The Mens Fashion Reader – THE TEDS
The Subculture “The Teds” was characterised by reinvention of the suit. They took an Edwardian look of the past and replicated it. Characteristics of this street style included expensive waistcoats and Edwardian style suits a dress that would have been worn by the Edwardian upper class gentleman in its originally incarnation. Expensive fabrics in the Edwardian times spoke of your wealth, power and class. The Teds wore these Edwardian suits as best as they could get them, it wasn’t the fashion of the day and the suit was not offered in shops. It was a street style marked by a style from the past, a very vintage look. In terms of difference, they wanted to disassociate themselves from what people were wearing from the high street. It is interesting to think that an old-time fashion was resurrected in the 1950s within a subculture.
Teds is a slang name for Edwardian. The Teds were the wrong class wearing the wrong suit in the wrong period. It was a working class sub-culture wearing suits that once belonged to the upper classes. The Teds were making a statement saying they could claim the objects that the upper class thought were theirs. The wearing of this suit was a statement purely about class. They modified the suit, new meanings emerged in the Edwardian suit because of change, it was modified and a new group of people wore it.
The “Teddy Boys”, “Teds” were revived in the earlier 1970s. In comparison, both the 50s and 70s Teds wore velvet waistcoats and ties but there were more modifications to the Edwardian ensemble in the 70s. The drainpipe trousers were thinner and the jackets became longer, the shoes were crepe soled and blue suede shoes came about by Rock and Roll. The 1950s Teds influenced the Psychobillies wearing of the creeper shoes. Here, a different meaning and usage has been created from one pair of shoes. This is an example of an item having a cultural biography.
WHAT HAS LINKED THE OLD SKOOL B-BOYS, THE TEDS AND THE ZOOT SUIT?
The answer is simply Rebellion. Fighting the power and Fighting the rules of society and Fighting it through Style. The Symbolic marking, in other words style, is the place that you can challenge how societies think you should dress and behave.
Style is all about making a statement. Embedded within style is a knowledge of historical usage. As an art student, I have to have an understanding of the past to produce a meaning in the future. Its the same style, in order to revive or modify or create a new style, you have to gain a knowledge of previous looks.
Subcultures are crowds of people deliberately changing the meaning of objects. Subculture is simply an academic name for street style and explores how we can express ourselves through dress. Street style becomes a sub culture when you have a group of people doing the same together. For example, acting the same, dressing the same and listening to a particular genre of music. Subcultures are predominantly defined by look. A sub-culture having a name like goth or punk suggests many people with similar attributes, features and characteristics.
In this session, we discussed the fact that when analysing subcultures we are analysing the characteristics of a street style. It is not enough just to describe the look within a street style. We must analyse the meanings within the look. Why were the items worn? What were the statements being made?
KEY CONCEPT 1
We were given documentation to read and make notes on relating to sub culture and the analysis of street style. Below are the notes made on the subjects and key ideas within the text given to me.
Woodward suggests that all identity statements, who we are, are often expressed visually. She maintains Identity is marked by difference. By choosing a look, you’re saying you’re not like everyone else. This got me thinking about how differences are shown between people. Visually we are always enacting according to social systems. There are social rules we adopt. For example, There were men in the room in this session, but none of them were wearing dresses, we don’t even think about adopting these rules. We just follow the rules of being a man and being a woman. Look goes somewhat to distinguishing sex. The dress is stereo typically tied to being a woman and a suit and facial hair, a man. We don’t questions this, it’s just adopted. We talked about noticing the fact that when someone breaks that rule, it becomes a cause for concern. Most of art and design is about questioning and exposing rules. Exposing the things that we just take for granted. What is considered normal and what happens if you challenge the norm, is something art and design practitioners question all the time. Rules are given to us, we either fit them or we don’t.
Symbolic Marking (woodward 2002) marks difference through visual language. Its a visual language ans set of meanings that differentiate or suggest difference, Who is included and who is excluded. You get a sense of us and them from symbolic marking. It is at the heart of racism, sexism, homophobia etc. If you are judging someone, you are making a statement that says you are not like me. It is also to do with lifestyle, music etc. Not only visual. There are examples of where bands for example have contributed to street style.
