Here's a question: what would you say the most recent British subculture looks like? If you don’t know where to look, you might have just missed it... Subcultures, much like the world around us, are being changed very quickly by the development of technology. New cultural waves happen online as often, if not more often, than they do in real life and - as with anything significant and new - some people push it away whilst others wholeheartedly accept it.
Traditionally, music has played a leading factor in the identification of many subcultures: the mid-nineties saw Biggie vs Tupac or Blur vs. Oasis. Today, as hip-hop becomes what rock ‘n’ roll used to be and arena rap fills stadiums, subcultures are no longer congregating outside gig venues or record stores alone, but are increasingly found developing online.
Where magazines and zines played an important part in spreading and sustaining subcultures, for example what The Source did for hip hop and what The NME did for guitar music, today websites such as Pitchfork, podcasts and SoundCloud have supplanted a number of them, naturally offering faster information exchange and thus quicker cultural acceleration.
The Internet has similarly impacted another subculture staple: the uniforms that identify them, expressing their somewhat ironically collective individuality to the outside world. British style icon Malcolm McLaren got punks into Vivienne Westwood, Teddy Boys combined American rock ‘n’ roll with Edwardian sensibilities, and 80s football casuals were inspired by the Paninari of Milan.
Fast forward to 2015 and the Internet is daily fuelling a number of subcultures. Facebook groups such as The Basement and Wavey Garms – the latter described by The Guardian as “at the point of dictating what young people wear, ahead of even trend forecasters” - see a collective of like-minded individuals share memes, ask for life advice, discuss the latest Supreme drop, buy and sell clothes and generally socialise. Though they carry no collective name for members, when something is deemed cool, it is ‘Wavey’ or ‘Basement approved’.
With the anonymity of the Internet bringing increased inclusivity socio-economic status, age and the ability to actually skate, it no longer really matters. As long as you read the right blogs, mix upper state New York aesthetics with performance outdoor brands and mid-naughties sportswear, you too can be ‘fully waved’.
These online collectives – originally formed for buyers and sellers to evade eBay fees - provide not only a source of information and inspiration but, in a departure from an assigned geographical location, a place for this limitlessly expanding subculture to ‘hang out.’ Now people meet online, hustle old items for cash for grail items, or just discuss world views and hang out with their friends. Almost anything goes and, weirdly for an Internet entity, there is very little negativity as long as you're not a 'Fucc boi' – a term given to someone who lacks good judgement whilst trying to be cool.
As well as generating its own subcultures, the Internet also plays a part in sending home-grown collectives viral. Take B Style: short for Black and Lifestyle. This Japanese-born scene sees people dress up and party in all things hip-hop, even dressing up as black people and posing in stereotypical ‘black/hip hop’ fashion in a celebration of their culture. Before the Internet, it would be highly unlikely to have heard of B Style outside of Japan, or possibly for it to have started at all.
However, when Desiré Van den Berg shot a B-Styler named Hina in a series of photographs, they got shared on the Internet to varying responses. Later posted on Vice and BBC Brazil, the subculture found its way into the social media sphere, with actress and writer Lena Dunham posting a shot of the series' protagonist to her Instagram, sending the B Style subculture viral.
As powerful as the Internet may be in the spread and creation of subcultures, an online party will perhaps always lack the true social satisfaction of a traditional house party - a factor that The Basement and Wavey Garms are clearly not oblivious to. August saw the Basement’s moderators host a pop-up shop on Peter Street in London’s SoHo, where some of the groups favourite brands and sellers came together to do some real world, market-style trading. Wavey Garms has similarly set up a permanent spot in Peckham selling vintage apparel of a high standard and varying degree of rarity.
The ongoing value of real-life real estate does nothing to undermine the undeniable reality that the Internet has changed the way that we interact with other human beings forever. In the future, if there is a subculture that doesn't start or grow online, it will do so as a conscious decision rather than happenstance. Though it may always remain a place where new and alternative methods of disruption are devised and executed, perhaps the Internet will one day be the establishment that subcultures unite against.
Words: Seth Footring