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Style Tribes: The Fashion of Subcultures

Caroline Young defines a subculture as anything outside of the mainstream, and her new book Style Tribes: The Fashion of Subcultures, pays homage to thirty notable alternative trends of the last one hundred years, including, but not limited to, anything from flappers to rockers, punks to hippies. A stop on Young’s promotional tour was the wonderful Waterstones on Princes Street. Listening to Young talk about the book will make you realise just how encompassing fashion is; how the decisions that we make so casually everyday have such great ramifications, not only for the individual and their sense of creativity and individual expression, but for the collective, reflected in their politics and history.

You need only look at the comprehensiveness of Young’s sources to see the dedication and passion with which she has committed to exploring each of these cultural periods, from the long shelved fashion magazines, the buried Sex Pistols interviews and even her dad’s own beaten-up leather jacket from back in the day.

If the 256 pages of high quality matte photos aren’t enough to draw you in, then the lively and engaging text should do the trick, and with each new page you may learn something new. Take the etymology of the word ‘hipster’ for example. Young maps its trajectory as something like this: born in the 40s with the white jazz hipsters, before transitioning into the hippies of the 60s, then the hip-hop 90s kids and finally landing on hipster’s as we know them today. It definitely gives you something to think about next time you clock some culottes, frayed denim or anything Depop-sourced in George Square. You may even stop to think about how these will be compartmentalised and categorised, and what this will symbolise about our generation.

So if fashion is fluid then what trend does Young think will be next? Probably something already done before, she suggests, citing Beyoncé’s debut as a skinhead in her ‘Flawless’ music video to prove that anything is possible. Just as long as the look doesn’t include shoulder pads. Or legwarmers. Or shutter shades. We can definitely all agree that some things are far better left to subcultures long passed.

Style Tribes: The Fashion of Subcultures by Caroline Young (Frances Lincoln, 2016)

Photo credit: Pexels

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