Girls at the celebration of street and streetwear that is Streetfest 2012
In Britain today, subculture is largely a thing of the past. The vast majority of young people just don't seem interested in seeking out New Rock boots or Moschino-print trousers any more. Now, they just seem to sling on whatever they can find in the high street. They're less likely to buy a shirt because it says something about who they think they are as a person than they are because it keeps them warm. In a way, you can understand this—being young's tough enough without people spitting on you because you've developed a teenage obsession with The Crow. But by and large it's a sad fact that comfort has replaced controversy as the order of the day, shopping centers filled with young people happily wandering around, taking selfies, and buying each other muffins and shit from the Disney store, like a bunch of fucking Americans.
Perhaps it's because KoЯn went dubstep, perhaps it's because rappers started wearing tight red jeans and glasses without lenses, perhaps it's because Camden Lock is now just a massive Starbucks and a few stalls selling "Keep Calm" hoodies. Whatever the reasons, youth culture is now undeniably a lot fluffier and nicer than it was in previous generations.
But walk down any high street in any town with a population greater than 10,000 and there is one subculture still kicking against this Hollister-led style pogrom: streetwear culture. Not the one that involves 30-year-old blokes in Bape going to see DJ Vadim at KOKO, but the one that fetishises Snapbacks, bucket hats, North Face, King Krule, post-dubstep, knockout weed and very expensive shoes. The OFWGKTA influenced, Supreme-loving, Palace-worshipping marriage of American skate fashion and British rudeboy attitude. Which, oddly, are two things most people in their mid-twenties could probably never imagine coming together, having spent their teenage years watching skaters and rudeboys attack each other at bus stops.
It's a good look, but I can't help but feel that it's not really "alternative" enough to qualify as a real subculture. I mean, no one's really suffering for this. It's too cool for that, really. If you can't get your head kicked in next to the skatepark or sent home from school, your movement doesn't mean shit.
So, yearning for the days when wearing a Cradle of Filth "Jesus Is A Cunt" t-shirt could get you kicked out of a mall, I wondered if there was a novel way of selling "alternative culture" to this new generation.
The medium we chose for the experiment was "Wavey Garms," a kind of vintage streetwear Facebook emporium where I'd previously whiled away slow afternoons and hungover Saturdays eyeing up rare Ralph Lauren shirts and second-hand Stone Island jackets.
Essentially just a page where people buy and sell clothes ("garms") that could be construed as cool ("wavey"), it's grown into a kind of self-contained internet culture of its own. It has its own experts, trolls, frauds, jokers, poseurs and social media thugs. It's basically Reddit for people selling old Hilfiger windbreakers instead of atheism.
The below set of replies to the above post of someone (who may or may not have been taking the piss) trying to sell a "shotta's bumbag" sums it up pretty nicely:
There's also a girls' branch of Wavey Garms, but the page is mostly just polite young women selling vintage Versace and Moschino and being very pleasant to each other. And with replies like this, it's easy to see why the girls set up their own page and generally just try to keep their distance:
In the interest of balance, I probably should have tried both, but in the interest of lolz, I stuck with the lads.
The further I delved into Wavey Garms, the more obvious it became that this was a place perfect for some light cultural investigation. So to find out just what the Supreme generation think of their trailblazing, egg-dodging forefathers, we decided to advertise a few garms that epitomize a few subcultures of the past. A few of the ones that really cast you adrift from mainstream society/got you bathed in phlegm. Which ones would be deemed wavey? And which would be roundly slagged off?
Let's find out.
SUBCULTURE ONE: CYBERGOTH
And where better to start than cybergoth, arguably the most heavily derided, niche subculture of all.
Can you name one famous cybergoth band or DJ? One rapper who's co-opted the cybergoth look? Of course you can't. Do you have any friends who are self-identifying cybergoths? Of course you don't. Almost invariably they are weird Finnish blokes who took too much liquid ket at a rave in Camden and ended up trapped in a fibreglass cage in Cyberdog, or girls from Leamington Spa who ended up basing their entire persona on the Akira re-runs they watched too many times as teenagers.
