Subcultures vs. Trends: Defining the Difference

Okay, so I’m going to get a little jargony all up in this article. I’ll try to define as much as possible!

In my opinion, subcultures tend to wake due to political circumstances of an episteme , while trends arise from smaller circumstances such as the season or technological advances which make up each epistemic period.

Viktorianisches Picknick im Clara-Zetkin Park @ Wave Gotik Treffen 2013
This is far too elegant and interesting to be a trend.

What is an episteme? 

An episteme is in general terms a period of time represented by certain traits. Like the eighteen
hundreds in fiction representing the city landscape in contrast to the
country (think Oliver Twist) or 1980s fiction being represented by a post-war existential crisis.

How do subcultures relate to epistemes?

Well, for instance Skinhead culture was born out of the lower-middle classes inability to dress like Mods (read more about the rise of Skinhead culture here). It was a great representation of the peoples economic status of that period, completely recognised through what they were able to wear (work boots because they doubled as work-wear for instance). So, the subculture of Skinheads was born out of that period and thus is a product of that period. Just as (we’re back on Oliver Twist) the image of the city is a representation of the change happening during that period. Both situations represent a period of change.

Where do trends come in?

While subcultures are a call to attention for change of a society or against a society (Riot Girl wants to change society while Punks rebel against it) trends are created from more minor events during each episteme. Essentially, they have much less political power. For example, it’s like comparing the first instance of women wear pants so that they could better their painting with wearing a coat because it’s raining.

Why does it even matter?

I’m sure I could outline many reasons why simply understanding the two is important but I’ll bring this back to the point of my blog. Time and time again we hear people of subcultures (particularly Goth’s or maybe that’s because I spend most time within that group) stressing the importance of researching the musical roots or the history. We hear about the conflict between Goths and the Goth inspired trends that eb and flow throughout our lives. Because calling yourself a Goth without knowing the history is like finding an answer without learning a lesson, you’ll just keep making the same mistakes.

The point is you can’t just forget the meaningful history of the past. You can’t forget what older generations have gone through for us to get to this point. By all means wear the watered down remains of subcultures that have past (You know I do!) but don’t forget that people gave everything they had to build a community that inspired future generations and continues to do so.

What do you think? What do you think of trends inside subcultures? Or am I completely wrong? If so, don’t be afraid to leave a comment!



  1. January 23, 2014 / 1:05 am

    There was actually a museum exhibit at FIT about "trends" which I didn't go to, sadly. You make a good point about cultural trends and socioeconomic struggles creating subcultures and those subcultures developing their own styles. Trends, well, those are interesting. I find that trends in our community follow trends that happen in the Fashion-with-a-capital-F world. One important designer makes a gothic line, then the goth brands and then the fast fashion stores start taking their own spin on it: harnesses, bones, crosses, excessive studs are trends from these past 3 years. Someone uploads a photo on tumblr and it's suddenly part of the youth "subculture" only because its accessible and the person looks cool. I'm not sarcastic…clearly I'm a fan of all of it.

    • January 23, 2014 / 1:08 am

      Definitely! I agree with everything you said. :3 It's so interesting how much of fashion is based on art like that.

  2. January 23, 2014 / 6:46 pm

    Wonderful article! It hits the nail on the head with regards to why knowing the history of goth is integral to continuing the subculture, even if changes; as much as I harp on about the connection between the music and the fashion, it runs even deeper than that – both connect strongly to the history of goth both in relation to its blossoming in the ashes of punk and it's influences from the political and social events of the eighties.

    TL;DR – I am secretly a massive sociology nerd.

  3. January 26, 2014 / 10:14 pm

    I think this is an interesting post, and I agree with it. There are trends within Goth, but the larger subculture is not a trend 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for Something?