Throwback Thursday: Counting Down 10 Subcultures from Around the World

Enjoy this great post from November 14, 2013

It’s easy to get carried away with the stereotypes of countries, but what about the little niches where the, weird, ab-normal, and sub-normal still take root?  After the mods, the hipsters, the flappers, the greasers, zazous and hippies, who could really shock the normalized main culture anymore?  And what about the seedy underbelly of some of the world’s major cities; styles associated with crime and a lack of a savings account that have leaked into the mainstream?  Take these snapshots to educate yourself on the derogatory and pejorative; they’ve gone from the gutters to inspire mainstream style and global following.

10.  Russian Gopnik

Gopnik is not often a self-identifier but a derogatory slang term used to describe lower-class men in Russia; gopnik’s are pointed for high crime rates, wearing athletic gear/track suits, short-haircuts, and drug/alcohol abuse.  While made popular in the 1990’s, gopnik is actually derived from the Russian acronym GOP (Gorodskoe Obshestvo Prizreniye) which means “City Public Charity”; it referred to those living in public housing in pre-revolutionary Russia.  Thank god for ethnographers; gopniks are often found to be “squatting in archways, parks, or at trolleybus stops, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and eating sunflower seeds”.  Not just in Russia, the culture also extends to post-Soviet countries.  In Latvia they are referred to as urla, in Lithuania? Forsas.


More Bits: According to the head of LDPR Moscow Branch, gopniks forma percentage of his party’s electoral base and are actually considered one of the most powerful political forces in Russia’s democracy  today.

9.  Miami Chonga

With short origins, the Spanish word chonga refers to working class women in Miami/Southern Florida area; they stand out as being aggressive, sexually liberal and emotionally expressive Latina women.  Originally considered a derogatory term, it is being switched around by those who wear it proudly as a mark of emerging feminism for Latina women in America.


More Bits: Gender studies scholar Jillian Hernandez noted the chonga subculture among women as an “emerging icon” of working class women and can actually be an empowering outlet.

8.  Japanese Bōsōzoku

Simply put as Japanese customized motorcycle gangs, the word Bōsōzoku actually translates to “violent running tribe”.  Bōsōzoku actually rose with the boom of the Japanese automobile industry in the 1950’s and used de-mufflered motorcycles to loudly tear through city streets and cause all kinds of ruckus, displaying deep disaffection and dissatisfaction with the Japanese status quo.


More Bits:  Bōsōzoku gangs often run streets, waving imperial Japanese flags  and have been found on major highways numbering in the 100s.

7.  Argentinian Floggers

Deconstructed, foto-bloggers (floggers) in Argentina is a teen fashion statement popularized by the end of 2004.  Much of the style is taken from glam rock, a subculture popularized in the US and UK in the 1980s.  It has also developed along a new love for electro house and techno music, and adopting dance moves from other countries, such as Belgian jumpstyle.  Flogging has immigrated throughout South America, finding fandom in Chile, Argentina and Brazil as well.


More Bits:  The act of flogging actually refers to a widely recognized website, in which floggers upload a photo a day to their blog- it has over 18 million members.
6.  Norwegian Black Metal

Probably the most terrifying on the list, the Norwegian Black Metal scene developed a following as a subculture in the early part of the 1990s.  It can actually be tied to a single shop in Oslo- a record store called Helvete (“Hell”).  The shop eventually attracted the negative attention of police and the media, leading to its closure in 1993.  Often tied to crimes of murder, arson, and other sinister acts, the Norwegian black metal subculture was most vocal and controversial for their anti-Christian beliefs and negativity towards any organized religion.  Most followers ranged from as young as fourteen up to those in their mid-twenties.


More Bits:  Members of the band Mayhem were key leading figures in the movement- some things they believed in included totalitarianism.  They spoke out against individualism, compassion, peace, happiness and fun.

