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Beyond Flat Ironed Hair: Challenging Conformity and Seeking Substance in the Hardcore Scene

Originally Published: Thursday, December 16, 2004
Written by: Jon Burger  
Edited by: Kelly Sisterhood 11/2023

Introduction: Observations from an Outsider

First of all, I am not “edge” or “hardcore.” I write articles from the standpoint of a semi-intelligent bystander. I have researched edge foundations and some hardcore/emo music, and I have many friends in the movement, ranging in age from 14 to 28. I also drink socially. I am not trying to offend anyone with my article, so I apologize if I do. Feel free to email me your comments at [email protected]. Enjoy.

The Uniformity of the Hardcore Scene

It really confuses me when I go to a show and see four or five kids hanging out together, sporting the same hair, clothes, and overall look. They resemble little robots, unsure of their function, but certain of one thing: they must look cool. That’s their number one rule.

The Paradox of Rebellion in Dress Code

Almost everyone wants to look good to their friends and strangers. However, kids in the hardcore scene seem even more intent on this. The most repulsive aspect is their belief that this conformity is a form of rebellion, intended to provoke thought. In reality, it typically achieves one of two things: it either attracts romantic attention or makes them look foolish to the public, which is no different from the “tools” they claim to despise.

The Contradictions of the Straight Edge Movement

There’s a line in a song that goes, “If you are really smart, you’ll know what to do.” So why do many outside the straight edge movement view it as a fad? Perhaps it’s the approach, or the perceived hypocrisy of rejecting alcohol as a foreign substance while accepting tattoos. Rumors of aggression towards those who smoke or break edge don’t help either. The greatest issue, however, might be the simple apathy of the kids in the movement. Rather than making thought-provoking statements, many prefer to follow trends from websites like www.straightedgeforlife.com, which now sell camouflaged hoodies previously used for deer hunting. Modern edge kids seem to lack the live-and-let-live attitude, choosing instead to belittle those who drink.

Apathy and Superficiality in the Movement

Of the approximately 50 edge kids I know, none volunteer at AA meetings or drug prevention centers, nor do they distribute educational flyers on the dangers of alcohol abuse. All they seem to do is attend shows to look cool, buy the latest merchandise, and then criticize political figures without realizing their own conservative, self-centered tendencies.

A Call to Action for Genuine Involvement

I invite everyone to email me at [email protected] with answers to these questions: How many of you have volunteered or helped with addiction services? Perhaps only a few, if any, have done so. It’s easy to support a movement when it’s fashionable, but genuine involvement requires more than just appearance. As a scripture I recall states, “Faith without works is dead.” Looking the part means little without active efforts to enact change.

Comments
Written by Guest on 2005-09-22 14:09:17
Written by Guest on 2005-09-22 11:09:09
Written by televised pianos on 2005-08-10 12:46:54i had a really hard time reading this article. it was just oozing with ignorance. Now im 20 years old, and i have found my niche, and i have found what works for me. Most of the kids you are seeing are younger kids who are really trying to find themselved. Anyone who has successfully done so, knows how u do it. You try to be like everyone else. I dont know where u went to school, but by me, if you didnt have the right clothes or shoes, you were taughted. So everyone just tryed to do their best at being trendy… and that is what these kids are going out and doing. What makes ME crazy. are the girls that show up at shows, with skirts on, manicures, and kitten heels. Then they cry when they hit in the face, because they were standing outside the pit so they could watch their tough jock boyfriend who is only there because he is friends with the band, try to do something like “moshing.” Those are the people that just fuckin piss me off. and not for nothing, but i have a hard time watching somone destroy themselved from the inside out. As for the “beating kids up who have broken edge,” i dont think you understand. Straight edge is about self-disclipline and self -worth. There are many MANY times where i have been tempeted to drink, but i simply sat back and thought of what i would lose. My self trust and worth, as well as my parents and friends. Everything i do, everyday is for me and for myself to grow as a better preson. Straight Edge helps me to coherently do so. I have 2 tattoos, and there will be more to come. But anyone who knows about tattoos, knows that if you go to a respectable professional, u know that the ink doesnt go into your blood. With Alcohol, you not only destroy yourself from the inside, causing liver damage, and erosion in the espofaghus, but other ways. That is completely irrational for you to compare those to, they have nothing to do with each other. and why are you on this side anyway, your not even edge…? NOW THAT DOESN”T MAKE SENSE
..
Written by XsarahX on 2005-06-08 09:21:50may i ask what are you trying to get out of this research?! 
if people want to be straight edge let them, its not hurting you. 
and no one forces you into being straight edge, its your own choice. 
oh and i have never heard of an aa meeting beofore. is it just an american thing? 
Written by emanon13 on 2005-03-23 05:58:39see there you go again mr label, Im not christian nor am I republican Id sooner burn the bible then smack you upside the head with it, there are also alot of krishna,jewish, buddhist and atheist people who are straightedge and get this into hardcore I recently met a few people who are staightedge and arent into hardcore holy crap is this possible in accordance to mr bullshits all holy doctrine how could this be,we all should either be wearing camo or girls pants, truth being these clicky kids you are hateing on prolly arent straightedge at all they are scenesters sxe or not , I guess its easier to piss me off being Im an angry person who is sick of being attacked for his beliefs  
blame us for all the ills in the scene its prolly our fault any way you know being we are coherent and all
Research?
Written by Guest on 2005-03-14 15:57:59In actuality you seem to have done no actual research into the background or motives behind the Edge lifestyle. Instead it seems you attended a few shows and did not like/did not understand what you saw. 
1. SXE and HXC have been around a lot longer than tight pants and the influx of product into the scene. 
 
