Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries youth have sought and often found a way to separate themselves from their parent’s way of life or the social norm of the day. There is a strong drive that teenagers feel to find some place they belong, to be different enough to feel that rewarding sense of individuality, but also to be a part of the trend and considered “cool” in the eyes of others. In short it’s an endless hunt for our identity.
After WWll ended, America and many European countries were experiencing higher standards of living, better economies, and a larger population than ever. The children born into this era are now known as baby boomers. This was the first time there was enough youth thriving that they needed something more than what the older populace could offer for entertainment. Thus, the young people adopted a form of music to call their own; this new music was called Rock ’n Roll. Infusing elements of jazz, blues, R&B and even gospel, the music was loud and abrasive for the time, making many parents frown upon it. Rock ’n Roll took the world by storm, changing the way the entertainment business worked in realizing they had a very large, restless, untapped audience. Not only did the rock phenomenon influence the way people dressed, spoke, and viewed the world, but it also lessened the racial tension between black and white teens with artists who crossed over to either race. For example there was Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Bill Haley.
The 1960s saw the coming of another set of social changes, brought about by the youth. With the Vietnam War looming over their heads and rock’n roll morphing into a way to voice your opinions, and feelings, the 60s stooped deep into a counter culture phenomenon that would not leave the nation the same in its wake. Propelled by antiestablishment views and sense of dissatisfaction in their parents way of life, many young people decided to cut loose. Their morals? These differed as well. Most famously, they were known for their voicing of “peace & love”. This movement also promoted freedom and the pursuit of happiness which lead to a lot of experimentation sexually and in drug usage. Some of the residue of this way of thinking can be seen in the looser censorship laws as well as more progress in the civil rights movement. One of biggest driving forces behind all this was the music. By the time the decade had come to a close, the “hippie culture” had been eaten by the cooperate masses. Figures of this era include Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson’s Airplane, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles.
Beginning in the UK and America as a mutation of garage rock, punk soon became the face of rebellion and destruction. These kids were angry and took authority from no one. Fueled by intense, anti-corporate, and usually left leaning politics, the early punk rock scene was gritty, loud, and self destructive. The goal was to live your life as far away from everything mainstream as possible. They drew on some of the same antiestablishment views as the “flower children” before them, but spit on and scorned their predecessors, including those that had paved the way for their music to be born. Punk was freedom, so you had the freedom to dress however you chose. Leather, spikes, rips, short or spiked hair, this all became aligned with punk style, known sometimes as the “safety pin aesthetic”. The original idea of punk died off in popularity by the end of the decade, however the genre lived on, splitting into many different subgenres which are still alive today and enjoy the mainstream spotlight such as post-punk, new wave, & pop punk.
The turn of the decade marked the beginning of gothic and more prominent skateboard culture, both of which are still quite alive today, particularly skate culture. The “Thrasher” magazine has finally gained widespread reception. First published on Jan 6th 1981, Thrasher has been a cornerstone of skate zines for well over 30 years now. Goth culture, much like its cousin punk, has become worldwide and branched into many subcultures since its humble beginnings in the UK. Although we don’t see gothic culture in action much, as it is more popular in Europe, there has been a rise of, dare I say, Goth fetishizing? In popular internet culture. Through rap and humor mostly, although this is far, far from the traditional Goth vision, it might be the subculture is evolving to fit modern ideas, or it could just be another trend.
There are many, many more subcultures and different ways youth have represented themselves through the decades, and it shows our hunger to find who we are and where we belong. It’s a huge part of our society that we just can’t ignore. So to all my fellow teens, whoever you choose to be, do it with confidence in yourself and you can influence others to do the same, as all the punks, goths, hippies, rock ‘n rollers, skaters, and rappers of the past did.