5.  British/American Steam Punk

A mixture of sci-fi elements, the steampunk subculture combines a fascination with steam-powered industrial machinery (trains, engines, etc.) of Western civilization- set in the future.  They envision themselves in a post-apocalyptic Earth where people revert back to the great old days of industrialization.  Influential authors that inspire this group include Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Mary Shelley.  Steampunk as a subculture gained interest as early as 1987 but now features several publications, including their own magazine and conventions.  The emphasis is as much on fashion as it is on invention, blending styles from the Victorian age to the American westward expansion.

 Part 2

More Bits: Confusing and synonymous descriptors include anachronistic technologies and retro-futuristic inventions.

4.  Slovenian Punks

The only group on the list that can claim its own autonomous region is  in the center of a major city, Metelkova City in Ljubljana Slovenia, the social hub for punks and the ‘transient’ of Slovenia.  Formerly a Yugoslav military barracks, Metelkova City was formed as a squatter’s village in 1993 at the dissolvent of the old Yugoslavian state.  Characterized by its culture- a mixture of free jazz, rockabilly, heavymetal, and dub/techno/electronic music- this shantytown-gone-creative-community is the product of post-soviet deconstruction and a severe distrust for all types of establishment.  Instead of the state, a hyper-cultural district was outlined in the wake of a squatters district and has become one of the most impressive parts of the capital city.


More Bits:  Run and organized by the Network for Metelkova and the RETINA nonprofit organization, these two organizations were formed by the Movement for the Culture of Peace and Nonviolence and the Student Cultural Center Association and gained recognition of autonomy from the City Council in 1995.

3.  Japanese Sukeban

Loosely translated as “boss girl”,  the Sukeban of Japan refers to the girl-leader of gangs of school-age girls.  Cited methods of violence used by this group, includes cigarette burns, beatings, and even cases of lynching.  The largest Sukeban even organized was the Kanto Women Delinquent Alliance which recorded 20,000 members.  Members were often noted to be feared by their brightly dyed hair, sailor-like-schoolgirl characteristic fashion, and bright socks.  They were also noted to have used stimulant drugs and engaged in numerous cases of shoplifting and theft.


More Bits: The Sukeban image has been popularized in Japanese manga and anime to a very large extent; the existence of adorable (kawaii) yet dangerous characters based on real life makes them seem less ridiculous

2.  Russian Stilyagi

From the 1940s-1960s these Russian “style-hunters” or “hipsters” were called stilyagi.  Dressing in Western clothes of the time, listening to rock music, and sporting modern haircuts, they formed the underground movement against their “Soviet oppressors”.   Stilyagi was all about personal expression and defiance of Communist convention of the times.  They also were known for their apolitical views and rejection of Soviet morality; risking arrest by Russian police and being subjected to round-ups.  The movement and styles were forced underground until Stalin’s death in 1953, but still faced contempt from the mainstream society for their admiration of cinema-styles and American culture.


More Bits:  the stilyagi image has been portrayed in the popular 2008 film Stilyagi.

1. Mexican American Pachuco

A Pachuco was often a Mexican born in the US who was thought to have lost touch with Mexican culture in favor of zoot suits and flamboyant public displays.  The term is thought to originate in El Paso, Texas.  As the migration of Mexican railroad workers moved west to LA, so did the subculture and its peculiarities.  They could be spotted around nightclubs and were often associated with street gangs and petty crimes.  Lady pachucas were idealized women; they defied gender stereotypes of time by wearing extravagant evening gowns or even female-tailored versions of the zoot suit.  Participating  frequently in public life flowed counterculture to what a “good woman” was expected to be as those who were seen as good were bound to domestic life.

mexican american

More BitsPachuco culture even had its own subterranean language- a mixture of Spanish Gypsy Calo, Mexican Spanish, a New Mexican dialect, and American English all rolled into one.

Know any more interesting subcultures?  Message them to us here at Clark U’s Things That Matter!

-Bridget Healy


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