2. Yes, people are beaten up, not necessarily for breaking edge, but that can be a reason. Would you be happy if someone broke a lifetime commitment and cast a shadow of disgrace on something you hold so dear to the fabric of your being? Are you aware that being SXE makes one a target for some of the worst assholes to walk the earth, and sometimes that can lead to violence? If someone steps to me, and blows smoke in my face, I, just like most normal individuals, will assert my right to personal space. 
 
3.Camoflauge- Orignally a symbol of the more militant side of SXE, also utilized by hardline individuals and some Vegan groups, is a symbol of solidarity and a willingness to stand up for one’s belief’s. As for camo being associated with hunting, yes, that is true, but originally it came from the military, not a backwoods game enthusiast. The same with the military style hats that are now so common in the scene. 
 
4. SXE is a personal choice, not an oath to undertake the woes of the world, although there are many grasroots efforts that stem from the HXC scene and many SXE individuals take part in these movements. 
 
Thanks, and next time, please do more research into the subject you wish to comment on. 
 
-Kevin McBee- [email protected]
hmmm
Written by Guest on 2005-03-08 01:22:35I find this funny that I stated in the article that I don’t veiw everyone the same. And even have REAL edge friends who have been edge for 12 or 13 years and not when it became popular. My whole article was like I have said before millions of times aimed at kids who just do it for fashion and it’s obvious they just do it for fashion. Again I would like to point out that if you go to a random medium sized city and go to a hardcore show you have a pretty large group of kids who are like this. But either way I am glad to see it got some fire’s lit. Hmmmm mysteriously republicans love the bible…and alot of edge kids are christian….so I wonder where all that bible money goes to? Someone better contact Jesus’ lawyer! 
 
