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How Social Factors Shape Youth Subcultures Essay

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Updated: Aug 21st, 2021


Subculture can be defined as a group of people with a certain culture that is different from the major culture in which they belong. In most cases, a subculture is in opposition to the dominant culture and the members of a subculture belong to a specific category such as the youth who seek recognition through unique behavior that is mainly a counterculture of the main culture in which they belong.

Subcultures may arise as a result of groupings according to race, class, gender, language, and fashion among other factors. The members of a subculture are distinctive from the main culture due to their unique style in fashion, religion, authenticity, mannerisms, and language. However, trends that make subcultures unique may be commercialized such that the subculture may disappear or be swallowed by the mainstream culture. Sometimes the subcultures are so strong that their members seek to be associated with the rest of the group in a very unique manner such as listening to music that belongs or is associated with that subculture. Some subcultures avoid commercialization through various ways such as reinventing their definitive styles such as social style rather than music and fashion that are more commercialized.

In this piece of work, the factors that shape the youth subcultures are going to be discussed separately although they have a closer relationship. The factors include Gender, race, and class.


Gender plays a major role in youth subcultures, at the youthful stage gender is dominant and boys and girls have distinct lifestyles that are oriented to each other’s recognition. Girls behave in a way that they attract the opposite sex, the boys and the boys too behave towards recognition not only to the girls but also to their peers. Masculinity in boys is a common feature and each man wants to be noticed as capable of doing what men can do. A characteristic youth subculture emphasizes male dominance, focal attraction as well as masculinity values. (McRobbie, 1991)

Women, on the other hand, engage in promiscuity for example in the hippy culture to be able to get attention from men or to be incorporated in these cultures. This lifestyle of the subculture leads to continuous crises with the main culture as their behaviors are considered a social decay and hence they are always condemned creating a social conflict with the rest of the society. Subcultures of youth men are more popular in most cases and most girls want to be associated with them.

For example from texts and images, it was clear that girls fought to be associated with the teddy boy subculture, the dancing in the elephant and castle as well as their pictures appearing in the background of the news picture. However, the working-class girls did not establish themselves with the teddy boy subculture due to their social class as working-class women. (McRobbie, 1991)

Subculture in girls and boys differed as girls preferred certain dressing modes that are emphasized through media. The spending trends for boys and girls also differed as they had different needs in dressing, perfumes, foods, etc. In joining the teddy boy subculture, the girls had the freedom to interact freely with the boys though they take caution over sexual exploitation by the boys. Consumption of some items o4 goods in a certain subculture is restricted for use at certain places, for example, the application of cosmetics was not allowed at home by parents but they become acceptable with time.

Their use was only in the streets, dance halls, clubs and not at home and school. In a subculture for example Rastafarian subculture, the consumption of marijuana among the youth is not acceptable in society and hence it is done in privacy as it is considered to be a drug abuse practice.

Practices in the hip-hop culture that has hit the streets in the modern world have led to boys adopting female styles such as hair plaiting, ear-piercing among other practices. This subculture has been well accepted by both sexes and girls feel good when associated with the men in this subculture. (Taylor, 1993)


When we talk about class we mean the social class to which one belongs. The youth subcultures are shaped by their social classes. Some subcultures are specifically for a certain class of people and this is based on their social class. The street machinery that was a subculture of youths going to the streets to show off their cars and skills in motor machinery was specifically for the elite class and the middle class. The showing off of skills in driving and classy cars was done by youths in all categories, the teens and the youth in their twenties and thirties. The subcultures also have a mode of communication and communicate with each other in a specific language, for example, slang.

Their cars are symbolic of their power, they show it the way they have styled up their cars they even go ahead and open their car bonnets to show their machine power. For those with fake cars fear to open their bonnets and when the police come over for inspection there are those with no confidence about their machine’s identity and they have to take off for cover from police. (Forester, 1999) People of different classes have different lifestyles according to their financial status and social status in society. The subcultures are a result of socialization. They occur due to the mode of socializing, the place of the meeting which is exclusively for a certain class of people. (Stratton, 1992)


It’s universally accepted that culture changes from one race to another though this does not mean that a particular race has a homogeneous culture that encompasses the whole race. People in a subculture are directed by their race. Youths in every racial group have a subculture although subculture crosses racial boundaries. This racial subculture is forced by religious believes, the culture of the race from which they come. Asians, Americans, and Africans as well as Arabs have subcultures that are guided by their race. In the United States for example where there is a mixture of blacks and whites, they have different subcultures that are determined by their race.

There are youth cultures that are common to all races but within the subcultures, there are distinct practices that do not apply to all the youths because of their race. The race is mostly determined by the main culture which is stronger than the subculture. Youths despite having subcultures apart from the main culture, still have some attached values to the main culture which is guided by their race. In a school students tend to identify themselves with a certain group of a similar race hence forming a subculture. The youth also feel secure when established to a subculture of their race as it does not raise so much diversity from the society and the parents at home.


The subcultures of youth are common in the adolescence age where teenagers look for identity. They want to know who they really are and they, therefore, seek this identity in these subcultures as they are at a very crucial stage of development. On most occasions, the youth seek to counter the main culture of the older generation.

In teenagers, the subcultures are also influenced by social; class as well as race and gender. Although in a school setting the teenagers or the youth may have a common subculture oriented to interests in football, music, and lifestyle.


Bilton, T. et al (2002). Introductory Sociology. 4th ed. (Palgrave: New York).

Forrester, L. (1999). Street Machines and Showing Off, (Tasmania: Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies).

McRobbie, A. & Garber, J. (1991). Girls and Subcultures, (London: Macmillan Education).

Stratton, J. (1992).The category of youth and youth culture theory, (Perth: W.A. Black Swan Press).

Taylor, S. (1993). Feminist perspectives on youth subcultures, (Tasmania: National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies).

White, R. D. & Wyn, (2004).Youth Identity and Culture, (South Melbourne: Oxford University Press).

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