Neglected Dimensions and New Developments

Gender and ethnicity. In a chapter in Resistance through Rituals, Angela McRobbie and Jenny Garber noted that most of the subcultures and styles examined by the CCCS appeared overwhelmingly male in both composition and orientation. They concluded that girls had actually been present in such subcultures, but were rendered marginalized and invisible by the masculinist bias of the writers. It was only with the publication nearly a quarter of a century later of Pretty in Punk, Lauren Leblanc's noteworthy text on Canadian female punk rockers, that females in a male-dominated style subculture were studied comprehensively, in their own right and on their own terms. Leblanc's sample displayed a range of punk signifiers, including hair brightly dyed and worn in a Mohawk style, facial piercings, tattoos, and the "street-" or gutter-punk look—dark, baggy T-shirts and trousers with black boots. Leblanc concludes that women's presence in a largely male punk subculture can be explained by the way their membership enables them to resist certain normative and stylistic aspects of fashionable (i.e. mainstream) femininity.

Although ethnicity, like gender, has been a relatively neglected dimension in the writings of subcultural style, the American "zooties" of the 1940s are one of the better-documented examples of black and Hispanic rebellious fashion. Derived from black, hipster jazz culture, the zoot suit comprised an oversized, draped and pleated jacket with hugely padded shoulders, worn with high-waisted, baggy-kneed and ankle-taped pants, often set off with a wide-brimmed hat worn over a ducktail hairstyle. During a period of wartime rationing of material, the wearing of such an extravagant, luxurious, and ostentatious style led to rising tensions between the young black and Hispanic male zooties and white U.S. servicemen, sparking off full-scale riots in a number of U.S. cities.

Within the British literature on subcultures, the ethnic dimension has been more typically viewed in terms of the effects of postwar British "race relations" and black style on the formation of indigenous rebellious youth fashions. A noted example of such an approach is Dick Hebdige's discussion of the Jamaican rude boy and Rasta-farian subcultures. Elements from the first of these styles—the cool look, shades, porkpie hat, and slim trousers with cropped legs —fed first into 1960s mod and then the Two-Tone movement of the late 1970s. Rasta-farians, to symbolize their oppression by white society (Babylon) and their prophesied return to Zion (Africa), have adopted knitted caps (called "tams"), scarves, and jerseys in red, gold, and green, the colors of the Ethiopian flag. It is, though, the Rasta's dreadlock hairstyle that has most significantly been taken up by certain groups of white youth, particularly new-age hippies and anarcho-punks, to show subcultural disaffection toward the dominant social order.

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