Jewelry & Fashion | 5 September 2016Style Tribes: the wonderful world of subcultures Share article facebook twitter google pinterest From dressing like a member of All Saints during her uni days, author Caroline Young celebrates every subculture imaginable with her new book Style Tribes: The Fashion of Subcultures. From the well-known rockers and mods to the not-so-well-known era of ganguro – a mid-1990s Japanese alternative trend – this book takes you on a fashion journey that many never knew existed. Caroline shares where her passion stemmed from, along with which subculture surprised her the most and which was her favourite she came across. Where does your passion for fashion stem from, have you always had an interest? I’ve been interested in fashion since I was a teenager– it wasn’t so much haute-couture and Vogue magazine, but the way that there’s a connection between fashion and creativity. I bought The Face every month and really admired Madonna, Courtney Love, Shirley Manson and Bjork – they had an amazing sense of style and they used costume to create a synergy between their music and imagery. When I began researching a book on costume design in old Hollywood , which was published in 2012, I was really fascinated with how fashion also conveys a particular era and time – the femme fatale in black satin in films at the end of the Second World War, for example, reflecting men’s concerns as they returned home with the worry their wife or girlfriend had cheated on them. So I think this definitely links with Style Tribes as both books follow a similar theme of looking at why people wear what they wear. With so many different subcultures how was the process of selecting which ones to feature? I aimed to take the reader through an historical journey from the 1920s to present day, choosing subcultures that have made a lasting mark, as well as being quite indicative of that time. I also wanted a global outlook for the book, so chose images that span the world – neo-rockabilly in Shanghai and Tokyo, the Sapeurs of the Congo, the zoot suit in Mexico, hipsters in Brooklyn. I also chose a couple of Tokyo street styles because the creativity is so rich, from lolitas to kogals. Going through the history of the subcultures was there anything that surprised you? The idea of how hipsters, hippies, beats, and hip hop are all interlinked with the etymology of the word ‘hep’ and ‘hip’, meaning one step ahead of the crowd. I also found it really fascinating the way that punk and b-boys shared similarities and space in the late 1970s and early 1980s in downtown clubs like the Roxy. While hip hop fashion was pristine, Fab Five Freddy cleaning his trainers with a toothbrush in the club’s toilets, for example, and punk fashion was dirty and ripped-up, they both had that DIY aesthetic of wearing clothes in a unique way and where art, fashion and music were within the same sphere. They were also both were rebellious and political music genres. Any personal favourite subcultures? The swing kids – or swingjugend – who were teenage swing fans in Nazi Germany, defying authority as swing and jazz music was banned by the Third Reicht. They wore American and British fashions, they went to secret dances to throw themselves around to music by Benny Goodman, they refused to join Hitler youth and they would whistle parts of swing tunes as a secret greating to each other. Many of them actually ended up in work camps because of it, as did their parents if they had a Jewish background. I enjoyed discovering swing music during my research too – I defy anyone not to want to dance when they listen to Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing. Have you yourself ever dressed like one of the subcultures? Yes, Britpop and the late 1990s techno and house music scene. When I was around 16 I bought a leather trenchcoat from vintage shop Armstrong’s in Edinburgh, which I think was a mod or northern soul era leather coat now that I think back to it, but I wore it with bootcut jeans and brightly coloured shirts and leopard print from Miss Selfridges or another vintage shop called Flip. So this was quite a britpop look, and I included it in the book as it’s reflective of how teenagers dressed around 1995/1996. At uni I went around in baggy combats, vest tops, Adidas trainers as this was what we wore to go clubbing. Very All Saints, but it was practical for dancing in dark, grotty clubs. Any that you think are just a bit too weird or out there? No, I think weird is great! The subculture in the book that is probably the most out there is the ganguro, a mid-1990s Japanese alternative trend where girls wore extreme fake tan, dyed their hair and wore white make-up on their lips and eyes. They were given the nickname of a mountain witch because of their appearance, but what’s great about it was that the girls dressed to impress each other, rather than dressing for boys. Do you think it’s important to express individualism in an age where copying someone you see in the media is the norm? People often say that there aren’t any clearly defined subcultures anymore, I think there are, but the way we consume fashion and music has changed. The fashion at the moment is a very Kardashian, TOWIE, over-the-top aesthetic, possibly because people want to look as good as possible when they take selfies and share them on Instagram. Also, music and fashion are much more disposable – you can buy cheap, throw away items and music can be downloaded instantly and for free. Groups like the mods and teddy boys spent all their money on perfecting their look and had to save up to buy the latest records from their favourite band, so this meant that they had a stronger allegiance. Whereas now, people can afford to switch between different styles and so can copy the looks of celebrities more easily. You’ve focused previously on the classic Hollywood style and now Style Tribes any other areas you’d love to explore? Next up I’m co-authoring a book called Tartan and Tweed which will be released in February. It takes a closer look at the history of these Scottish fabrics and their impact on popular culture. And because I love old Hollywood lore and the stories behind the scenes of movie sets, I am also planning narrative non-fiction based on this, but it’s still early days! Style Tribes: The Fashion of Subcultures is out 29 September, published by Frances Lincoln. Order your copy here. 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