To begin with I was quite apprehensive about the constellation sessions. I didn’t understand why I was learning about things which, at the time, I believed were not relevant to my specific subject area of textiles. As constellation carried on, I began to see that though some of the topics we were talking about were not relevant to my specialism, they would help me in the future. Whether this be, how to talk about my work in a more academic way or how to evaluate my work. There were definitely sessions which I did not like, but there were also sessions which I enjoyed.
One constellation lecture which I really enjoyed was Cath Davies ‘Teenage Kicks – Cultural Approaches to Dr. Martens Boots.’ The lecture explained that when Dr. Martens were first produced they were originally designed as workwear, the target audience included policemen and even OAPs! They were and were advertised as ‘comfortable’ and sturdy not fashionable. We then looked at how young people in different scenes and groups adopted the brand and claimed it, changing its entire image. Therefore, the function of Dr. Martens was only the starting point, the different connotations were the focus. Throughout the decades the Dr. Marten boots have meant and represented different scenes. In the 60s they were the image of skinheads and mods, in the 70s the punks claimed them, if you wore them in the 80s you were a Goth and in the 90s they were seen as a piece of Britpop and grunge iconography.
This being my favourite constellation lecture, I decided to choose Cath’s option for constellation in term two. Her option was called ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit: Subcultures and Street Style.’ I was intrigued about the main theme of the option. We were told we would be introduced to subcultures such as Goths, Punks, Teds etc. We would use these subcultures as case studies for academic theories and concepts. For me, this made it easier to learn these key concepts, as we were able to visualise what we were learning about.
Cath made it feel easier to evaluate the different images we were given. We learnt a strategy where we would split our information into three columns; Describe the characteristics of the image, Analysis of the meanings/connotations and Theoretical underpinning/Academic studies. I was very thankful for being taught this simple yet effective method as I feel that evaluating and academic writing has never been a strong point for me. It is something which I was quite nervous about when we started the constellation sessions yet I feel much more at ease now.
At the moment I am writing my essay for constellation. I decided to base my essay on the skinhead subculture. At the beginning I wanted to focus on Kate Moss and create an essay based on three inspiring images I had found. However, when it came to evaluating the images, I struggled to incorporate all of the academic studies which we had learnt about. I felt that I should concentrate on something which was more relevant to the option I had chosen. I spoke to Cath during a tutorial about this decision and she confirmed that she thought this was a better idea.
Overall I have enjoyed the constellation sessions, I have found them interesting and helpful for my work in Textiles. I feel that I am already able to evaluate my personal work in a better and more beneficial way.
Here are a few books I’m using for research for my essay on the subculture of skinheads..
Surfers, Soulies & Skaters – Subcultural Style from the Forties to the Nineties : Amy De La Haye and Cathie Dingwall. Published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1996.
Skinheads Shaved for Battle – A Cultural History of American Skinheads : Jack B. Moore. 1993 by Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
Subculture – The Meaning of Style : Dick Hebdidge. Published in 1979 by Methuen & Co. Ltd.
Gender : Harriet Bradley. Published in 2007 by Polity.
Today we had our last constellation session with Cath before the Easter Break.
We covered the Goth subculture briefly. We discussed how the subculture originated and what it’s stereotypical style and themes. The Gothic subculture owes its origins to British Gothic and Horror literature e.g. Frankenstein and Dracula. It is also influenced by the Victorian style. Themes such as death, hauntings, decay and monstrosity are evident in the subculture – this lends itself to the Gothic style, which consists mainly of dark or black clothing made of lace, velvet etc. The Goth style incorporates both faux-period elements with fetish styles, for example the combination of corsetry with PVC fabrics. This was the final case study we would be looking at with Cath.
Today I had my tutorial with Cath about my work and ideas on my essay so far. We were told to find images which intrigued us and write notes on what we wanted to base our essay on. We were told to use the three column system, to make it easier for ourselves when we come to write the essay.
I have decided to base my essay on the subculture of skinheads. I decided upon this after re-watching the film “This is England” one weekend. I found their appearance and strong connotations interesting. I came across a few different images which I spoke about in my tutorial:
This first image showed me the stereotypical image of a skinhead, the skin-tight jeans, the braces, the Dr. Martens and of course the short ‘buzz cut’ hairstyle..
