Youth culture

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As a youth culture that are cultural activities and styles of young people within a common cultural scene called. The term was coined by Gustav Wyneken (1875–1964). The core of a youth culture is the establishment of a subculture of its own within an existing adult culture, as this does not offer the adolescents any satisfactory means of expression for their newly perceived attitude towards life.

More detailed determination

There is a youth subculture in the broadest sense in every new generation ( cf. youth sociology ), but not every time the overall culture is strongly influenced by it stylistically. Due to the complexity of the processes within a youth movement and their interaction with existing social, political, but also aesthetic elements of adult culture, the importance and influence of youth culture on a society are often controversially discussed.

The contents of a youth culture are mostly contrary to the mainstream of the adult world or specifically to the parent generation and also adapted peers or ironicize them.

Causes and essence

The starting point for a youth culture was usually an innovation in the field of music, fashions and attitudes , with which smaller groups of young people first developed innovative behavior, found imitators, then developed alternative modes of action and set up their own values , in extreme cases developed and actively passed on their own worldview . The acceptance within the respective generation decided whether this subculture expanded into a real youth culture, only survived as a subculture or was forgotten.

Because of the rapid spread and differentiation of styles since the 1990s, the process of the emergence of youth cultures can no longer be analyzed with this cyclical model of the emergence, expansion, manipulation and end of a style; Rather, commerce and subversion, authenticity and plagiarism coexist almost from the start. The interplay of film, music, fashion, merchandising and politics has perfected itself in hip-hop.

Different young people show - depending on their psychological disposition and social level - a differently strong affinity to their youth culture. They identify with a certain youth culture through group symbols . These are articulated in youth language , certain partially highly differentiated fashion trends in terms of music style or clothing , jewelry , tattoos , possibly in the consumption of certain intoxicants . Most of these symbols have cult status .

The processes associated with identification with a youth culture can only be recorded on a case-by-case basis and cannot be explained in general and comprehensive terms. On the one hand, there are often simple psychological motivations, such as increasing one's own attractiveness for the purpose of starting a partner search or breaking away from the parents' home, the demonstration of “adulthood”. On the other hand, the desire to participate in the creative shaping of society works , also on the basis of values imparted in childhood, including ideological values. Sex and violence fantasies also play a major role. Often one looks for the causes for the emergence of a youth culture in an orientation phase of the young people, in which existing values ​​are re-examined and assessed. This seems to be easier for adolescents within a group, since group dynamic effects work here.


The history of youth cultures in the post-war period began with the emergence of youth-specific commercial structures; H. with the discovery of appropriate target groups (initially teenagers ) and youth-specific products. Since then, every youth culture has been characterized by a certain form of participation in the culture of goods. Youth cultures are consumer communities that develop through the fetishization of certain goods, i.e. H. symbolically stylize it through a selection process in the act of consumption and subsequent symbolic transformation of the goods. Consumption renunciation and subversion are also still tied to this pattern.

Often the external characteristics of such a culture are quickly absorbed by a broad mass , and creative aspects are left behind. The interested industries are sucking up emerging youth cultures ever faster, thus robbing them of their content and authenticity. This goes as far as attempts to create “cults” through television and advertising without a youth movement having existed beforehand, and probably also contributes to a general cultural unease and loss of reference within the younger generations. The “cult” only lasts a moment and authentic youth cultures are very difficult to develop.

Young and young at heart

The emergence of pop culture in the 1950s gave rise to the phenomenon that more and more people who have long outgrown adolescence remain attached to “youth culture ” phenomena and continue to understand them as part of their lifestyle and identity . So find z. For example, in the audience of the Rolling Stones, people of advanced age who are still enthusiastic about the cultural enjoyment of rock today. But there are also bands that are not commercially successful (for example in the punk sector ) whose motivation lies less in profit than in the expression of an emotional structure that does not correspond to that of the general public. Adults who remain true to their youth culture often play an important role because they have the resources and organization for dissemination that young people lack and because they can build bridges of understanding.

On the other hand there is the "childification". This means that elements of youth culture are becoming so popular that they are also finding their way into children's lives as a result of commercialization, i.e. mediated via adults. Here, of course, youth culture is mostly trivialized, caricatured and reduced to child-friendly set pieces. Examples are the “Smurf Techno” of the 1990s or clothing for children, which represent a belittled version of hip-hop fashion and lift it out of the social framework in which this movement originally stood.