Jon Burger
….
Written by pistolaxalli on 2005-02-22 12:34:38unfortunately, a lot of kids are being straight edge to be accepted by others and to look good. i had a girl ask me if she should be straight edge back in november as she smoked a cigarette. she is one of those kids. but not me. i am straight edge for myself not for others.  
as for clothing, i dress the way i do because i want to. not because its cool. ive been dressing the same way since i was 14. but sometimes…i will see a tank top i like, or shoes i think look nice, or maybe even a haircut i think might look good on me. it doesnt mean im copying the person doing to make me look better. its just how things are. thats how merchandise sells at stores. 
as for AA meetings, i have been to AA meetings. I hve been to NA meetings. i have tried to help my friends with addictions but it doesnt make me better than the rest of my edge friends who havent done that. the idea probably just didnt pop in their head. 
the points being made are understandable from a person who isnt straight edge or hardcore but remember. not all kids are the same.
Written by adriana on 2005-02-05 21:18:42HAHAHA. Way to play the role of the enlightened one. You totally just generalized a vast and varied subculture full of individuals with their own motivations. Everyone’s got their own reason for being edge. I was vegan before I decided to keep drugs out of my body. The motivation was not to be a bad ass sk3n3 k!d (which to you means weaering hot topic clothing or deer hunting for some reason) but to free my mind from the mind altering chemicals that kept me out of touch with myself, others, and limited my activism. Yeah dude, I stopped doing drugs and embraced a straight edge lifestyle to help others. Instead of doing it to be a part of something I felt pretty alienated: from our acohol saturated culture (which I realize I had inadvertently immersed myself in), from 99% or the fucking population, from my family, and from many friends. Of course other straight edge kids have a plethora of other reasons: some dumb some valid. You shouldn’t reduce straightedge kids to mindless consumers who hunt deer and beat up everyone who’s not edge (hahah I don’t even know where you gathered those gems of evidence). You obviously don’t know the subculture and you obviously dont know how to approach a subculture to study it in the first place. Thanks for the one dimensional half-assed “critique” of our movement.
you suck
Written by emanon13 on 2005-02-03 17:18:02So what do you do from high atop your bar stool buy all the lonley alchoholics a drink is that how you better your community, you know what because Im sober I should be in the fucking peace corps take on all the ills in the world because all you drunks are better at pointing fingers then getting off your asses and doing anything. I couldnt give two monkey craps if every drug addict liar alchoholic life wrecker fell off the planet you want to kill yourself please ill load the gun for you ill tie the knot. You dont like what our shirts say because it reminds you of how weak you are and no one likes to be reminded of what a tool they are, its you who are the conformist keep that in mind you dont know why you drink pavlovs dog but come friday ring the bell and here comes another conditioned retard donateing all his money to the republican lobby, all those companies you support by drinking keep the war mongers in office . Youre right tattoos ruined my life Im gonna steal from everyone i know and beat my wife because I have tats, oh yea and being a tatoo artist i can tell you that ink and tattoo pigment arent chemicals Mr. Original Idea. Im so sick of people like you who hide behind some board and hate what you dont understand, so instead of generalizing people why dont you go sew some new duds Mr. Trendsetter and we can all follow you from high upon your throne in my head is giganticville
hey
Written by aic on 2005-01-26 12:06:42alright so to your questions: i am sxe too… and well to be honest whether or not the majority of sxe kids are just doing it as a fad or to be fashionable isn’t the point, because your text is rather aggressive so i don’t think it really encourages people to think too much.  
 
i don’t know if i can say i have ‘donated’ time & money, but i have friends who are recovering addicts and i have always stuck by them and if anyone’s come to me asking for help i certainly haven’t backed down.  
 
i’ve been to an na meeting when invited by a friend of mine, but seriously i wouldn’t encourage sxe kids to just show up to aa or na meetings uninvited because you just come off rather righteous.. same as passing out flyers about how drugs and alcohol are bad… i really haven’t met one person who is consuming alcohol/drugs or is addicted who tried to convince me that they were really healthy… obviously not everyone agrees to the extent of damage caused.  
 
and what about making your own life an example? i mean if i’m sxe and stick with it and those around see that that’s possible, isn’t that something more than just going around after only having been sxe for a few months to go around and passing out flyers about alcoholism kills?  
 
so not everything is a fad, not everyone believes the same things or acts the same ways.. and as was said somewhere in the other comments… this whole “doing things just to be cool and look cool” is not exclusive to the sxe scene…
AA MEETING’S MY ASS.
Written by heartrestarter on 2005-01-21 01:26:54HEY GUESS WHAT. 
 
FUCK you & the whole “have you gone to AA meetings” why the hell do i need to go to aa meeting’s when drugs & alcohol took my whole fucking CHILDHOOD away from me? i didnt have the alcoholic problem, & i wasnt the druggie. why the hell did i have to give years of my life away to the crap? 
 
handing out flyers? aa meetings? hotlines? are you effing serious? what if instead we did something else? how about working 2 jobs & going to school? how about having family & friends you hardly get to spend time with? oh yeah i’m looking forward to spending my free time in some clinic or giving stupid alcoholics my money? 
 
why the hell should we feel bad for buying EXPENSIVE clothes that WE WORKED our asses off for? what’s wrong with taking a day/night off from work to go to a show & see bands play because you love doing it & never have the time? 
 
and yeah i’m going to go work all day & night and go buy me somethin’ nice from a freakin thrif-store right? get real. stop dissing sXe kid’s for how they dress & how they wear their hair. it’s their life not yours.
Written by xstephx on 2005-01-04 16:39:33So I read this, and all I have to say is  
WHO IS BUSH JR ?!?! 
There is no such person in White House.  
haha that makes me laugh. 
To let you in on my joke, George W. Bush is not a JR. His father’s name is George H. Bush. 
 
