The definition of normality is an ever- changing social metamorphosis
Walking through Manchester is an experience. The Northern Quarter is home to the famous Afflecks Palace, arty and Bohemian independent shops, bars and cafes.
The Village is the home of the LGBTQ+. Then there is China Town and Deansgate. Manchester is a city where all people come together to celebrate differences, accept otherness and create inclusive belonging regardless of looks, background, status and interests.
The term subculture is a controversial term as it implies that there is a dominant overarching culture that is the ideal. Hargreaves is a sociologist who resonates with this and defines subcultures as a symbolic resistance that reflects that not everyone is the same.
Subcultures have faced a lot of difficulties over the years, some more than others. Manchester was the first city to use their police authority to add subcultures to the list of possible hate crimes following the murder of Sophie Lancaster.
Local Government Policy
Many forces are following Manchester’s policies, including Durham, East Sussex and Lancashire. At the time of writing Leicester was the ninth and most recent force to incorporate subdivisions into their guidelines. Unfortunately, not all forces have adopted this stance yet as there is still a perception that people who dress in certain ways are asking for it. This can also be observed in other social settings; a woman who is wearing a short skirt, or a woman walking alone at night.
Sophie was attacked while out with her boyfriend for ‘looking different’. According to the people who knew Sophie, her unique look was an expression of her individuality and artistic nature. She was classed as gothic in looks as she donned the dark style of clothing and make up. Goths are a part of the alternative subculture, along with emo’s, punks, Metallers and hippies. This discernible group usually have a strong sense of identity and group specific values.
One of the main values for this division of society is that they are not prejudiced against differences. One reporter found that across Europe, alternative people are usually middle class, refined, sensitive people who like literature and despise anti-social behaviour but were unhappy with the material and elitism that the popular subcultures adored.
Some researchers describe the grouping of alternative identities to be a way of seeking belonging and asserting that they are different to the dominant norms and values. What happens however, when the alternative culture becomes normal?
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Goths have faced criticism because of the misconception that they are all depressed. This has followed suit with emo’s, punks, and everything that is classed as alternative. Most recently teenagers, adults and even grandparents have begun to add colour to their hair. The older generation is choosing to maintain their grey hair instead of having their regular trips to the hairdressers for their blue rinses. Opting for tinting shampoo instead so that they can give their hair a blue, purple or pink tint to match their identity each day.
When the teenagers were off school because of COVID-19 they swiftly took the opportunity to dye their hair bright colours in multiple numbers, some altering the colour on a weekly basis. With this alternative trend taking over, individuals reiterate the same reasons as Sophie Lancaster did; to have an individual identity; to show uniqueness. This trend is permeating society at all levels and what was once the unusual and unconventional, is now becoming the popular.
An alternative explanation for the mass hair colouring, according to some researchers, is that bright hair is a symptom of poor mental health. With lockdowns, COVID-19 and the deteriorating mental health of many people, this theory cannot be denied. However, is it possible that such enormous proportions of the population are all struggling with their mental health at the same time and in the same way, with the same coping strategy? Is it so hard to believe that the alternative is becoming popular because more people wish to be individual rather than follow the trends?
There is the possibility that with people being restricted from others socially, they have an opportunity to become self-aware and to allow their own identity to develop without risk of being abandoned by the group that they once belonged to.
The alternative cultures have been found to adore things that the rest of society sees as strange or unusual, find beauty in the sorrowful and befriend those who have been cast out. They create a home where difference is embraced, celebrated and fostered. Where they once only felt able to do this in Manchester, there are strong signs that they will be able to experience acceptance and belonging nationally. As will the whole of the population.