Youth cultures before 1945

The British non-fiction author and popular music historian Jon Savage presented a material-rich, internationally comparative history of youth culture in 2007 with the pioneering textbook TeenAge: die Invention der Jugend (1875–1945) , which has also been available in German since 2008 . Further examples are:

Youth cultures after 1945


The hippie movement originated in the United States in the 1960s. Mainly students from good middle and upper class families felt that they belonged to the hippie movement. Hippies often had flashy, colorful clothes, long hair and wore sandals (so-called Jesus slippers ). Many of them were adorned with jewelry. Their lifestyle was based on that of the hipsters . The consumption of marijuana , STP and LSD was typical for hippies . They also loved mother nature and advocated it. They had many symbols, such as B. the peace sign against war and the guitar with which they expressed their sense of community. Another feature is the hippie bus (often a particularly brightly painted Volkswagen T1 ). Their goal was to find more humane ways of life, prevent war and protect nature. They are committed to free love, peace and the legalization of drugs (to maintain closeness to nature). Their role models were Christ , Buddha , Francis of Assisi and Mahatma Gandhi . Many of them were followers of Far Eastern religions. They were seldom seen individually, but mostly in large groups. Society saw them as lazy, filthy, and drug-consuming vagabonds . The flower power arose from the hippie movement. Famous songs related to her movement included: "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" (by Scott McKenzie ) and "All you need is love" (by the Beatles ). Films like “ Easy Rider ” and “ Together! “Express their attitude towards life. The movement influenced the emergence of freefestivals and freetekkno in Great Britain, New Age and also the crustpunk scene in the 1980s. As direct successors there are rainbowgatherings and the Goa subculture to this day .


The predominantly left-wing political movements from 1967 to the mid-1970s ( student movement ), which were initially strongly influenced by adolescents and young adults, but at least not as an independent youth movement in the further course (see 68er , Ökos , Alternative Jugend, see also Neue social movements )



The punk scene emerged in New York in the mid-1970s and was later passed down to London, where the scene quickly spread. It consists largely of boys, the unemployed and poor students. The goal of the punks is to provoke the environment, have fun in the community and to distance oneself from the rest of society. Drug consumption also plays a role. Her motto is: Do it yourself. They produce their records and their clothes themselves. Everyday objects such as safety pins are used as accessories. The appearance is characterized by tattered clothing, combat boots, rivets , buttons and patches . Tattoos and piercings are also popular with punks. At first they wore their hair extremely short, later they were set up and colored with a lot of hairspray. The mohawk hairstyle in particular is automatically associated with the punk scene. Another distinguishing feature is the anarchy symbol, which the punks often wear. American punk rock is a simple form of rock and roll. The music of the punk scene is characterized by fast, short, aggressive and angry songs. The “ New York Dolls ”, the “ Ramones ” and the “ Sex Pistols ” were among the first punk bands .

Gothic and black scene

Dark Waver in a disco in Bavaria 1997

In the context of the punk and new wave movement, the New Romantic scene emerged at the end of the 1970s and, at the beginning of the 1980s, the Gothic culture and many other subcultures, many of which were grouped under the name Black Scene . The black scene is a milieu that is made up of parts of different scenes and the great commonality of which represents an aesthetic, self-portrayal and individualistic concept. In addition to the dominant color black, aesthetic awareness and supposed individuality are at the center of the black scene. These factors require a constant individual self-presentation against the background of meaning of the scene's internal aesthetics.


Popper in a roller skating disco in Munich, 1990s

The Popper are a youth culture that end have emerged in the 1970s, and have held up until the 1980s. Schoolchildren at the Hamburg high schools began to be very interested in the correct consumer attitudes. They spread in West Germany. Because of their behavior, they were often referred to as snobs . Poppers had a typical appearance: the hairstyle, called "popper cut", a long pony that was coiffed into the face, was often to be found. They also wore branded clothing from Lacoste , Burberry and Benetton as well as college shoes. This determined the ranking in the clique. Poppers only smoked expensive cigarettes and got around on their Vespa . They mostly came from the middle and upper classes, which is why it was possible for them to finance their style. In contrast to other youth cultures, they were peaceful, they "rebelled against the rebellion". This meant, for example, youth cultures critical of consumption (punks, hippies). Their nature was mostly perceived as arrogant, selfish and ignorant. Her appearance was characterized by her motto "Seeing and being seen is Popper's happiness on earth". They heard music from synthesizers and pop that included the romance. All other outsiders were considered proletarian. In her opinion, the most important thing was having fun in life. Critics refer to today's society as the image of poppers, as many people define themselves by their appearance.


