Fashion Rules

Those who are actively working to ban sub-cultures from our Scottish city centres must revise their attitudes if they wish to find a real solution.

Feature by by Lucia van der Blast | 15 Jun 2006

The youth of today. How many times have you heard that phrase? Yet, if you are a brand trying to create new markets, or a cutting edge designer or music artist it is the youth movements which are the key to success. Creative youth marketing is essential to growth, so how do brands access the people who dictate where it's at?

Urban performance and art-based movements are now encouraged by popular culture brands across the globe. Skateboarding is now a hugely popular sport with specially designed parks, acres of coverage on T.V. screens, whole magazines devoted to the subject and organised, sponsored events. Private advertising is proving its main means of survival, and skateboarding now comes with merchandise, heroes, icons, cool brands, and the right (or wrong) clothes, all of which maintain the growth of the industry.

A young groundbreaker is someone doing something never done before, often attracting negative vibes from the establishment; groundbreakers usually never have money to buy product, but the smart celebs often reference them to attain credibility; for example, Madonna mentions Krumping in her disco hit Hung Up.

I was faintly surprised whilst researching to find that the latest clutch of vintage culture, hanging out in George Square in Glasgow, are aged between about twelve and sixteen. These days Goths also seem more likely to be vegan than vampires, and for the most part are keen but disillusioned Greens when it comes to politics. One friend's daughter said: "I'm fifteen, have been anti-fur since forever, and haven't eaten meat for two years since I met my boyfriend who's vegan. We get taught about social issues and global warming in school and we think about those things a lot." Questioning about prejudices against ethnic or cultural minorities existing within the Goth movement merely produced a blank look, thankfully confirming my wish to see all prejudices against any groups especially gays or Asians consigned to the nearest (hopefully untagged) City Council dustbin.

Also currently sweeping the scene in Glasgow is the graffiti art movement which is battling years of Council prosecutions and arrests as an answer to the tagging problems. Children and adults alike are covering all available spaces in secret codes, marks or 'tags', and in some cases with beautiful creations. Meanwhile, establishments such as National Rail and the City Council are forking out thousands cover it up with institution grey or cashing in on the revenue to be made with a billboard.

However, one City Councillor is asking graffiti artists to contact him to help solve the issue, and to brighten up the neighbourhood. Glasgow's Merchant City councillor Gordon Matheson recently told the Evening Times that he wishes to launch an art competition in the hope of brightening up the eyesore that is the proposed site for Selfridges.

So, with global brands, cities such as Tokyo or Los Angeles, Paris and others now embracing sub-cultures on our doorstep, those who are actively working to ban them from our Scottish city centres must revise their attitudes if they wish to find a real solution.

In Edinburgh, Bristo Square, traditionally a haven for skateboarders, has also become a gathering place for alcoholics and jakies. As the police invaded Hunter Square in an (understandable) crackdown on street crime, drugs and the like, the unwanted element moved over to Bristo Square, where there were rich pickings to be had bullying the skateboarding owners of the branded rucksacks.

These youth sub-cultures are being targeted by consumer agencies as the society of tomorrow, but they struggle to gain protection and encouragement locally. If these new cultures are the future, and leading lights such as councillor Matheson can gain support to herald these new cultures, then the sooner people such as ourselves and the artists involved will join him and help nurture their own future societies. Who knows, he might even get a vote or two?