A decade ago, Sacha Molitorisz described the subgroups of Sydney’s youth culture. So how have they changed? And what of the new breeds out there on the streets?
By Sacha Molitorisz/Posted at;smh.com.au/ –
Just occasionally, a young person will make the mistake of thinking that tribes, cliques and crews are unimportant. This erroneous thought occurs to Rick, the dorky protagonist of the 2008 teen comedy Superhero Movie, as hes chatting to a friend on a school bus.
“Nobody ever messes around outside their group, man,” says his friend.
“C’mon, that crew stuff isn’t real,” counters Rick.
“The hell it ain’t. Look around, Rick. You got your Jocks, Nerds, Emos, Frodos, Scarface society, sexual predators …”
It’s a silly scene in a dumb film but the point is valid. For the young, tribalism is rife, thanks to a complicated network of groups defined by clothes, music, slang and outlook. This network, it turns out, has become more complicated than ever.
In 1998, for a Herald article titled “Tribes of the City”, 14 youth tribes were classified: Homeboys/Homegirls, Teenyboppers, Dorks, Web Geeks, Indie Kids, Yuppies, Goths, Bikies, Surfies, Skaters, Lager Louts, Kombi-driving Crusties, Manga Boys/Girls and Ravers.
In the past decade much has changed. Some subcultures have become endangered or irrelevant, others have evolved into new forms and only a few remain unaltered.
Bikies remain bikies, even though their public image has been battered with a bollard. Skaters can still be found at Martin Place in printed T-shirts and thick-soled sneakers. And Surfies – or Waxies – remain prevalent in beach-loving Australia, where teens graduate from Blue Water High to become Layne Beachley. Or Koby Abberton.
Largely nocturnal, Ravers are as bug-eyed as ever. More so, perhaps, thanks to the proliferation of energy drinks such as V and Red Bull, which are mixed with vodka and Jagermeister to give an all-night lift.
Two decades on, rave divides into sub-categories including: Electro Kids, who prefer the electronic pop of Daft Punk and Empire of the Sun and attend festivals wearing only sunglasses and bikinis (the girls) or sunglasses and fluoro undies (the boys); and Jaded Ravers, who were probably there in 1988 and 1989 for Manchester’s ecstasy-fuelled summers of love.
Manga Kids and Crusties have faded, Indie Kids have become Emosor Techno Bohos and Lager Louts have either evolved into Jock Dollies or devolved into Lads.
“Lads have a uniform more than any other tribe,” says Michael Ambrose, a 17-year-old from Sydney Boys High.
“They normally wear Nike shoes and Nike, adidas or Puma shorts. Their favourite tops are Nautica stripey polos and they always wear Nike ‘Dri fit’ hats. Their phrase ‘eshays’ is often mocked by other tribes.”
A neat example of tribal vernacular, “eshay” is bastardised pig Latin and is remarkably versatile. The singular can mean yes. It can mean cool or excellent. It can denote Lads themselves, or a session of drinking or smoking marijuana. The plural can mean “Run!”
“Lads normally carry weapons and will try and intimidate people into giving them their valuables,” Ambrose says. Lads either grow out of their crew or enrol at Long Bay University. There is some crossover between Lads and Gangstas.
Indeed, in 2010 there is unprecedented crossover between tribes, largely as a result of new technologies. In the past, isolation allowed local subcultures to become strong and distinct. On the northern beaches, boys would surf, read Waves and watch Peter Garrett dance like a lunatic. Surfies lived on a metaphorical island (or at least the Barrenjoey Peninsula); with Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerries, they’re part of the mainland.
And the mainstream. Thanks to technology, alternative has become mainstream and underground has become overground, as symbolised in the proliferation of tattoos, which were once the preserve of seamen, wharfies and convicts.
These days there’s tribe-hopping and subculture-sampling as kids and young adults dabble instead of immersing themselves. Shallow membership of many tribes is replacing embedded membership of one tribe. (See Hipsters, below.)
“We’ve termed it the birth of the ‘Slashie’,” says Chris Wirasinha, co-founder of popular culture site pedestrian.tv. “As in, ‘I’m a DJ-slash-filmmaker-slash-photographer.’
“With the rise of technology and access to information, the opportunities for self-expression have been magnified.
“If in the past you wanted to be a DJ you had to spend hours collecting records to find that one piece of vinyl but now you can sit at your computer and download it.”
No longer is it mods against rockers; increasingly, tribalism is labyrinthine. The occasional exception is at high school, where divisions can run deep.
“Moving away from one group is very serious,” says the mum of a 15-year-old girl. “It’s like a divorce.”
In this context, what follows is a revised, updated tribal taxonomy – Youth 2010: A Field Guide (illustrations are in the photo gallery).
Since entering the mainstream in recent years, world-weary Emos have been big news, branded as self-harmers and suiciders. Who’d have thought floppy fringes and sullen countenances could create such a fuss? In a sense, they’re the illegitimate, woe-is-me spawn of Indie Kids and Goths, wearing black skinny jeans, accessorising with piercings and skull logos and spending their weekends throwing darts at one another in Hyde Park. The origins of the tribe lie in the “emotional hardcore” punk of the mid-’80s but some commentators trace their heritage further. In his 2009 book, Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone!, Craig Schuftan writes: “Emo represents the outer extreme of romanticism, its purest and most dangerous strain, the romanticism of Goethe’s Young Werther, of Frankenstein, of Byron and Nietzsche – a philosophy which rejects the idea of the greater good [and says] that emotions, my emotions, are the most important thing in the world, and the only justification I need for my actions, however extreme.” Unsurprisingly, the rise of Emo has coincided with the success of True Blood and Twilight. Twilight fans are “Twihards”. Happy Emos are “tryhards”. Most tribes hate Emos, including Emos. “Emo is a pile of shit,” says Gerard Way, singer of My Chemical Romance and paragon of his music-obsessed tribe. Meanwhile, the rise of Emo has seen a corresponding fall of Goth. “They’re kind of dying out in younger generations,” says one teen. This is great news, primarily for Goths, who love dying out.
In retrospect, it’s all so clear. Just as they had us distracted with Y2K, Dorks and Web Geeks plugged USB cables into one another’s ports and merged into Supergeeks. “The only sub group I think that has really emerged as a force in the past decade is the Nerd or Geek,” says Robbie Buck, the departing veteran of youth network Triple J. “If you look at a heap of fashion around at the moment – yacht rock ’80s polo shirts and geek Buddy Holly glasses – that’s the one that has had the most momentum.” In the transient world of tribes, Geeks are unchanging. Functional haircuts. Thick glasses. Comfortable clothing. Geek chic is typified by Harry Potter, Hermione and Seth from The OC. At 26, Chris Wirasinha calls himself a Slashie but admits a Geek lurks within. “It’s almost as if there’s been an evolution of that idea of the Geek,” he says. “Look at Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook. Ten years ago he would have been a Geek, now he’s dating Victoria’s Secret models and his life is being made into a movie. Bill Gates, too. Even the Google guys have a shroud of cool.”
The Jock Dolly
The Jock has existed since the time of the caveman. Detractors say he is a caveman. In recent years, however, he has evolved: the stinky, sweaty sportsman has been metrosexualised. The old school Jock was notable for the heady aroma of perspiration, aspiration and VB; the modern Jock, by contrast, wears CK perfume, hair tints, designer tattoos and an Industrie shirt – which he regularly slips out of to flex for a calendar shoot. Shane Warne is an early prototype, with Michael Clarke and Matt Giteau the latest incarnations.
Continue via… Source: Tribes of the Sydney