Love Parade 2008 in Dortmund

The techno and house scene is also less critical of consumption than the politicized youth cultures of the 1960s and 1970s, but tried to evade the dictates of the mainstream and conformism through their own more individualistic consumption styles and at the rave or in the club on the dance floor a counter-model to rock music- To create star cult with its inflated stages. The focus is on the shared ecstatic musical experience - sometimes reinforced by drugs - and the expressive, intoxicating dancing to excess that is performed collectively. The DJ becomes the new star. With techno too, special attitudes towards life persist (e.g. individualism, experience-orientation, expressivity, affirmation or ironization of technology , politicization). There are mass-compatible currents as well as subcultural sub-scenes: House , Goa , Hardcore Techno, etc. a. m.

Hip hop

Hip-Hopper in a disco in Bavaria 1997

In hip-hop with the four elementary disciplines rap , graffiti writing, breakdancing and DJing, many opportunities to participate were opened up. Despite the commercialization of the music and the reduction to a commercial style of clothing, the youth culture survived, as the reputation within the hip-hop scene is only secured through participation, so doing it yourself is the focus.

In the

The indie / alternative (music) movement that has emerged since the mid-1980s has had a major impact on rock music to this day. In relation to youth cultural practice, the image of the “ slacker ” emerged, ideally represented by the musician Beck (“Loser”). The grunge bands of the late 1980s / early 1990s with their long hair and lumberjack shirts also represented a corresponding youth cultural identification model. The hype surrounding this music style is a good example of the rapid commercialization of a (also locally anchored) youth culture by the music industry .


The rocker lifestyle has its roots back in the 1940s. Characterized by the search for community and security, it was soldiers who had just returned home who got together in motorcycle clubs in order to be linked to an interest group in a similar hierarchical form. In addition, a very traditional patriarchal gender image is usually represented there. Increased willingness to use violence, due to an exaggerated code of honor, are just a few of the tendencies that have contributed to a radicalization of the scene in the following years. This certainly includes the group of self-proclaimed one-percenters who have subsequently increasingly become so-called business clubs (MCs with primarily economic interests). A progressive aging of this movement, which originally emerged as a youth culture, is considered to be one of the major problems that this group is increasingly having to face.


The hooligans who celebrate their violent rituals around sporting events (usually football games ) distinguish themselves from the ordinary fan ( football fan ) and from ultràs . Hooligans are mostly teenagers and young adults, but it is questionable whether this subculture can rightly be described as a “youth culture” in terms of its self-image.



Skinheads is now a collective term for all members of the skinhead scene, a very heterogeneous, youth-dominated subculture. What they have in common, above all , are their heads that are shaved close to their heads, as well as clothing, which features mostly heavy steel-toe boots and bomber , "Harrington" or "Donkey" jackets . In public, the term “skinhead” is mostly used synonymously with “ neo-Nazi ”. In view of the politically very heterogeneous scene, this equation is only half correct. The skinheads, which have appeared since the late 1960s, have since gone through processes of change and division. At the end of the 1970s, a new part of the scene emerged. This developed a xenophobic, neo-Nazi attitude and consciously resorted to the clothing and style of the previous skinheads. Furthermore, neo-Nazi symbols were added to the identifying features. Since the mid-1990s, there have been symbols with originally right connotations, forms of expression up to music and an associated culture industry beyond the right-wing extremist environment, just as in the context of right-wing youth culture there are also approaches to set oneself apart from the right-wing extremist skinhead milieu. Right-wing extremists, on the other hand, tried to occupy new symbols and forms of expression that, although not or were not punishable by punishment, could still serve as a symbol of recognition for the initiated and a provocation for opponents. These include certain numerical codes and symbols and various originally from Germanic mythology and paganism native symbols


Heavy metaller in Munich, 1994

The metal scene, culture, community or community called Metal emerged in the 1980s around the music style of the same name . An age-independent, heterogeneous social network developed from the initially youth-cultural community, whose common point of reference is metal music and its constantly evolving sub-styles. Within the scene, a differentiation can be made out of such different musical currents with their own events, discos, media and fashion elements. In sub-areas, further differentiations are made through ideological aspects, which are based in particular on the song texts of the performers. The metal scene is correspondingly heterogeneous.

