They have no right to wear those clothes: The ambivalence of the dress code of German skinheads and Estonian metal heads | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2050-0726
  • E-ISSN: 2050-0734



Ever since the beginning of post-subcultural studies, youth studies have developed in the direction of theorizing on the decreasing emphasis on the significance of a coherent style, towards the disappearance of subcultural boundaries and a switching between identities. In our article we are going to demonstrate that in some cases subcultures maintain and defend their style. By highlighting studies of German punks and skinheads and the Estonian metal scene, we show how subcultures develop strategies for defining the boundaries of their scene and collective identity. Subcultures prompt an inner discussion about the ‘real’ and ‘wannabe’ ways of being a member of a scene. We show in the case of German skinheads that a purist cult of ‘old-school’ clothing can appear and demonstrate with the example of Estonian metal fans that a subculture can choose and focus on some elements of style which they claim to be ‘theirs’ and which become central symbols for the metal style. The main platforms for these discussions within both subcultures are printed fanzines and face-to-face interactions. In this manner subcultures develop the ‘communities of practice’, which is critical to the commercialization of former subcultural dress and other commodities. Using social network theories we show that subcultures are capable of establishing methods of inner social control and initiating discussions with the aim of establishing clear boundaries between the mainstream society and their scene, through controlling the ‘meaning of style’. This demonstrates that in combination with network theories the classic subculture theory can still be relevant for understanding music-related social groups.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): identity; metal; skinhead; social boundary; style; subculture
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