Updated on April 11, 2022 by Sarina
What is a Subculture?
A Subculture refer to a group of people having a separate set of concepts and attitudes about life in general and/or having shared interests like music, fashion, etc different from the larger society of ordinary people they live with. The members of the subculture usually have the same set of beliefs, values, interests, and preferences. Simply put it is a group of like-minded people.
Your fashion style basically is all about the clothes you like at a particular time in a particular place. The clothes you wear define you. Clothes that are distinctive of a subculture defines the group.
For a long time, fashion belonged to the upper class but when fashion percolated to the lower class, it started to be influenced by the subcultures already present in the society.
A fashion subculture is formed around activities (music, leisure activities, rituals) and interests of this group of people. As authentic self-expression is an important aspect of subcultures and visual appearance is an important part of self-expression, the appearance and fashion style of these subcultures gained a lot of traction among society.
The members of a subculture use their distinctive fashion style as a way of identifying themself as the group member and after some time when marketers smell business, they join the bandwagon and starts catering to their needs by creating styles that suit them.
A counterculture is a radical form of subculture. There are times when you do not want to dress like everybody else, but still want to belong to a group of selective people who think the way you do – rebellious and different. This is what counterculture is all about. It is all about being quite different from the mainstream fashion of a particular culture. Most of the subcultures started out as countercultures.
40 most popular subcultures
Anime core fashion subculture
This subculture is based around Japanese anime outfits
This fashion is for people who are inseparable from their bikes. Read more about this subculture in this post on Bikers fashion
Popular in the 1950s and 1960s. This liberal self-expressive counterculture sprang from a movement of anti-society and ant-materialism after the 2nd world war. Clothing adopted by them included black shirts and pants, large sunglasses, berets.
This style is for those who love camping activities like hiking, sitting around the fire, going for walks in the forests etc.
This is a style adopted by the British youth to project a look of affluence and included ostentatious gold jewellery and designer clothes. Tracksuit pants, baseball caps, trainers are all staples.
Cosplay stands for costume play and the fashion subculture involves wearing self-created costumes of a favourite character from a book/play/movie.
Related terms are New age travelers and crust punk. They are said to be a mix of hippies and punks. The dressing is characterised by rough and dirty clothes, dreadlocks, piercings, and tattoos. Popular in the 1980s.
This is an amalgamation of futuristic fashion and goth fashion.
The clothing of this subculture features cardigans, blazers, dress shirts, plaid skirts, Oxford shoes, and clothing made of houndstooth and tweed, its color palette consisting mainly of black, cold white, beige, brown, dark green, and occasionally navy blue.
Source : Wikipedia
Short for Emotional Hardcore and inspired by emo music. A teenage fashion subculture including dark tight T-shirts with band names, skinny jeans, hoodies, sneakers, studded belts, tattoos, body piercings, black eyeliner, and flat, straight, jet-black hair with long bangs and punk accessories. Started in the early 2000s.
Read more on emo fashion here
Short for Electronic people. This is a tik tok trend with an emphasize on streetwear style.
Fairy Kei is a feminine fashion with girly clothes. In Fairytale Kei, people dress as if they have stepped out of a fairytale. Colors used are only candy colors in pastel shades.
If you are tech-savvy and interested in science fiction, video games, or animation and pop culture with not much social interaction to the point of being socially awkward you may be a geek. Geek chic gained popularity during the 1990s. Geek subculture involves clothing like slogan/graphic t-shirts usually in black color, casual jeans, sweater vests, horn-rimmed glasses.
This article quotes there are many types of geeks like fanboy, music geek, gamer, gadget guy, hacker, and otaku. You will find many more interesting facts about this subculture there.
This was a subculture popular during the early 1970s following a style of pop music popular then. In the style that follows this subculture you can dress in bold bright colors, flashy and outrageous styles including heavy colourful fur coats and glitter tops with platform soled boots.
You do not need to look morbid and gloomy or be interested solely in horror movies to be in this fashion. But you must wear dark clothes. A ‘trad-goth’ followed the styles of the 18th and 19th centuries, including dark veils, gowns, corsets, bustles etc. Learn more about the different types of goth fashion style and its features here.
This subculture is associated with plaid shirts, distressed jeans, long hair and a don’t care attitude. Popular during the 1980s. Learn more about Grunge style here.
Heroin chic does not refer to a street subculture – it refers to a look adopted by top-class models of a period (the 1990s) They sported a hollowed drug-induced look with pale faces, dark kohled eyes, and a wane look. Kate Moss was the embodiment of this look. When the models appeared in this fashion this influenced the common man to think that it is ok. Drug use was considered cool during these times and the look was admired and adopted.
