Subculture: the Meaning of Style

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The reading by Dick Hebdige was published in 1979 and it describes the postwar subculture youth styles in Britain that were viewed as the symbolic systems of resistance. Hebdige in this book presents a model that evaluates the various subcultures by the youth and draws illustrations from literary critics, Marxist theories, American sociologists as well as French structuralisms in supporting the ideas raised in the book (Hebdige 8). The author suggests that every subculture undergoes a similar trajectory by outlining the style differences of individuals by explaining particular subcultures that came up such as the mods, Teddy boys, skinheads, rockers and punks. The race, historical, lass and socioeconomic conditions that influenced the development of every subculture is emphasized. However, this reading has several critiques even though it is o0ne of the most influential subculture publications.

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Hebdige in Subculture: The meaning of style claims that the youth subculture styles of postwar working class in Britain test the prevailing hegemony, ideologies as well as social normalization by employing the use of symbolic types of resistance. Particularly, Hebdige concentrates on the style of evolutions in different subcultures such as the mods, Teddy boys, rockers, punks and skinheads.

The author also argues that style is developed by a combination of music, clothing, dance, drugs as well as make-up (Hebdige 23). The historical, race, class, socioeconomic and mass media contexts are described by every subculture. For example, He argues that the white punk and black reggae subcultures share common themes and they reject the national symbolism by the British. While the two subcultures appear to be unrelated, the two cultures share similar styles.

According to Hebdige, every subculture experiences a similar trajectory and the model also proposes that subcultures are often developed through common resistance. The rest of the society usually views this group to be radical and this leads to response through skepticism, fear and anxiety. This provides the resistance of the subculture power but only for a moment as finally the entrepreneurs find a way in which they take advantage of the music and style of subcultures. In a short period subculture elements are availed in the mainstream media (Hebdige 17). Therefore, what was a rebellious, subversive and radical culture is contained. Therefore when the general society starts identifying with a subculture, the resistant power of this specific subculture starts dying.

While this book has been very influential in cultural research as one of the most influential theories that evaluates the subculture of youths, it has faced several critics. However, several researchers have applied the subculture sub model to the other subcultures that have not been identified in the book. The main critiques in the book do not translate in an appropriate manner to American subcultures as class consciousness does not operate in a similar manner. Also, Hebdige places a strong focus on the symbolic definition of style hence overlooking several other elements of youth rebellion.

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