Subculture and Group Membership

Subculture and Group Membership Assignment

The purpose of this assignment is to

  • Summarize the role of dress and appearance practices in the development of different identities.
  • Recognize foundational concepts related to culture, identity, appearance, and dress.


  • Use this document, and save it as “Subculture and Group Membership Assignment your first and last name”
  • Read the “case study reading” info below.
  • Watch the hour-long film “AFROPUNK: The Movie” on YouTube.
  • Answer the case study questions beneath each question below (meaning keep the question in your assignment sheet).
  • Answer the questions using the case study info based upon the reading Lennon, Johnson, and Rudd (2017) Dress and Social Organizations: Subculture and other related readings. Be sure to cite the case study information when paraphrasing or using a direct quote. Do not use or reference other sources that refer to similar topics when completing this assignment.
  • Keep answers typed, single-spaced, 12-point font, no cover page, use Microsoft word, full sentences, 1” document borders, keep all of the assignment instructions and questions in your document

Case study reading:

What is a subculture?

Subcultures are social groups, or groups of individuals who share a similar lifestyle, belief system, or other commonalities. Some subcultural groups have dress codes whereas others do not. Sub, means, underneath or below; therefore, subculture refers to individuals who are a part of a group that is different from the dominant culture or dominant people in a particular part of society (Lennon, Johnson, & Rudd, 2017, pg. 292).

Why do subcultures exist?

Subcultures exist because the dominant culture does not meet the needs or interests of the particular subculture. Therefore, these groups form to engage in a lifestyle or activities that meet the needs of their interests or shared experiences related to a particular identity (Lennon, Johnson, & Rudd, 2017, pg. 292).

What are examples of subcultures?

There are numerous groups of people who could be classified as subcultures. For example: hippies; anti-gun groups; jocks in a high school; environmental activists; people in the furry community; people in the cosplay community; punks; goths; and many more (Lennon, Johnson, & Rudd, 2017, pg. 292). Even religious groups could be considered subcultures; for example, Holdeman Mennonites are a group of individuals who follow a particular religion and wear a specific style. More info could be found here: All of these groups have shared interests, experiences, or identities, thus classifying them as a subculture.

Focus on punk subculture:

Punk is a concept that is difficult to define due to its fluidity and complexity. The punk subculture though, roots from the 1970s in urban areas in the United States and the United Kingdom. Individuals who self-identify as punk typically reject aspects of mainstream society including consumer lifestyles, politics, art, and ideologies. They frequently embody anti-hegemonic ideologies (Sklar, 2013).

This rejection of mainstream society is often reflected in the styles and aesthetics of individuals who self-identify as punk (Sklar, 2013). Bricolage, or the creation from multiple and mixed things, is often described as central to punk aesthetics (Hebdige, 1979; Polhemus, 1994; Szatmary, 1996). Symbols often associated with punk aesthetics include studs, pins, ripped clothing, unnatural hair colors, combat boots, and many other dress and appearance practices (Bennett, 2006). Therefore, individuals mix and match the multiple and varied items to create a particular look, a look influenced by the concept of bricolage. Use of plaid or tartans, and iconography such as band logos and subversive imagery are also patterns used frequently to signify group membership (Sklar, 2013). The popularization of tartan or plaid in the punk aesthetic roots back to designers Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren; the designers used the patterns in their early clothing lines in 1976 to signify those fighting battles or at war (Sklar, 2013). Another theme in punk aesthetic is the concept of DIY or do-it-yourself. Individuals may re-purpose or create an original look through sewing, crafting, or other means (Sklar, 2013). Distressed apparel is also a concept that is embodied through punk aesthetics. The notion of dirt or worn-in apparel rejects mainstream notions about acceptable appearances, which aligns with some parts of punk ideologies.

It is important to note that there is no consistent look in a punk aesthetic for individuals who might self-identify as punk (Sklar, 2013). The media perpetuated stereotypical images from early punk bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Sex Pistols, and many others where band members wore garments such as leather pants, safety pins, and torn clothing. These early media representations helped defined what the dominant culture or the public at large viewed and defined as definitively punk, punk aesthetics, and punk identities (Sklar, 2013). However, these media representations do not solely represent what embodying and expressing a punk identity means for everyone.

Motivations to embrace a punk style, aesthetic or identity are varied. In her book on punk style, Sklar (2013) interviewed an individual who explained that for him, punk is not expressed through his appearance, but through his overall attitude. He said, “I’m older…so when I was a punk rocker, a lot of it was attitude. It wasn’t so much the clothing. We didn’t have Hot Topic you know. There wasn’t anybody that was catering to a punk aesthetic like there is now…you know, it was a lot more, reflected personality a lot more I think back then.” (pg. 67-98). This example highlights how sometimes identities are expressed through our appearance, but for others this might not necessarily be true.

The evolution of punk from a subcultural community to being commodified by high fashion is evident in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Punk: Chaos to Couture that was mounted in 2013. In the exhibition, you can view individuals from the early punk movement such as Paul Cook and John Lydon, members of the band the Sex Pistols and how their styles and aesthetics influenced high fashion designers such as Martin Margiela, Gianni Versace, and Commes des Garcons.

In summary, the punk subculture and style began in the late 20th century and has continued into the 21st century. Punk styles have transformed over time, yet core aspects of punk style include: bricolage, appropriation, distress, DIY, subversive imagery, and/or rejections of mainstream society. These styles reflect the overall anti-society attitude that embodies punk identity.


Bennett A. (2006). Punk’s not dead: The continuing significance of punk rock for an older generation of fans. Sociology, 40(2): 219-35.

Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture: The meaning of style. London: Routledge.

Lennon, S., Johnson, K. K. P., & Rudd, N. (2017). Social psychology of dress. London: Bloomsbury.

Polhemus, T. (1994). Street style: From sidewalk to catwalk. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Sklar, M. (2013). Punk style. London: Bloomsbury.

Szatmary D. (1996. A time to rock: A social history of rock ‘n’ roll. New York: Schirmer Books.


Case Study Questions:

  1. Describe some of the styles of different people in the film “AFROPUNK: The Movie”?


  1. a) How do some of the individuals featured in the film AFROPUNK: The Movie” describe what “being punk” means to them? b) How does race factor into their “punk” identity?


  1. What characterizes people in the film AFROPUNK: The Movie” as part of a subculture? Explain why and demonstrate that you understand based upon the case study reading.


  1. From your perspective, would the styles worn in the film AFROPUNK: The Movie” seem appropriate in Ames, Iowa? Why or why not?


  1. Reflect on your own experience with subcultural style. When growing up, were you a part of any subcultures that experimented with style? If yes, what were people’s reaction to your style. If not, did you see others who were part of different subcultures that experimented with style? What was your reaction to their style? Be sure your answer demonstrates that you understand based upon the case study reading.



100 points total

Meets or exceeds expectations

All parts of questions are answered.

Questions are answered correctly and in accordance with the information presented in the reading.

Answers contain at least two full sentences, contain explanations and examples where appropriate and show synthesis of information in reading when appropriate.


Some parts of the questions are answered.

Questions are mostly answered correctly in accordance with some information presented in the reading.

Answer contains less than two full sentences, contains brief explanation or example and shows little synthesis of information from reading when appropriate.

Needs development

No or few parts of question answered.

Questions are not answered correctly or in accordance with information presented in the reading.

Answer is short phrases or not complete sentences, contain no explanation or examples and show no or little evidence of information from reading when appropriate.

Question 1 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points
Question 2 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points
Question 3 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points
Question 4 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points
Question 5 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points


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Dress, Appearance, and Diversity in Society by Kelly Reddy-Best is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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