This is basically the fashion style of the rappers and associated with breakdancing. The loud, bold, and colorful style consists of oversized casual clothing including hoodies, graphic T-shirts, crop tops, baseball caps, and sneakers.
You are following hippie fashion if you wear bright-colored, baggy, and sometimes ragged clothes, loud accessories, and long hair. Tie and dye were very popular in the genre. Bell bottom pants, long loose skirts are also a part of this subculture. Popular during the 1960s and 1970s. A Yippi is a politically active hippie.
You can find interesting variations for the term hippie in this website and a detailed history of the subculture.
This was the subculture for the followers of jazz music. Started during the 1940s. Also called Hepcat.
The fashion style of this subculture includes black leather jackets, combat boots, studded belts.
Short for Independent. This is a popular street wear including black baggy t-shirts with band names, skinny jeans, casual cardigans, loafers, and aviator glasses. Started in the 1980s.
Japanese Subculteres are loved and followed by a lot of fashion lovers all around the world – Harajaku girl, Sweet lolita, Punk Lolita, Dekora, Pop Kei
This is a very prominent fashion style that emerged as a part of Japan’s street style fashion. Learn more about Lolita fashion here.
This refers to the modern man who is concerned about his appearance than usual and wore the trendiest clothes at all times. A term that brings together metropolitan and heterosexual.
This is a fashion style associated with Heavy metal music. Includes T-shirts with band names, army (camouflage) pants, denim jeans in dark colors, denim vests, leather jackets with logos, spiked gloves.
Short for Modernist. Popular during the 1950s. This subculture was popular among people who liked modern jazz music. This is a clean fashion style and dressing in a very neat suave, modern style was mandatory.
This refers to adopting a Nazi-era fashion style with their authoritarian tailored and structured clothing.
It is a flamboyant and flashy dressing style. Popular in the 1970s and 1980s
Read more about this subculture here.
This involves clothing with influence from Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese cultures.
Popular among the lovers of Punk Rock music. Popular in the 1970s.
Punk is inevitably linked with Rock’n’roll music. The fashion style resembled that of the ethnic street gangs and included t-shirts, jeans, leather jackets and heavy boots. Icepunk, Seapunk are variations.
A subculture around loud rockabilly music . Dressing included leather jackets, mohawk hairstyles.
Started in the 1980s as a group of those who loved techno music. Raves refer to wild dance parties with good loud electronic music and lots of dancing. This is a subculture for the youth between the age group of 15-25 who dress in flashy skin-tight clothes and neon-colored accessories. Some also wore baggy sweaters and sportswear, coats, matching pants, and loafers.
Followed by those who loved rock’n’roll music. Clothing included t-shirts, leather jackets with lots of patches, denim jeans, motorcycle boots.
Scene fashion subculture
This fashion subculture involves – “bright colored clothing, skinny jeans, stretched earlobes, sunglasses, piercings, large belt buckles, wristbands, fingerless gloves, eyeliner, hair extensions, and straight, androgynous flat hair with long bangs covering the forehead and sometimes one or both eyes”.
Source – wikipedia
This is a group of people (mostly white supremacist people) with a distinctive fashion style – including tattoos, steel-capped combat boots, braces (suspenders), and their characteristic shaved heads. Popular during the 1970s and 1980s.
This subculture is based on Victorian (19th century) science fiction.
Short for Teddy boys. This subculture started among British youth in the 1950s -they chose to imitate clothing styles of the Edwardian era (1901–10) including stylized hair set in a bouffant, beautifully tailored suits, polished shoes.
You can find some good pictures of teddy boys in this page.
This term is used to refer to young urban professionals who dress well. The term was first used during the 1980s. These highly educated professionally successful young men and women flaunted their rich backgrounds and their fashion reflected their financial status. You will hear about other subculture variants like Yuccies (Hipster yuppie), Muppies (Millenial yuppies), etc.
If you are a master of something, it is difficult for you to acknowldege the people who come after you – they are never enough. They are like the dughter-in-law who can never do enough for your son. Something like that always happens in fashion. When fashion subcultures are already established those who come to dilute it are not encouraged by the purists. If you are interested in any of these subcultures, and you want to be seen as a purist, let me tell you, it is not easy. You have to study the subculture thouroughly and take in all the elements that make it unique.
More interesting references for fashion subcultures
Website of Popular Culture Association – pcaaca.org
Cute self-portraits with subculture photography in this website
Books – Street Culture: 50 Years of Subculture Style
By Gavin Baddeley (Available on Scribd) ;
Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979) by Dick Hebdige