Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Teen angst, black nail polish and custom converses: a Study

By Shaer Reaz

1975 Right smack in the middle of the 70's, the global teenage population is struggling to find a “look”. Ronnie James Dio is just starting his long and illustrious career as metal music's greatest voice; Eric Clapton was being proclaimed a god in graffiti all over the world, and gone were the heydays of flower power and Volkswagen's Love Bugs. The smell of wood-smoke still hung over a crowd just learning the use of roller skates and still afraid of an invasion by the Soviets.

The birth of the hippie? Hardly. Hippies were Vietnam War protesters, covered from head to toe with beads and hair, flip flops and inexplicably fond of walking instead of driving (not to mention the colourful flower patterns seen on every member). They worshipped The Beatles, revelled in the sitar magic of Ravi Shankar, and often quoted from Hindu scripture.

No, the mid 70's gave birth to the new generation of hippies. One that didn't care. Reigning supreme from the mid 70's to the close of the Cold War in early 1990, they couldn't care less about social norms, didn't like sitting around at home and were typically found in groups at any skate park and behind convenience stores or vacant parking lots. Wood panelled station wagons gave way to large vans, road trips, and punk music from the likes of The Ramones.

Like anything done by the masses of teenagers, their roller blades, untidy mops of hair and loud, overbearing music was entirely frowned upon by the elders. Metal and punk music defined the generation that dreamed up mythical dragons and cyborgs from the future, inspiring a massive social rebellion. School systems systematically reported dropping grades throughout this period, college dropouts were the “in” crowd and gas station attendees were the rage in terms of employed personnel.

1991 Everything changed with the arrival of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl. Smells Like Teen Spirit and Nirvana (as well as Pearl Jam) inspired a darker, edgier group of teenagers - a group angry at society, angry at themselves and united in their hatred for rules and the concept of family. Incidentally, divorce and suicide rates were the highest ever recorded in America and elsewhere. Crime ran rampant on the streets and juvenile delinquent homes burst under immense pressure as teenagers lashed out at the inherent “injustice” in society.

This was a crowd that felt they had been wronged in a punishable manner. No one actually has any explanation for why these teenagers felt that way. Their black T-shirts and unruly attitude drew attention, and many have said that this was exactly what they wanted - they seemed to be in search of greater social acceptance in spite of what they did or wanted to do.

Goths were prominent in this era too. Their black nail polish and black leather clothes, mascara, spiked jewellery items (even on the guys) were a show of the notoriety they desired. They listened to obscure bands with names like Kommunity FK and Virgin Prunes.

They were infamous for their influences on popular culture like Tim Burton's directorial pursuits (“Edward Scissorhands” and “Sleepy Hollow”) and the graphic novels of that era, like James O'Barr's “The Crow”. This was the starting point of the short lived and highly debatable “emo” movement too.

2000 The raging 90's finally ended with the teenage population finding some sort of peace and solace at long last. Cleaner neighbourhoods, cleaner noses and better education might have helped, as some experts suggest.

With nothing to direct their rage at, the teens settled into doing what they did best: finding a non-violent way of going against the crowd - like hard-core bikers, only less cool. Thus, the hipster was born.

The clothes and the massive amounts of accessories they wear give away a hipster straightaway. Multicolour shades, shades with slats, quirky hats, unnecessary clothing items like scarves and vests in summer, incredible amounts of bangles, bands, beads, and generally, utterly useless cow poopoo.

Hipsters will do anything that doesn't count as being “mainstream”. Listening to obscure bands, mostly of the indie genre, reading books no one else wants to read, watching independent art films all day, they will do anything to be different. They'll scoff at you when you say your favourite band is Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and go on to say that there's nothing above The Moldy Peaches (quite a good duo though… a bit commercialised now, but they were good). Posters of Che Guevara adorns their bedroom walls, they're always making collages with pictures of their other hipster friends and going on and on about modern art forms and continuously texting on their phones.

Bright colours and random shapes are the basic theme for anything hipster. Take a look at their shoes. Custom Converses are the rage for the hipsters nowadays, with every imaginable design and pattern being airbrushed or marked onto their shoes.

Teenagers have a way of doing things that get on other people's nerves. Whatever they do, it's considered a rebellion, and they're branded as such. Their music, their clothing styles, and generally their lifestyle receives continuous changes. Can't wait to see what whacky look they come up with next.



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