The changing economics of youth subculture

From a Metafilter discussion, here is one comment:

Music distribution, music purchasing and the ethics around them have changed. When I was a mere slip of a girl, it really mattered whether one was on a major label or not, and everyone knew someone who ran a tiny label out of their bedroom, etc etc. I can’t get over how my fellow anarchists listen to, like, Beyonce. That would not have gone over well in 1996. As a result, fashion/music subcultures are, I think, more permeable and fluid, and there’s less oppositionality associated with music.

Also, fast fashion and big changes in the distribution and status of vintage and thrift store fashion. I’d argue that up through the nineties, second hand clothes were a little bit declasse; they aren’t anymore. Clothes more than 20 years old were easy to find in the thrift stores and were of fairly high quality. Now even the last of the union-made eighties clothes are hard to find and can be quite pricey. (I mean, I remember when I bought a 50s silk-satin Dior dress – not atelier, but still – for $5.99 at Saver’s.) So style changes faster and it’s harder to associate style with oppositionality and with a stable ‘style tribe’.

“Style tribes” themselves are pretty well commodified, too – you can make a nice living catering to goths or VLV folks or whatever. So there’s less, I guess, libidinal investmentthere.

Also, life is more precarious and it’s harder to get work. Back when I was properly young in the nineties, if you didn’t have a job you could just temp. It wasn’t fun (remember that zine Temp Slave) but you could keep a roof over your head. A lot easier to do subculture stuff then. Even the serious anarchists I know now scrabble a lot more for work, food and money than back then.

Rents are higher – where in 1995 you could run a whole anarchist community center on $300/month plus utilities – which could be paid with three people who had jobs and could chip in $100 each, now you’re looking at $1200/month plus utilities and fewer people who can kick down $100.

I mean, there’s still plenty of youth fashion, music and neat stuff going on – it’s just that the support structures are more fragile and temporary and the borders between things are thinner.

That is from Frowner.  Hat tip goes to @NatashaPlotkin, the most underrated tweeter I know of, with only 76 followers.


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