Research Question: What is a subculture, and provide an example of a subculture with details to substantiate your claim.
In this paper I will provide information to substantiate the claim that skateboarders are a subculture of mainstream society. After explaining the definition of culture, I will explain the characteristics of a subculture, and how skateboarding fits that description. I will also give a brief history of skateboarding, in relation to how the public sees skateboarders through the media. Once this is clearly laid out, I will outline the norms, values, and artifacts that separate skateboarding from dominant sports culture. With my personal experience as a skateboarder, I hope to provide valuable insight into the culture and lifestyles associated with skateboarding. I will use these concepts to argue that skateboarding is a subculture in its own right.
A subculture is a combination of values, norms, artifacts, and lifestyles within a larger culture. Culture as a whole is made up of many different subcultures, each with their own attitudes and special behaviors (Penguin Dictionary of Sociology 2006 p.384).
Mainstream sports vary from region to region. Association football is widely considered the world’s most popular sport, but any sport watched on national television by millions of fans is considered the mainstream of the sporting world.
Skateboarding culture originated as an extension of surfing culture, and many tenants of surfing culture, such as anti-establishment views and freedom of expression, carried over into skateboarding (Brooke 1999).
Skateboarding has been around since the early 1950’s, when surfers wanted a way to mimic surfing without the water. Skateboarding then, was known as “sidewalk surfing” to many local skateboarders. The name “sidewalk surfing” comes from skateboarders wanting to do surfing-like maneuvers while traveling at a high rate of speed. Then 1950’s were the opening era of skateboarding, but it was not very ...
This has lead to mixed views of the sport, and its practitioners, in the media.
The sport started in the late 1950s as a way for surfers to practice when the surf was poor. (Brooke 1999, p. 20) The earliest term for skateboarding was ‘sidewalk surfing’, (Brooke 1999, p.17) for the carving motion early skateboarders would make on the board, emulating a surfing motion. Early skateboarders would practice in drained pools around Southern California, where they where frequently at odds with the authorities. This added to the negative impression mainstream people had of skateboarders.
Generally, the skateboarding community is well received by the media today. But, this was not always the case. In the 1970s, skateboarding was closely linked to the punk rock movement, and the anti-establishment movement (Brooke 1999).
The public would only hear about skateboarders through conservative media reports. Images of punks, deadbeats, and criminals were popular when describing skateboarders, and they where considered a ‘menace’ in the San Francisco Bay area (Brooke 1999 p. 21).
Skateboarding suffered a steep decline in popularity through the 1980s, until rebirth of skateboarding in the 1990s. This is largely due to the reimagining of skateboarding as a sport by newer athletes. This increase in popularity helped the fledgling skateboarding industry become the powerhouse that it is today, and with a cleaner image, has changed the public perception from hatred to acceptance (Steyn 2004).
Due to a recent increase in good publicity, skateboarding is experiencing a renaissance. Many young kids are picking up skateboards, and becoming highly skilled athletes. The skateboarding industry is also benefitting from the exponential rise in skateboarders, as their markets are expanding. This growth is attributed by Steyn (2004) to a strong foundation based derived from older and more mature professional skateboarders. Athletes like Tony Hawk, the first millionaire in the sport and large contributor to charity, help to turn long held negative attitudes toward skateboarders into more positive views. With an increase of custom made skate-parks, areas designed particularly for skateboarding, municipalities the world over no longer need to worry about trespassing and destruction due to adventurous teens with skateboards.
Ancient Greece is one of the most ancient civilizations in history and some historians say it is one of the greatest. They have survived many invasions and attacks from barbarians and Persians as well. The Greeks those times were divided into city states and they don’t have any form of alliance with each other. They don’t help each other on wars they except for times that they don’t have a choice. ...
Values are the ideals that society holds as a whole on what is good and bad (Macionis & Plummer 2012, p.150).
These are the commonly held beliefs of what should be, rather than what is. Values are slow to change, and are learned through socialization. Fundamentally, values are what bind individuals to their society (Penguin Dictionary of Sociology 2006, p. 409).
Common values of skateboarders include anti-establishment behavior against police. This is usually in the form of skateboarding on private or municipal property, not violence or disturbing the peace (Moore 2009).
A piece of architecture that would be interesting for skateboarding, such as a set of stairs, draws in skaters and they will generally skate there until they are kicked out. This puts individual skaters at odds with the police, and in some cases has lead to laws banning skateboarding in public places, since there is an element of danger to both the athletes and the public.
Another value held in the skating community is the pursuit of alternative ways of having fun. This is what attracts most people to trying the sport, and has lead to the umbrella label for all board sports as extreme sports (Brooke 1999, p.2).
Skateboarding also has values in common with other team sports. Encouragement of fellow athletes is expected of participants, as better boarders teach tricks to the less experienced, and the professional athletes compete due to love for their sport over financial compensation (Moore 2009).
At competitions, skateboarders, like other professional athletes, will sign autographs and interact with their fans. They hold clinics for younger skateboarders and have their own merchandise (Moore 2009).
A norm is generally regarded as “the rules and expectations by which a society guides the behavior of its members” (Macionis & Plummer 2012, p.152).