We talked about how this related to analysing street style. We will consider how difference is manifested visually. We will look at how identities are constructed. Identities are made, not natural. We will look at identities in relation to what they are not. Everyone makes decisions on their look, like how to wear your hair and dress. As an art and design student, we always expose construction, how was it made, how was it put together? why? Construction occurs in Binary Opposition – you make a decision and you discard another. I am going to dress like a punk not a mod.
The Old Skool B-Boy is a hip hop look characterised by a music genre and lifestyle. Considering the notion that if you went out dressed as an old skool B-Boy in 1985 you are saying that you’re into hip hop.
The Characteristics of the look include a Run DMC t-shirt, adidas trainers with the laces taken out and a Goose down jacket. A visual statement is being made and therefore there is evidence of symbolic marking. There are rules embedded in the street style Old skool B-Boy and every style. If you weren’t part of this Hip Hop look then you wouldn’t know the rules.
Sports wear – Particular Brand – ADIDAS. Subculture is all about “cool” what’s in and what isn’t in. Here, you have to wear adidas to be part of the hip hop crew. Old Skool B-Boys claimed this brand. Meanings are inherent in Branding. Brands have trends according to age groups and are often influenced by celebrity style and fashion.
Gold Jewellery – Thick chains and Bling. Hip Hop artists coined the name Bling. Detail is highly important in sub cultural style, how you do up laces is making a statement for example. Hip Hop old Skool B-Boys wore no laces in their adidas trainers. Here there is a conversation going on within the style. They have taken sportswear out of its sporting context. This is a huge statement, they are wearing the trainers to look cool. “i’m not going running in these trainers like everyone else” – marking difference. The laces are taken out because they are not being used for their original function.
Another thing Old Skool B-Boys did in 1985 was wear Volkswagen logos around their neck as necklaces. These would have been stolen off of cars. Again, a statement, the badge shows the brand of the car, wearing this brand as a necklace changes the function of it. Stealing the badges was a statement about what they couldn’t afford. Listing characteristics, looking at original meanings and variations of this style would help me analyse it. I would need more than one image to prove this look if I was writing a case study on it.
This encouraged me to think about how the function of items changes and how influences from old looks return. The Mid 80s Hip Hop look is coming back now, we are in an 80s rebirth currently and there are many examples of this. There is an idea of then and now in terms of sub cultures. Looks that started on the street end up on the high street.
KEY CONCEPT 2
Sub cultures must exhibit a distinctive enough shape and structure to make them distinctive enough. They must be different from the parent culture, different from mainstream fashion. My work at the end of these sessions should prove there are different values and uses of material artifacts within looks. Where the sub culture hang out and where the subculture was born is all valuable to analysis. The hip hop subculture is inherently Black and grew up in the black communities of New York. Songs are about urban deprivation and race themes emerge within this genre. Disadvantaged black youth in an America that favours white people. You cannot analyse Hip Hop without analysing race. An example of this is the fact that Grunge is inherently white as a sub culture. When looking at sub culture, we are looking at what statements are being made about the people. The Hip Hop B-Boys wanted to make a statement about the fact that they shouldn’t be singled out from the whites for being Black. Within this look, there are meanings relating to race and they consciously chose a brand (adidas) that was traditionally worn by white people.
KEY CONCEPT 3
Possession of Objects. What makes a style is the activity of stylisation and the active organisation of objects. (Hau Clance Jefferson 1975). The active organisation of objects is the notion of construction that I mentioned previously. Through this construction, new meanings emerge. Things are being brought together in new and distinctive ways and ensemble. Within style, people are changing the meanings of things.
In conclusion, the three key concepts that I will have to look at when analysing and producing my case study are: symbolic marking, the differences of a subculture from the mainstream and having a distinctive enough shape, and the stylisation within the street style and how they have actively organised objects within their look.