Understanding Subculture | Fashion, Music, and Football Culture


Subculture is a term used to describe a group of people within a larger culture who differentiate themselves through distinct beliefs, values, behaviours, and interests. These groups often form in response to mainstream culture, creating unique identities through shared practices and ideologies. Subcultures provide a sense of belonging and identity for their members, fostering a community based on mutual interests and experiences.

Portsmouth Football Club Fans, Supporters and Casuals. The Pompey Boys
Pompey Football Casuals, circa 1980s. © Jake Payne

Fashion Subculture | In the world of fashion, subcultures have played a pivotal role in shaping styles and trends. One prominent example is the punk subculture, which emerged in the 1970s. Punks rebelled against the norms of mainstream fashion with their distinctive looks, characterised by torn clothing, safety pins, and vibrant hair colours. This style was more than just a fashion statement; it was a form of resistance against societal norms and a declaration of individuality.

Another significant fashion subculture is the football casuals. Originating in the UK during the late 1970s and early 1980s, this subculture is characterised by its unique style, which combines high-end sportswear and designer labels. Casuals often wore brands like Stone Island, C.P. Company, and Fred Perry, creating a sharp, stylish look that distinguished them from other football fans. This fashion choice was initially about blending in and avoiding police attention, as the casuals were also known for their involvement in hooliganism. Over time, the focus shifted towards the style itself, influencing streetwear trends and creating a lasting impact on fashion.

Music Subculture | Music has always been a powerful medium for subcultures. The hip-hop subculture, which originated in the Bronx, New York, in the 1970s, is a prime example. Hip-hop encompasses not just music but also dance (breakdancing), visual art (graffiti), and a distinctive style of dress. This subculture provided a voice to marginalised communities and has since evolved into a global phenomenon, influencing mainstream music, fashion, and language.

The rave subculture, which gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, revolves around electronic dance music (EDM). Ravers are known for their vibrant, often coloured attire, and a spirit of hedonism and unity. The rave scene fosters a sense of community through its emphasis on dance and shared experiences in nightlife settings.

Football Subculture | Football fan culture presents a fascinating subcultural phenomenon, particularly evident in the passionate and sometimes intense behaviour of supporters. Football fans form subcultures based on their allegiance to clubs, creating communities with unique traditions, chants, and rituals.

One of the most well-known football subcultures is the “ultras” movement. Ultras are highly dedicated and organised supporters known for their elaborate displays of support, including banners, chants, and coordinated choreography during matches. They often occupy specific sections of stadiums, creating an intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams and a fortress of support for their own.

In the UK, the “casuals” subculture emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Casuals distinguished themselves through their stylish, often expensive, designer clothing, a sharp contrast to the typical football fan attire. This subculture was also associated with hooliganism, as groups of casuals often engaged in violent clashes with rival fans. Over time, the focus shifted more towards fashion, with casuals influencing streetwear trends.

In South America, particularly in countries like Argentina and Brazil, football fan culture is deeply ingrained in the social fabric. “Barra bravas” in Argentina are groups similar to ultras, known for their passionate support and sometimes violent behaviour. Their presence is a defining feature of the matchday experience, adding a layer of intensity and spectacle to the sport.

Subcultures play a crucial role in shaping cultural landscapes, offering a space for individuals to express their identities and find community. Whether through fashion, music, or football fan culture, these groups challenge the mainstream, bringing diversity and vibrancy to society. By understanding and appreciating subcultures, we gain insight into the myriad ways people create and maintain their unique social identities.

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