Norms are used to govern the behavior of individuals in society, so that there is a sense of conformity. The subsets of norms are mores and folkways. Sumner states that mores are traditional values of the society, and carry heavier punishments if broken. He also introduced the idea that folkways as everyday commonalities between people, such as working for a living, and they carry less severe punishments (1906).
Deaf Culture and Sports Deaf culture has made difference and a great contributions to the world of sports, having made it the way we see today. But there are very few people who realizes it. The real start up of deaf culture in Sports began with the appearance of Deaf World Games. Deaf World Games (DWG) or Deaflympics, the way it is called at the present time, have a long history, beginning with ...
Clothing tends to ascribe people to their lifestyles and skateboarders are easily distinguishable from other athletes. Skateboarders are usually dressed in loose fitting shorts and tee shirts that do not constrict their movement. This is important because tight clothing can restrict the range of movement they need. On the opposite side of the spectrum, extremely loose fitting or long clothing is not the best choice. Baggy jeans could become caught in the wheels of the board, and leave the skateboarder injured.
However, skateboarding does not have a ubiquitous clothing style. Different skateboarders choose to wear different clothing styles, depending on their background or who their favorite skateboarder is. Elements of hip hop clothing styles, as well as punk rock clothing styles, are worn by different skaters (Hunter 2001).
One common thread among many skateboarders is branded clothing from companies in the skateboarding industry. This includes tee shirts and pants, but is predominantly is seen in their choice of shoes. Skate shoes come in many varieties of colors and patterns, but always have a perfectly flat sole. Anyone wearing shoes that do not conform to this standard might be seen as a lesser skateboarder, regardless of experience, and could possibly be shunned (Brooke 1999).
This demonstrates that even this subculture has its own folkways.
An artifact is a tangible link to the culture (Macionis & Plummer 2012, p.154).
Examples in the wide world include the yarmulke (male head covering) in Judaism, and chopsticks in Chinese culture. These material goods are ways for people outside of the culture to recognize some one who is a part of that culture. Different cultures could have items wildly different from an item in another culture, but they are used for the same task. For example, chopsticks serve the same purpose as a fork and knife does in Western culture.
The skateboard is the most obvious and prolific artifact of the skateboarding world. Its use defines an individual as a member of the culture (Brooke 1999, p.20).
The parts of a skateboard include the deck, where you put your feet, the trucks, which attach the wheels to the deck, and the wheels, which are made of polyurethane. Every piece of the board is customizable, which makes it possible for each skateboarder to show their individual tastes and personality. The skateboard is considered an extension of the rider (Steyn 2004, p.12), and is crucial to expression in the sport. It is adorned with graphics and stickers on the underside, which convey the individuality of the board’s owner. It is also used for transportation, and the means of performing tricks.
Skateboarding is one of the most unique, enjoyable, and physically demanding sports in the world. Like baseball, basketball and football, skateboarding his endured many changes and fluctuations in popularity, and has emerged as one of the most entertaining and satisfying activities enjoyed by both today?s youth and its adults. The goal of this paper is to inform about the history, evolution and ...
The skill of the skateboarder is also evident by looking at the wear and tear that their skateboard has. A worn skateboard, characterized by the scraping of paint from the underside of the board, could mean that the rider is proficient at difficult grinding tricks. This helps beginning skateboarders and people unaccustomed with the sport to identify a more experienced skater. Thus, the more wear on the board, the higher standing in the community (Steyn 2004, p.15).
In relation to mainstream society, nothing compares to the importance of a skateboard to a skateboarder.
While looking at skateboarding and mainstream sports culture, it is clear that they are two separate but not entirely different social groups. Ideas like team work and trying your hardest are intrinsically linked to every sport, regardless of how mainstream it is. In my own experience skateboarding, the values, norms, and artifacts are what set the sport apart from the dominant culture.
Ambercrombie, N., Hill, S. and Turner, B.S. (2006) Penguin Dictionary of Sociology, 5th ed., London: Penguin.
Brooke, M. (1999), Concrete wave: the history of skateboarding. Toronto, Ontario.
Gelder, K., ed. (2005) The Subcultures Reader, 2nd ed., London: Routledge.
Hunter, J. (2001), ‘Flying-through-the-air Magic’: Skateboarders, fashion and social identity (Unpublished doctoral dissertation).
University of Wales, Cardiff, Wales.
Macionis J.J. and Plummer, K. (2012) Sociology, 5th ed., Harlow: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
McClay, K. (2011), Assessing the park visitor behavior at Los Osos skate park (unpublished senior project).
California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo.
Moore, L. (2009 ‘An ethnographic study of the skateboarding culture’. The Sports Journal. 12: 4
The X Games is one of the more popular sporting events, where people gather to watch athletes compete in extreme sports. Some of these sports include skateboarding, mountain biking and motorcycle racing. The community around extreme sports can sometimes be seen as exclusive and particular when it comes to defining what an extreme sport is and who is a true extremist. Originally, I believe the ...
Steyn, D. (2004), ‘the body in public culture: skateboarder’. Preamble. 1:1. 12
Sumner, W.G. (1906), Folkways, New York, Dover.