June 23, 2024

The decline of subcultures and the rise of internet aesthetics 

Pachucos are members of a Chicano subculture identified usually by wearing zoot suits. Pachucos and other Chicano groups use fashion for self-empowerment and as a way to reject assimilation into white American culture.

Coastal grandma. Twee revival. Clean girl. Coquette. Barbiecore. These, among many other word salads of TikTok influenced aesthetics, have been on the rise for quite some time. They seem to be ever changing, and really only accessible to those with enough money to constantly revamp their wardrobe. 

What begs discussion the most on this topic of seemingly unimportant social media trends, is how it affects the way Gen Z views, and subsequent generations will view, their places as individuals among their peers. 

Classic subcultures that are more established and well-known, such as punks, goths, pachucos, metalheads, hippies or even bikers and stoners, have all been generally interest based apart from strictly fashion.

These often political, interest or personal identity (such as socioeconomic class, sexual orientation or race/ethnicity) based groups express themselves through fashion most often, because it is a way of not only expressing themselves, but also distinguishing themselves as a member of their particular group. 

The main issue with these new, more fad-based aesthetics, is they are less identity based and almost completely based on consumerism. 

At a certain point we have to take a step back from the things we participate in, and wonder if we truly enjoy and are fulfilled by them, or if we are only seeking some sort of validation.

Perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of subculture: the punk. Punk is both political and music-based, although there are quite an array of ideologies under the “punk” umbrella, punk is classically anti-authority and anti-corporate along with the hard rock that defines its sound.

Liking what is popular is not wrong. Many members of “classic” subcultures can easily become wrapped up in always wanting the latest of whatever is popular in those groups. That’s just the nature of capitalism, there will always be something that needs selling. 

Goth is a more music-based subculture. Goth has gone through many eras and has many different variations but its fashion remains, at its core, a symbol of a shared love of gothic rock, gothic literature, and embracing inner darkness!

Identity should not be defined by the things we own. Self-expression is essential to many people, but when it crosses over into obsession over possessions it becomes not only unsustainable, it becomes meaningless. 

On a more positive note, perhaps Gen Z is becoming a generation of people who choose not to define themselves so strictly, who aren’t kept to certain fashions in order to express their beliefs. 

More often than not, it becomes less about being open-minded, fashion chameleons, and more about only having an interest in constantly shopping and trend hopping.

While subcultures can be a great thing, a place of belonging, maybe the more widespread culture of appreciating different types of fashion at the same time will carry over into other aspects of life. Perhaps through constant experimenting and reinventing ourselves, we will be able to see life as a thing that can constantly be new. 

Watching youth culture and fashion will always be an interesting facet to understanding a culture at large, for better or for worse. 


  • Megan Mitchell

    Megan is a second-year English Literature and History major. She is a Smooth Transitions mentor, an editor for ReCap, a student archives assistant at Blackmore Library, and a member of Film Club. In her free time she enjoys reading and watching movies.

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