Young and Clean – Straight Edge Subculture

Snejana Avramova

Young people are full of energy and always seeking for more freedom. They love to do forbidden things. So punk music has enchanted many children with the angry and nonconformist lyrics but some fans belong to groups of older artists, merchants or engineer. Punk subculture forms a way of life which has its own ideology, clothing, visual and film art, literature. This subculture divides in different directions – hardcore, new wave, straight edge etc. They have the main characteristics of punk but also new modifications and different lifestyle.

Обложка на албум на „Teen Idles”Who are the straight edge fans?
The Straight edge subculture stands up against vices of modern society. Its members abstain from alcohol, tobacco and drugs or reduce significantly their use. Some may also abstain from caffeine, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and refrain from casual sex. There are many reasons which lead to this lifestyle – philosophical, religious, social or just considering healthy motives. Straight edge followers believe in different religions – Christianity, agnosticism etc. Some are even atheists so there is a huge variety in straight edge beliefs.

Music is very important aspect of straight edge subculture as it forms its ideology through messages in lyrics. Some of the more popular straight edge bands are „7 Seconds”, “SSD”, “Youth of Today”, “Good Clean Fun”, “Casey Jones” и “Throwdown”. They play hardcore punk-rock but have gone through stages of severe isolation to good collaboration with punk musicians.

Хардкор изпълнител, който е стрейт едж подръжникThe most prevalent symbol of straight edge is the letter “X” which is worn as a tattoo or part of the clothes or it can be part of some accessories. According to some sources the straight-edge "X" can be traced to the “Teen Idles” tour in San Francisco. They were going to play in one night club but the same evening the manager of the place understood that the members of the band are under the legal drinking age so they cannot enter the club. The management made a compromise – they were let in after each of them was marked with black “X” on the hand so the staff would know not to serve them alcohol. Gradually this has become a symbol of the new subculture.

The strong bond with punk-rock
Some characteristics of ideology and lifestyle of punk are similar for straight edge community. All of them believe in individual choice of man, struggle for nonconformist behavior, political change and apply the “Do It Yourself” ethic.

Татуиран пънкарPolitics has a specific role in punk subculture. Its members often participate in political protests for local, national or global change. Most of them have left-wing and progressive views. Anarchism is the other ideology supported by punks but not so widely spread. We have been asking ourselves often whether these manifested political views aren’t just a camouflage or pretence. Aren’t they just a call for public attention? Aren’t they instigated by a political party? It’s true that young people are easily influenced because of that their protests are sometimes wrongly understood. But it cannot be said that all punks have false and simulated values and ideology. It’s easy to do it but not everything is what it looks like.

Fashion of punk
Punks are modifying their clothes all the time – they use a lot of safety pins or provocative captions; accessories like chains, razor blades, spikes and caps; leather is commonly worn clothing. Some punks style their hair to stand in spikes and color it with different hues. The brighter the tresses are, the most attention you get and proof you are different punk. Tattoos are also well known symbols used by punks as well as all kinds of piercing on the body. They wear skate shoes or Dr. Martens leather boots. There are some punks who are decidedly "anti-fashion," arguing that music and ideology should define punk, not fashion. This is found by some hardcore followers which are showing how important it is to be different when you want to be part of a subculture. Punk also influences world fashion and some famous designers have taken elements and implemented them in haute couture.

На кафеStages of straight edge music development
It appears in 1981 in the song “Straight edge” of the hardcore band “Minor Threat”. The chorus says “I’ve got the straight edge” and fosters to abstention of drugs. They give the first wave of forming of the straight edge subculture and may be called its fathers.

Straight edge has gone through three different stages. In the first period the community is very close to punks. This is in the beginning of the 80s when the two subcultures are united by their individualism, pursuit of freedom and living for the moment. This is the time of the bands “Minor Threat”, “7 Seconds”, “SSD”, “Uniform Choice” и “Cause for Alarm”. They play with other punk artists. But in the mid 80s the two communities drift apart. The boys from „Youth of Today” came in the public’s eye and called for healthy life, vegetarianism and identified with animal rights issues. This even more splits the two movements. In early 90s musicians became more active, aggressive and even violent. They believed that violence was a necessary method to promote ideology of straight edge and clean living. Bands of this period include “Earth Crisis”, “Gorilla Biscuits”, “Judge” and “Bold”. They became less tolerant of non-straightedge people.

Плакат на групата „Youth of Today”After 2000 came a hark-back in history of straight edge. The followers start to play again and associate with punk musicians. This new bond may lead to big changes but only time will tell. The new names that appear on stage are “Good Clean Fun”, “Champion”, “Casey Jones”, “Trial”, “Down to nothing”, “Throwdown” etc.

