Introduction to Subcultural Anthropology: Kogal

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 12, 2015 10:37am | Post a Comment
Even disregarding the sense having to do with bacteria, there are many definitions of "subculture." The longest that I've found is that of the The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition:

A group within a society that has its own shared set of customs, attitudes, and values, often accompanied by jargon or slang. A subculture can be organized around a common activity, occupation, age, status, ethnic background, race, religion, or any other unifying social condition, but the term is often used to describe deviant groups, such as thieves and drug users. ( See counterculture.)

No one will ever be able to document every subculture, or even agree upon what they are. With this series I will examine subcultures primarily organized around two things, music and clothing. That way I can largely avoid the can of worms which are gangs. For gangs, both music and clothing are of considerable importance but the engagement in of criminal activity is assumed to be their raison d'être. Also, I don't want to provoke a bunch of angry, misspelled comments written in all caps. 

This week's subculture: Kogal


The kogal (コギャル) subculture arose in Japan in the 1980s and became widely known in the Japanese mainstream after the airing of a 1993 television special, ザ・. コギャル NIGHT ("the Kogal night"). The subculture were further featured in the fictional 1997 film バウンス ko GALS ("bounce Kogal") (1997) depicted Kogals turning to prostitution to fund their insatiable materialism. In reality, many Kogals were apparently engaged in "paid dating" although for the vast majority that means involves little more than accompanying a man to karaoke in exchange for money and drinks. 

Vive les minets - French Dandyism in the 1960s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 8, 2014 08:00pm | Post a Comment
As a fan of fashion, youth subculture, and the 1960s, at some point I was bound to be made aware of the French minet subculture. Obviously, since I'm writing about it, that momentous occasion has arrived at some point in my past. I can't remember when or where it occurred (the internet is a safe bet) but in the intervening years I've found very little about this stylish group. Compounding my frustration is the fact that what little that I have uncovered about minets is almost always written or recorded in French -- a language of which a month of skipping class at College les pins Castries did little to improve my command. The French Wikipedia (Wikipédia) is humorously blunt in its entry: un jeune homme vêtu à la mode, équivalent masculin de la minette. Last and least -- most of what has been written about minets in English is by writers discussing within the larger context of mod subculture -- a style tribe about which far too much is artlessly written and rehashed.

A minet in 1965

With that in mind, however, kindly allow me briefly add to the conversational clutter concerning mod, as its evolution is tied closely to that of the minet. Although today mod is often characterized as a mid-60s, working class subculture fueled by the holy trinity of amphetamines, scooters and soul music, it first appeared in the late 1950s when a largely middle class group of mostly Jewish teenagers with families in the clothing business and for whom the chosen drug was apparently coffee. Modernists, as they then to themselves referred, championed modern jazz over trad jazz (which was championed by the Acker Bilk-listening, bowler-hatted, beer-swilling, baggy sweater-and-duffle coated trads). Sharing their love of modern jazz were the beatniks, but their beardy, black, cultivated scruffiness was rejected in favor of the natty continental style associated with untouchable icons of French cool like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon

We cannot walk the floor at night in peace -- a look back at Perry Boys

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 29, 2013 04:56pm | Post a Comment
Fred Perry

18 May was the 104th birthday of Fred Perry. As someone who'd generally rather poorly play any sport than watch others, no matter how good, this occasion in and of itself didn't mean much to me. Fred Perry was, I've read, a great tennis player but I reckon his name conjures up images of tennis shirts rather than tennis players. And for anyone remotely aware of youth subcultures, Fred Perry shirts have been part of many style tribes' uniforms. In fact, Fred Perry was so popular with a Mancunian tribe that arose in the late 1970s that they came to be known as "Perry Boys."


Rene LaCoste and Fred Perry
Lacoste (left) and Perry (right) in their creations (image source: Modern Gentleman Magazine)

The tennis shirt was invented in 1929 by French tennis star Jean René Lacoste but Fred Perry introduced several innovations to the article of clothing. As with Lacoste, Fred Perry shirts only came in white when they were introduced in 1952. The now signature twin-tipping was reportedly introduced to placate the demands of West Ham United football fans. When members of the Mod subculture adopted the shirt, more colors were added to cater to their tastes. (Fred Perry also invented the modern wrist sweatband although there's no excuse for wearing those off the court). 

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Sparare un paninazzo nel gargarozzo - a look back at Paninari

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 22, 2012 04:10pm | Post a Comment
Pet Shop Boys "Suburbia"

On this day (22 September), 1986, the Pet Shop Boys released the single "Suburbia" b/w "Paninaro," which introduced an Italian subculture to the wider world. It was certainly my introduction. 


Paninari - che è il gran gallo?

Paninari (the plural of Paninaro) were an Italian youth subculture in the 1980s. Their name came from the word "panino," Italian for "bread." La Stampa branded them that due to the fact that their original, preferred hang-out was the Al Panino, a sandwich joint in in Milan's Via Agnello, where they first congregated in 1983.  

In 1985 the now defunct Burghy, an Italian chain specializing in American fast food, opened a location on Piazza San Babila, that became their home base.

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Famous Grey Raincoat - Or, Silly Goth, Vampires Are for Kids!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 6, 2010 04:45pm | Post a Comment

 Class Hey Day crowds, 1950

In honor of this lovely weather we're having here in Los Angeles, I'm going to blog about the so-called Raincoat scene. Before Goth -- for that matter, before New Grave, Dark Wave, Cold Wave or any of those other overly specific scenes (that I will dutifully write about in time), the British music press took to lumping together a bunch of bands and their fans and calling them "raincoats." Why? Because since their invention in the 1850s, nothing has silently and eloquently conveyed, "I'm dark, brooding and Romantic" like slouching in a trench coat. OK, it could also convey, "I'm stealing porn and not wearing clothes underneath." That's a different sort of Raincoat Brigade.

Anton Corbijn - Ian Curtis

The earliest usage of "raincoat" in this sense that I've found is in an edition of NME. "1982 was also a year of recession in the U.K. A broken economy, you could argue, enabled both genres to flourish: sleek synth-pop helped people transcend national gloom, glowering raincoat-rock authorised them to wallow in it." 

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