The 5: American Youth Subcultures



You hate the hipsters and you think you’re the first person over 30 to bitch about “kids”? Sorry grandma, this is nothing new. Sorry hipsters, we know you wanted to be unique but this is an old story. Since the early days of American popular culture, youth movements have been given unflattering labels. We get it, it makes it easier to target anger and frustration at them, but the reality is, the only thing they’re doing is living their lives. You’re not original bitchy-mcbitcherson, it’s just the circle of life that you’re going to complain about the generations that come after you. Here are five other cultural movements that got labeled as shit by the rest of society.


1. The Beatniks: Late 1940’s

The Beat Generation, a term introduced by Jack Kerouac in the late 40’s, were kids who dressed differently, thought differently and lived differently than their contemporaries. An anti materialistic attitude in a time of great growth in America freaked people out. Men with goatees were smoking marijuana cigarettes and bumming around, and “society” did not like it. The Beatnik, bohemian, lifestyle was what appealed to young people, and these same values and ideals got applied to what came after, the hippy movement.


2. The Hippies: The 1960’s

Hippies have been stereotyped as drug using, commune-living weirdos. There were some people like that in the 60’s, sure. But the hippy movement was an offshoot of the Beatniks, except they existed in the most tumultuous decade in American history. War, assassinations, social and cultural change – it was all happening at the same exact time. Add drugs and the sexual revolution on top of that and you can guarantee young people were going to be damned different from their parents. Men had long hair, listened to the Grateful Dead and refusing to fight in Vietnam and this enraged the mainstream. Like the generations before and after, hippies caught a bad rap simply for being different.


3. The Punks: Mid 1970’s

Punk emerged in the mid 1970’s around the musical movement of the time with The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash. The music combined with a DIY ethos, non-conformity, anti capitalism, anti racism, and the concept that selling out was the worst thing you could do. Because punks dressed differently and listened to music that freaked people out, they were seen as dangerous and crazy – but of course they were neither. Aggressive music and aggressive dancing was not an indicator of criminal behavior. Dressing differently and having a different point of view, believing in getting things done yourself, and respecting the rights of others marked this generation. Being open minded is almost treated as a the biggest crime anyone can do and the Punk subculture pushes that hard.


4. The Hipsters: 2000’s

The word hipster has never been more popular and nobody is exactly sure what marks a hipster. A computer programmer can be a hipster, a garbage man can be a hipster, even an NYPD officer was even labeled “the Hipster Cop”. Literally anyone who is young and wearing a flannel shirt or black rimmed glasses is being lumped into the term hipster. What makes the Hipster different from the other subcultures on this list, is that a hipster does not want to be called a hipster. It’s become a slur among young people living a bohemian lifestyle. If a person likes a band you’ve never heard of – they’re a hipster. If a person drinks non commercial beer – they’re a hipster. If you breathe air and have heard of Brooklyn – you’re a hipster. Hipster basically means non-mainstream. Sound familiar? If not go back and re-read 1, 2 and 3.


5. Millennial: 2010’s

Part generation/part subculture for the kids born in the late 80’s into the 2000’s, Millennial is the blanket label thrown out for the youth of right now. They’re picking up after Generation X and Generation Y – listening to their Dub Step and popping their Mollys. The only things that matter to these kids are themselves and their smartphones. Like hipsters, punks,hippies and beats Millennials will be defined by the music they listen to and how they dress. Also, they’ll be judged by their use of social media – though adults use it just as much. Unlike the other groups, we have yet to see what the Millennial’s “social cause” will be. So far it seems to be a me first mentality, but it may be too soon to judge.

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