The members of straight edge subculture can be called the good punks because they live a healthy life. They introduce a new idea which is very hard to be criticized. It’s kind of untraditional for young people to take such drastic measures about their way of living but we see again the aspiration for being different from others even if it costs you a personal sacrifice.


1. Cover of album of „Teen Idles”
2. Hardcore artist who is straight edge follower
3. Tattooed punk
4. In the coffee shop
5. Poster of „Youth of Today”

Read: 26530 times                                                  © Fashion Lifestyle Magazine, issue 4, November 2007


Kristina Paytasheva

When somebody is listening hardcore he is left with the impression that this one behind the microphone is scolding to him for something. But in the reality is speaking of one very interesting style tendency, combining in it extreme music, cult haircuts and wild dances. The exactly definition of the hardcore subculture can be defined from the members of this subculture. They can be defined like extreme, even dangerous, but this definition couldn’t menace in any way the reputation of this kind of subculture.


The name hardcore is combination of the words “hard” and “core”. The notion hardcore also is used to define the steady people, who are unsusceptible for convictions. The hardcore was born in USA and precisely from the way of life of certain circle of people, who are living in New York. For them it is typical, that they spent the most of their time in the local streets, where life is earthly, dangers - real, problems - problems and if you want to stand ground you have to announce it openly. In this way the style hardcore is born – from people, who live in the quarters of New York. The texts from the songs of the style hardcore are angry, open and they are a reflection of the cruel reality that embraces the comparatively poor part of the population of New York. In this very minute I remember of the movie „Dangerous mind” with the participation of Michelle Pfeiffer – shaking till the bottom of the heart and reflecting the same way of life of one class. There the children were exactly from the New York suburbs, where to survive is not only difficult, but it changed into end in itself.

The hardcore is more than music – this is a social movement, created from the children, inadaptable to the society, from the era of the president Reagan. The members of the hardcore subculture organize themselves in a some kind of a tribe – some of them want to raise voice, the others search the salvation in the hard music, the third part search the better world, the fourth part are just angry to the world around them.


Hardcore music is often characterized by distortion pedals and screaming. Most fans consider it a lifestyle rather than just a musical preference or genre. In fact it’s like that in the most subculture movements – the music, the way of clothing ad make-upping, the behavior in the social environment – all this changed into way of life for the fans. „People want to be a part of something. Hardcore is an underground subculture that people are running away to escape

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the teenage stress," – Pitaro said – an American boy, who plays in hardcore band from his 15 anniversary. It has become a trendy place for people to find acceptance when they'd be turned away from other places. Hardcore was originally a sort of hiding place; a place for people to belong. For some, it has turned into something else. "Some kids will go to shows just to be seen," said Basic High School senior Pat Galbraith. "They come to say they've gone to the show, but really don't even care about the music. "They care about buying the T-shirts, just to say they've gone to the show. A lot of the people base it on how you look."

Представителки на хардкор субкултуратаПредставителки на хардкор субкултурата

Fighting has always been associated with the harder music genres. The popularity comes from personal conflicts and the "dancing" consists of windmill kicks, punches in the air, and two-stepping. The type of dancing that most people wouldn't consider acceptable, is the only thing that these kids know. "I don't know how to dance," said Robert Reott, a junior in an independent study program. "Slow dancing is the scariest thing in the world to me. Hard-core dancing is the only dance I know how to do." "It is for fun. Guys dance because they're looking for a good time," Pitaro said. "Sometimes people take things too personally, and that's when the fights start to happen," Roberson said. Because of the nature of the dancing, getting hit or punched is not an uncommon thing. "You'll see people complain about being kicked, but they have to take it all with them," Pitaro said. "People that have been in the scene for a long time feel the need sometimes to weed out the people that are corrupting something sacred to them." The violent nature of hardcore music and fighting has caused a few venues to close. "People make mistakes. They realize their mistakes. But this shouldn't be associated with hard-core music," Pitaro said. Most of the fights are "one side with people not knowing much about hardcore, or the other side not thinking with a rational mind," Pitaro said. "There is going to be positive and negative energy in everything. "Being in this scene, it taught me to be who I am today," Pitaro said. "I gave my life to hard-core. Instead of being the average drone worker, and going to college, I decided to do something different with my life. I believe it is a teen way of letting feelings out, a so called therapy."