I found this image, and it intrigued me that though there are some small differences between male and female skinheads, they are generally very similar. For example, the specific brands they wear, the Dr. Martens and the shaved hairstyles. I discussed with Cath that I was interested in the idea that both genders in the skinhead subculture share their stereotypical appearance, which may not occur in all other subcultures…
Finally, I showed Cath this image which I had found. Amy Winehouse was not seen as a ‘skinhead’ however, in this picture we can see obvious items which were worn by members of this subculture. For example the Fred Perry button up shirt, the braces..
I spoke to Cath about the fact that though I was sure I wanted to base my essay on subcultures, I was undecided what area to focus on. She advised me to keep researching into the areas which interested me. We also came up with a potential essay question.
I found the session incredibly helpful and I can actually say I’m excited about researching and writing my essay!
Today we used the street style of ‘Harajuku’ as a case study. Last week we mostly focused on academic theories of subcultures, specifically using punk as a case study, this week we concentrated more on our assignment. We began by summarising an extract by Groom, A (2009) from Fashion and Identity in Harajuku, we then went on to analyse two images of harajuku girls using the three column system we have been taught in previous sessions. We were told that we should find our own images which we should then analyse in this way, this would make writing our essay easier and we would be more prepared.
The three columns are: Describe characteristics of the image, Analyse the connotations/meanings and Theoretical perspectives.
From Groom’s extract and the images which we analysed we ascertained that the main characteristics of the Harajuku style are pink, young girl’s clothes, a mixture “of traditional Japanese dress, Western retro fashion…futuristic cyber-style…and found/cheap mass-produced objects…”
Next week we have a one to one tutorial about our assignment, we are to choose pictures and analyse them with the column system we have learnt. I began looking for images a couple of weeks ago and found a few of Kate Moss, however when it came to analysing these images I struggled. I have now decide to focus on the skinhead subculture. I feel this will be easier for me as I can analyse the images using the theoretical perspectives we have covered in these sessions.
In todays session we concentrated on the subculture of punk. We looked at a section from Fashion Theory : A Reader by Barnard M (2007) page 256-266 by Dick Hebdige.
We began the session by reflecting quickly on what we had done last week, we looked at the key concepts we should be applying to the case studies which we had covered. We then had to work in groups to discuss and analyse the main points in Hebdige’s article on subculture style and punk.
1. “Subculture bricoleur” – is the idea of taking an object and changing it’s original function and meaning, for example, the Teds and the Edwardian suit. The suits were put it in a context and therefore had a new and different meaning from its original.
2. “Semiotic guerrilla warfare” – Umberto Eco, 1973 – is the idea of making a statement by breaking societies rules via objects, styles etc. It is the idea of being against the mainstream, anti-establishment values.
3. Characteristics of punk style and ideological statement expressed within these stylistic qualities – Clothes which are deliberately ripped and damaged, safety pins as jewellery, trashy/cheap fabrics e.g. PVC/plastic, bondage, dyed hair and exaggerated make up, school uniform, women shaved hair, Mohawk..
4. “Style as homology” – All these things still have a uniform, punks have a set of rules/shared values.
We discussed that at the time punk style would be shocking, however, these things can be isolated from their original meaning now. We simply see it as a style now, it is no longer shocking and is no longer a statement.
We then began analysing the ‘God Save The Queen’ Sex Pistols album cover..
My notes on the album cover..
Due to a strike the previous constellation session with Cath was cancelled so today we covered what we missed as well as what was planned for this session.
Today we covered a lot of different subcultures and their styles, we began by reading an extract by Woodward, 2002, the key concept we took from this piece was the idea of symbolic marking – Woodward 2002 – the idea of having a visual or aesthetic language which other ‘gangs’ cant join in on.
We then went on to put this idea into a case study. We discussed the hip-hop genre and style, we analysed the image below.
By dressing in a certain way you are making a statement about what ‘gang’ you are in – thus displaying symbolic marking. In hip-hop the characteristics included wearing sportswear, specifically branded sportswear – adidas. They did not wear laces in their trainers, they took the items out of their original context and did not use them for their original function. If you wore your trainers laced up and did not wear the official brand the hip-hop style had claimed then you would not be part of the gang.
We went on to look at another extract, by Clarke, S; Hall, S; Jefferson, T; Roberts, B (1975) called Introduction to Subcultures, Objects and Identity. The key concept we gained from looking at this piece was the “activity of stylisation” – Clarke, S; Hall, S; Jefferson, T; Roberts, B (1975) – the idea that objects and items are put together deliberately to create a specific style which can be recognised.
We then spoke about two other styles as case studies – The Zoot Suit and The Teds, both gave different meanings and connotations to the suit. Both styles reclaimed the zoot and changed it to give it these different meanings.