Youth Culture Invasion in the Fashion Industry

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Subculture can be defined as a group with a strong sense of their cultures such as the variation of their music and fashion tastes. Most of those cultures usually despise and do not follow the mainstream of the majority because they need to strengthen the need of the people they just belong to the identity nothing greater than themselves which can be seen notably among the teens. Teens have been a great particular market for a lot of companies because they can get profit from their music and fashion but that can be a big disadvantage for the original purpose of the subcultures and may kill off their real intentions (GradesFixer, 2019).

Skateboarding and the street-wear trend can be said as one of the largest subcultures because of the large consumerism and the expensive prices. A lot of fashion brands such as Off-White, McQ, Palace and Supreme have been making use of this culture in the fashion industry at a reasonable price without lowering the quality itself. For instance, African American influences on most of the white youth subcultures. Hebdige explained that “Punks” differentiated its particular style from reggae’s concept of ‘dreads,’ although its traits were inspired by the distinctive features of African American culture. The “hipsters” culture represented a neat and cut-clean appearance, stylish clothes, that embrace the ‘American dream’ of rising movement; whereas, the “mixed beats of the street,” their torn jeans and high-top sneakers, embrace and glorified black poverty (Hebdige, 2012). He also explained how those styles can be also repetitive as they can open up between the subcultures and the mass cultures although they started from groups of teens that can only accept their real characteristics. If the mass culture accepts the impression of these cultures, they will be stripped of its original subcultural association, become accessible and lead to mass consumption.

The effect of subcultures on the fashion industry was found since the 1950s when Ted’s subculture started in London. The teens from that community wore clothes from the Edwardian era and idolized rock and roll superstars from America. Its main features are the original Edwardian style with tapered trousers, long jackets, and fancy waistcoats. Teddy girls, also known as “Judies” wore drape/tailored jackets, pencil skirts, hobble skirts, long plaits, rolled-up jeans, flat shoes, straw boater/coolie hats, cameo brooches, espadrilles, and clutch bags. It started as a London style and later could be seen wearing those styles throughout Britain (Scala, 2009).

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In the 1970s, the Teds were transformed into colorful elements of the Glam Rock style rather than the traditional way. Brightly colored jackets trimmed with contrasting satin or velvet, drainpipe trousers rolled up to expose garish socks in fluorescent nylon color, glitter was no stranger, and brothel creeper shoes in many different colors, pattern materials such as leopard skin and the cheetah were added was referred to as ‘The Cartoon Look’. Later, this trend is known as “Punk” what we call nowadays. Vivienne Westwood is famous for bringing punk culture into the mainstream along with her boyfriend and business partner, Malcolm McLaren, and making it popular fashion although she does not come from a fashion background but rather considered as a self-taught designer in the fashion industry. Their number one client was the band “Sex Pistols” who were part of the punk-rock generation and their fashion became famous for its sexually crude and provocative garments: “bondage” trousers and T-shirts decorated with provocative phrases like “Cambridge Rapist and that caused a controversy in the mainstream of British society (Westwood and McAlpine, 2000).

The clothing moved towards both romanticism and heroism in the later years with the Pirates collection which was adopted by musicians of the new generation. She got inspired by the 18th Century men’s clothing add tailoring techniques and sexuality had started to combine with different cultures and lifestyles that is something new to the mainstream and irrelevant clothing market (Westwood and McAlpine, 2000). Jean-Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, and the late Alexander McQueen also followed this method. Jean-Paul took an opportunity to take the punk aesthetic from the streets of London and influence the Parisian runways. It was a different approach for British and Americans but he combined his traditional 37 ideas of the Parisian rules of design and a rebellion approach to fashion. Gaultier took all aspects of punk including bondage, recycling, androgyny, and tribalism, but he was trying to develop his own street culture.

Later, punk has influenced not only the white people but the African-American as well and they were known as Afro-Punk which were dominant in the North American Punk scene (Polhemus, 2010). They would cut up their old clothes and destroy clothing to create something fashionable among their peers and outfits were constructed in an unfinished construction garment that attracts the attention of the dominant culture. Torn fabrics, frayed edges and defaced prints are now considered normal today’s fashion trends. The punk subculture has been descended for 30 years or more and has been through five different youth generations. The mass media has made this subculture into a cash cow as it started with the music industry, then fashion, and later with the subculture active members to sell the identity of this culture to the masses. Corporations saw this rebellious youth movement as a chance to increase their profits in new markets. Places like Hot Topic, an American retail chain that sells music and pops culture-inspired clothing and accessories, have taken advantage of the punk and other subcultures for their major profit. It became a direct insult to all subcultures as it damages the subcultures’ identity which symbolizes “Do it yourself,” method. Since stores like Hot Topic, H&M, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitters do not understand what the subculture stands for, they were simply viewed as a mockery to punks and the urban culture youth. Nowadays, those subcultures have become part of the fashion industry and the public became to accept its real intentions and fashion sense which became no offense to the teens that followed the trends enthusiastically nowadays.

An interview was done with a Myanmar designer who tells about the subcultures that affect youth during her teenager life and nowadays in her own country. She explained that starting from her teenage life till now, Myanmar’s traditional culture has influenced the teen society with the variations to change through the past years. Myanmar traditional outfit can be defined in “Yin-Phone”, a tight-fitted traditional top, and ‘Longyi” but during her teenage life, a lot of girls worn “Longyi” in mid-calf length that later foretold the upcoming famous “8888 uprisings” in Myanmar which caused a huge commotion among the youth society. After the war, the trends such as wearing loose shirts and T-shirts over “Longyi” had become famous among teenage girls. Some well-known subcultures such as hip-hop, Korean wave have evaded Myanmar during the 2000s through films and music and garments that represent those cultures affect the styles but remaining with aspects of Myanmar tradition. She added that even as an aspiring designer, she sometimes wore in a bit of masculine sense that was taken bits from hip-hop such as cropped singlets and commando trousers but she still stuck to the Myanmar traditional with those garments which showed her true identity in a fashion sense. Nowadays in Myanmar, eastern subcultures such as Kpop have been real stronger among teenagers as they have a mindset that they will become prettier and more handsome like their idols if they follow whatever they wear and do and even learning the Korean language. She concludes the interview by saying that although Myanmar is still a developing country and a lot of subcultures just started happening, the Myanmar tradition is still a must-keep culture in the youth society, which means they have been descending and treasuring it for generations and even in the fashion industry, a lot of modification has been developed by the local brands to match with the trends nowadays but still, the essence of the Myanmar tradition has not vanished in the industry. She also gives a hint that it’s better to collaborate with the traditional style some young designer wants to start a fashion design career in Myanmar. It can be said that a lot of various types of subcultures have been giving a huge effect on the fashion industry by all means of methods since a long time ago.

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