Дамска хардкор модаМъжка хардкор мода


As the hardcore is a style hybrid between the punk and the harder metal, that the fashion of the hardcore fans is hybrid. In contrast to many others subculture, the hardcore is not characterized with exactly defined way of clothing that has to be obligatory observed. We can see fans of hardcore, which are with sneakers or with boots. We can see others that are with leather jacket or with sweater. We can see also others, who are skinhead, as others who are with long hair. There no exist exactly limitations that the admirers have to observe. The big fans can brand all their accessories with their favorite word HARDCORE and this is proposed in many online places. Here are examples of such kind of branding:

Брандинг на хардкор аксесоариБрандинг на хардкор аксесоариБрандинг на хардкор аксесоариБрандинг на хардкор аксесоариБрандинг на хардкор аксесоари

What is hardcore for you or what say the performers about the hardcore?

- Ian Mackaye - Minor Threat:
“My sense was that term “hardcore” was an attempt to distinguish the early 80's American kid's punk scene from the media's portrayal of punk: safety-pins, vomit, and nihilism, as well as the junkie stylings that were also fairly common at that time. The people i knew who were involved with the music at the time definitely did not fit any of those stereotypes, so we called ourselves “hardcore punk”, or “hardcore” for short. Like any term or genre, it was up for grabs and people have different definitions for the terms and parameters for the music, but in my mind “hardcore” is “punk”, and “punk” is just another word for the free space where new ideas can be presented. The endless spring of the underground.”

Ian MackayeIan Mackaye

- Henry Rollins - Black Flag, S.O.A
“I think at this point, it's like asking Duke Ellington, "What is Jazz?," to which he is rumored to have answered, "If you have to ask, you're never going to know." When Lightnin' Hopkins was asked what the blues are, he just started playing his guitar in way of explanation. I think that's kind of the answer to that question. It's a way of being. It's a look out the window at your neighborhood or the situation you're living in. As a music form, it's a simple, direct way to get what's inside outside. It's not a hi-tech strain of music and it's not meant to be.”

Henry RollinsHenry Rollins

Roger Miret - Agnostic Front
Roger Miret“Hardcore is a way of life. It's not something you read about on a flyer, it's a movement. You just can't listen to hardcore, get some tattoos and sign up. No, it is a deep feeling of pride and something special to belong to, to embrace, to be sworn into that truce of dedication. Hardcore was the result of most of the older Punk bands going New Wave and leaving that aggression empty. That release of anger and tension, the justifiable violence that followed. Hardcore is pure adrenaline musically and lyrically, it is a real glimpse at society with no filters, no rules, and no fillers.”

- Jimmy Gestapo - Murphy's law
“Hardcore to me is the realities of day to day life expressed in music.”

- Kevin Seconds - 7 Seconds
“To me hardcore means and always has meant intelligent, heartfelt, thought-provoking music mixed with aggression, attitude and humor. Tons of heart, sweat and soul.”

- Danny Diablo a.k.a Lord Ezec - Skarhead, Ice pick
“Hardcore music is the cousin of Punk rock and Metal. The Metal guitar player made it Hardcore. Hardcore for me also is a lifestyle. Not a fad. The hardcore mentality is what most of us in the scene have, it is also the biggest reason why most of us are broke. Fuck it!!!”

- Tommy rat - Warzone, Trip 6
“To me hardcore is not just a music but a lifestyle, everybody forgets or never realized hardcore is an offshoot of the punk scene. To me it was "escape" away from the trappings that everyday life was surrounding me, it was my release and it still is to some degree. It was real, it was underground.”

In conclusion
In our country the hardcore subculture also takes deserving place. But in Bulgaria the subculture characteristics are a little broken and the ideas of hardcore are overexposed. At concerts, tattooed youths fight without reason and after all they cause trouble of the society. The truth is that in Bulgaria real hardcore also exists, but the fans aren’t still learn how to behave. We stay with the wish that this could happen some day...

1. Representative of hardcore subculture
Photo: ©
2. Representative of hardcore subculture
Photo: ©
3-4. Representatives of hardcore subculture
Photo: ©
5. Woman hardcore fashion
Photo: ©
6. Man hardcore fashion
Photo: ©
7. Branding of hardcore accessories
Photo: ©
8. Ian Mackaye
Photo: ©
9. Henry Rollins
Photo: ©
10. Roger Miret
Photo: ©

1. Agnostic Front – Riot Riot Upstart
2. Black Label Society – Stillborn
3. Sick Of It All – Step Down
4. Kill Your Idols – Falling Down

Used sources:

Read: 26450 times                                                  © Fashion Lifestyle Magazine, issue 4, November 2007

   ISSUE 1: Industrial Subculture – the Mutated Child of Punk

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