Stereotypical, fashionable identifiers include items of clothing printed with band names or album motifs, especially T-shirts. Such band shirts and other distinctive signs such as tight black leather clothing, long hair, tattoos referring to aspects of metal or so-called frocks, denim vests with band and album patches are common in the scene, but not with every fan of metal -Culture encountered.

In addition to the music, certain content-related complexes, which are repeated in many sub-currents and are counted in the content-related scene canon, offer additional points of contact with one another. Confrontations with the figure of the devil, literary genres such as fantasy, science fiction and horror, Nordic mythology or negative emotions such as hate and anger or fear, horror and grief take place. Music as well as the social good of the scene take up an independent set of topics. The representation of the scene and music are often accompanied by idealized descriptions of parties, sex and drugs.


The Psychobilly scene developed in the early 1980s with the formation of the band The Meteors . The music is a mix of rockabilly and punk. Typical features of this group are the hairstyle, the so-called flat top , and bleached trousers. The dance style is similar to pogo , but is referred to as wrecken . The scene sees itself as apolitical.

Straight edge

Straight Edge is a youth culture originally from the hardcore punk environment , which tries to break away from the sometimes massive alcohol and drug use of the rest of the punk scene. The complete renouncement of alcohol, tobacco and all other drugs is central to the straight edge idea. This often goes hand in hand with a vegetarian or even vegan lifestyle. At the same time, you set yourself apart from the classic eco with tattoos and accentuated body styling. Straight Edge had a significant influence in Sweden in the late 1990s.


Emo with typical hairstyle and piercings

The subculture of emos is often portrayed as overemotional and sensitive. Emos are generally thought of as weaklings in society who injure themselves with razor blades. The term emo is derived from "Emotional Hardcore Punk". The youth culture has its origin in Washington, DC The emos are neutral in politics and critical of society. Bands such as Rites of Spring , Indian Summer, Moss Icon or Hot Cross serve as music examples . The black hair is often seen as external features, the bangs are often worn asymmetrically (one eye is covered), individual strands of hair are colored lighter / darker. The more popular clothes include merchandise shirts and sweaters, gloves with symbols are often worn, women wear colorful torn tights, have high-teased hair, and chains are occasionally worn accessories. In addition, certain areas of the face, such as the eyes, are mostly made up very clearly for both sexes.


The youth culture of gamers is very modern. It arose with the development of the personal computer and was revolutionized by the Internet and the development of video games . Gamers usually invest a lot of time and money in such video games. Many gamers pursue their hobby alone or with like-minded people.

Surfers and skaters

Skateboarder in the jump

Surf culture originated in Hawaii more than 1000 years ago . The surf is often associated with youth culture skater associated. This originated in the USA in the 1950s. The clothes and the style are usually quite simple. Loose trousers and simply printed T-shirts make the style. Well-known surfing brands are Billabong , O'Neill , Vans as well as Roxy and Quiksilver . Most of these brands are also skater brands. The music cannot be related to the general surf / - and skater culture as it is very different. It ranges from pop to electro and dubstep and goes all the way to rock. Surfers and skaters are not very active politically.


Japanese cosplayers ( Comiket , Tokyo )

Cosplay stands for "costume play", which means something like dressing up and posing as a fictional character. It's not a lifestyle: When it comes to cosplay, the focus is on having fun tailoring and handicrafts. Cosplayers are part of the manga and anime fan scene , so the costumes come from the Japanese comic world. However, they are also represented in other, partly western youth cultures, such as furryism .

Cosplay is originally from Japan. The first cosplayers appeared there around the end of the 1970s. This youth culture spread in Germany from 1996 onwards. The reasons for this include the Japanese anime series Sailor Moon and the manga Dragonball . Since then, the fan base in Germany has been growing rapidly. There are now several thousand cosplayers in Germany, and the trend is rising. Cosplayers are networked via the internet. Scene news is exchanged in relevant online communities. Meetings have been taking place at so-called anime-manga conventions and book fairs since the late 1990s . There the self-made costumes are presented. Those who are self-confident bring their “ Con-Hon ” with them, a kind of poetry album in which the acquaintances in the scene are immortalized with greetings and manga drawings.

