Imagine a bearded guy wearing skinny jeans, a sweater with a random pattern, a pair of Nike Air Max, a textile bag with a witty slogan printed on it and, naturally, Ray Ban glasses. Do you recognize him? Do you know him? Have you seen him? If you know the stereotype, you might recognize a subculture. What about a guy sporting a mohawk, a leather jacket, ripped jeans and combat boots? Can you picture him instantly? Those are just two random examples of “uniforms” worn by members of the so-called subcultures.
You might associate their behaviour with their stereotypical looks. You might picture the first one sitting with his Macbook in a café talking about art and picture the latter sitting on the street holding a can of beer. You might also know about the music they are listening to, the topics they are interested in, what they enjoy doing and what political views they have. By wearing certain clothes you transport a message. Not every stereotype might fit but unfortunately we tend to label everybody we see. The one with the mohawk instantly becomes a “punk”, the one with the beard at starbucks a “hipster”. You might think you know them, but you don’t.
Mostly it is teenagers who follow subcultures as an attempt to seperate themselves from the looks of their parents. They follow idols and friends, copying their style nevertheless trying to be different from the rest. But what is with the rest of us? We are not able to express ourselves that way.
What about all those people following the “rules” of fashion? It is most of all unifying. Designers and shops are dictating our style and how we are supposed to look when we want to be fashionable. Mainstream is ruled by a big industry always forcing us to buy huge amounts of clothes because the old ones are “last season”. It is being dictated what we are supposed to wear when we want to go into a work-place. There is a certain dress-code that we have to obey to.
We dress “to impress” as it is not always accepted at a workplace to show up in anything but suits and ties. When we dress “appropiate” we are being considered as “professionals” and the other way round. Dress for the job you want to have instead of the one you have. It is all about the looks.
Only a few industries allow it so far to dress like an individual apart from mainstream (mostly creative industries). It seems like if you turn older you have to look more uniform, more mainstream. But even though younger people want to distinguish themselves by looking different, by seperating themselves from mainstream society, they ironically become stereotypes, too. The more people join the subcultures the more mainstream they become. It is quite ironical that in their everlasting attempt to be unique they somehow turn out to be just another one of an army, all dressed the same.
It seems to be in human nature to try to belong to groups. Either you are young enough to show openly that you belong to subculture or you are too old and belong to maintream. It seems as there are only a few options for everybody left which ultimately leads us into looking the same within our social group. Looking different makes you an outcast.