So what do the Wavey Garm mandem think of cybergoth? Could they envisage this circuit board gas mask hanging above their vintage Chaps shirt?
In fairness, I can't really think of a scene that would be more alien to them, with its bright colors, S&M-influenced aesthetic and long-held associations with the dying alt citadel of Camden Lock. It doesn't look like cybergoth will be "coming back" any time soon, but let's face it, it was never really "here."
SUBCULTURE TWO: STEAMPUNK
Maybe the kids aren't ready for that kind of uncompromising futurism. Being a community that trades in vintage gear, perhaps they'd be more interested in a scene that prides itself on looking backwards: steampunk. A look that's supposedly coming back into fashion thanks to its recent adoption by iconic trend leaders like Prada and Gary Lineker.
Would the kids be willing to swap their iPhone 5s for pocket watches with exposed brass cogs? Their snapbacks for spyglasses? Their five panels for top hats with flying goggles attached to the top?
Alas, the vast majority of commenters were not impressed. They reacted to the fetching magnifying glass and waistcoat set with mocking derision. They said it was what Dracula would wear, foolishly getting steampunk and vampire lifestyles mixed up in an ignorant confusion of alternative subculture. Then they made quasi-homophobic remarks about it.
However, the commenters' award goes to this guy, who pulled out his finest internet gangsta shtick and dropped this chilling threat onto the entire steampunk community:
Not a success.
SUBCULTURE THREE: PSYTRANCE
Alright, so no luck so far. Perhaps that nu-crustie phenomenon known across Europe as psytrance is the kind of scene the streetwear generation could really get on board with. It's slightly ethnic (people from Benelux are an ethnicity, right?), slightly retro, it's popular in university towns and fairly synonymous with smoking weed.
And if there's one item of clothing a psytrance head can't go without, it's these ethically sound hemp patchwork trousers.
But the dream of free love and renewable materials is evidently a distant one for the Supreme generation. The phrase "lol bun" could be to the new hippy movement what Altamont was to the one in the 60s.
SUBCULTURE FOUR: ROCKABILLY
Alright, let's take it back to the old school. Or at least the average burlesque fan's version of the old school. You know the sort—the Bethnal Green time lords with their slavishly maintained quiffs, girlfriends with tattoos and polka dot headscarves, and general distaste for modern life and any music black people make and listen to in 2013.
Weirdly, there wasn't any kind of furor about this one at all—just one ambiguous response and a trio of likes whose motivations we would never be able to fully understand. It sat on the page for a while, like a dusty hi-fi at a car boot sale. Eventually it was buried beneath all the usual Wavey Garms and our interested party never took it any further.
I'd expected more hatred, more jokes about Camden, and more shank threats. But they didn't come. Maybe it's because Supreme have quite a lot of leopard skin pieces? IDK, but perhaps rockabilly is gonna be the big new thing in streetwear come next spring.
SUBCULTURE 5: INDIE
But what about a movement caught up in the recent past? The scene that the wavey garms boys' older brothers might well have been involved in—and, perhaps, maybe even some of the senior members were involved in themselves? I know I wanted one of these once upon a time, and I'm just about young enough to fall into the swagment area.
But surely Pete Doherty is a wasteman, right? Indie must be too Camden—too dutty for them to appreciate.
You might think that, but you'd be wrong. We can't publish it here, but though this one didn't get any response on the page itself, we did receive a GENUINE OFFER for it through Facebook's messaging service. A young man, who was a member of the group, who actually wished to part with cold, hard sterling for this jacket. Perhaps the Hawley Arms will live to fight another day, taken over by a second generation of indie scenesters who'll replace the winklepickers with Palace x Reebok Classics, yet bizarrely keep the jacket.
Then again, the guy buying it might just have been French.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
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