Fridays for Future

The Fridays for Future campaign was started by the then 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg . The climate and protest movement, which has been active since 2018 , is sometimes also referred to as a youth movement. This consists largely of schoolchildren. The aim is to push for the most comprehensive, quick and efficient climate protection measures possible ; to do this, the movement uses a form of civil disobedience by not attending school .

In addition to the rethinking of society as a whole, which is seen as necessary, the demands are largely directed at politics and other people with social responsibility, and thus often at people of older generations, who in the past did not take sufficient measures to contain the effects of climate change.

Adults are also generally held accountable, as many of the protesters, often minors, see their own ability to achieve something limited, for example not yet entitled to vote.

Youth cultures in the GDR

A partially independent youth culture developed in the GDR . A GDR-specific youth scene was the blueser or customer scene , which reached its peak in the late 1970s. Their followers described themselves as "bluesers", "customers" or "hitchhikers". The movement's guiding principles were ideals from the hippie era, such as freedom , authenticity and non-conformism . She was characterized by identical behavior patterns, musical preferences ( blues rock , southern rock ) and a special outfit. Clothing standards were Levi's 501 blue jeans , sandals (“Jesuslatschen”), brown suede shoes (“ Tramper”), blue and white striped work shirts (“butcher shirts”) and a parka (“Shelli”). The scene was driven by local bands such as Freygang , Engerling (band) , Jürgen Kerth , Monokel (band) and the Jonathan Blues Band .

Youth cultures outside the western cultural area

The visual kei movement originated in Japan. In it, emphasis is placed on an individual and usually very colorful and exotic appearance , there is no uniform style of music. The costumes are partly based on Gothic and Punk, but there is no reference to these scenes. In the formerly very traditional and authoritarian Japan with its high concept of loyalty, all common, formerly Western, youth cultures have been present at the latest since the 1990s.


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  • Eva Kimminich, Heinz Geuen, Michael Rappe, S. Pfänder, (Eds.): Express Yourself! Europe's creativity between the market and the underground . Transcript, Bielefeld 2007, ISBN 978-3-89942-673-1 .
  • Christoph jacket, Eva Kimminich, Siegfried J. Schmidt (ed.): Kulturschutt: About the recycling of theories and cultures . Transcript, Bielefeld 2006, ISBN 3-89942-394-1 .
  • Matthias Schwartz, Heike Winkel (Eds.): Eastern European Youth Cultures in a Global Context . Palgrave Macmillan, London 2016, ISBN 978-1-137-38512-3 .
  • Ronald Hitzler , Arne Niederbacher : Life in Scenes: Forms of juvenile communalization today . Springer-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-531-92532-5 .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gustav Wyneken: School and youth culture. 2nd Edition. Diederichs, Jena 1914, DNB 578450127 .
  2. Birgit Richard: Manipulation? Hyperconsumption Strategies? The techno and house scene. In: Pierangelo Maset (Ed.): Pedagogical and psychological aspects of media aesthetics: Contributions from the DGfE congress 1998 "Media Generation". Berlin 2013, p. 115.
  3. ^ Wilfried Ferchhoff: Youth and Youth Cultures in the 21st Century: Lifestyles and Lifestyles. Berlin 2007, p. 202 ff.
  4. Birgit Richard: Manipulation? Hyperconsumption Strategies? The techno and house scene. In: Pierangelo Maset (Ed.): Pedagogical and psychological aspects of media aesthetics: Contributions from the DGfE congress 1998 "Media Generation". Berlin 2013, p. 115.
  5. There was already a youth culture in the Middle Ages. In: February 24, 2014, accessed on July 22, 2014 (Johannes Koder from the Institute for Byzantine and Neo-Greek Studies at the University of Vienna).
  6. Bianca Klose and a .: Right-wing extremist youth cultures, neo-Nazi orientations in urban areas. Using the example of Berlin. Dossier. Federal Agency for Civic Education, May 8, 2007.
  7. Bianca Klose and a .: Right-wing extremist youth cultures. 2007, p. 2.
  8. ^ Fridays For Future - Revolt instead of politics. Retrieved August 28, 2019 .
  9. ^ Sophia Schirmer: Fridays for Future: The almost perfect youth movement . In: The time . August 2, 2019, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed on August 28, 2019]).
  10. Is an ecological youth movement emerging? Retrieved August 28, 2019 .
  11. ^ Michael Rauhut: Blues in the GDR. In: PopScriptum. No. 8, Humboldt University of Berlin.