But I am straightedge, and I agree with a lot of the points you make. They are vaild, and most true. 
 
Although I am one of the few who are trying to make a difference. Now I have yet to go as far as go donate more to AA, or things like that, but after reading this, it has helped me realize that going to an AA meeting is supporting a bad habit, it’s helping it. 
 
Thanks for letting us know what you think.
well
Written by Guest on 2004-12-29 02:39:07When there youngest and most confused are the majority at shows and on the internet, it is fair. It’s no differant then saying that Republicans are white and rich…because well the majority are. You know it seems like if you would actualy read the article you would have seen this, ” Almost every person is guilty of this. We all want to look good to our friends and strangers”. I am simply saying that it seems like sXe and hXc kids are more preoccuied with fashion then with actual integrity. Also it would be easy to find someone who dresses like me. But the most of the time it will be hard pressed to see me with 3 other people who look like carbon copy images (leather jacket, spray painted shirt and dress ants). Now I dare you to goto the latest XXdrowninginsorrowcauseXXweretolazyXXtoplaysportsXX show then take a picture. I garuntee there will be atleast one group of kids…get this even adults (21+) who are wearing a white studed belt, tight pants (and bonus points if they are baught at Express) and a “vintage” shirt that is a size small. Now we can argue if you goto a punk show that the same thing can be found as far a clothes and if this were some “punk” board where fans of New Found Glory went I would point this exact point out. But were on a board where kids in the scene hardcore/edge go on. Since this is the edge section I wanted to point out that maybe they should put there mentality into postive action. Instead of just going to shows and looking “cool”. 
 
Jon “old man” Burger
well
Written by Guest on 2004-12-29 02:39:07When there youngest and most confused are the majority at shows and on the internet, it is fair. It’s no differant then saying that Republicans are white and rich…because well the majority are. You know it seems like if you would actualy read the article you would have seen this, ” Almost every person is guilty of this. We all want to look good to our friends and strangers”. I am simply saying that it seems like sXe and hXc kids are more preoccuied with fashion then with actual integrity. Also it would be easy to find someone who dresses like me. But the most of the time it will be hard pressed to see me with 3 other people who look like carbon copy images (leather jacket, spray painted shirt and dress ants). Now I dare you to goto the latest XXdrowninginsorrowcauseXXweretolazyXXtoplaysportsXX show then take a picture. I garuntee there will be atleast one group of kids…get this even adults (21+) who are wearing a white studed belt, tight pants (and bonus points if they are baught at Express) and a “vintage” shirt that is a size small. Now we can argue if you goto a punk show that the same thing can be found as far a clothes and if this were some “punk” board where fans of New Found Glory went I would point this exact point out. But were on a board where kids in the scene hardcore/edge go on. Since this is the edge section I wanted to point out that maybe they should put there mentality into postive action. Instead of just going to shows and looking “cool”. 
 
Jon “old man” Burger
well
Written by Guest on 2004-12-29 02:39:03When there youngest and most confused are the majority at shows and on the internet, it is fair. It’s no differant then saying that Republicans are white and rich…because well the majority are. You know it seems like if you would actualy read the article you would have seen this, ” Almost every person is guilty of this. We all want to look good to our friends and strangers”. I am simply saying that it seems like sXe and hXc kids are more preoccuied with fashion then with actual integrity. Also it would be easy to find someone who dresses like me. But the most of the time it will be hard pressed to see me with 3 other people who look like carbon copy images (leather jacket, spray painted shirt and dress ants). Now I dare you to goto the latest XXdrowninginsorrowcauseXXweretolazyXXtoplaysportsXX show then take a picture. I garuntee there will be atleast one group of kids…get this even adults (21+) who are wearing a white studed belt, tight pants (and bonus points if they are baught at Express) and a “vintage” shirt that is a size small. Now we can argue if you goto a punk show that the same thing can be found as far a clothes and if this were some “punk” board where fans of New Found Glory went I would point this exact point out. But were on a board where kids in the scene hardcore/edge go on. Since this is the edge section I wanted to point out that maybe they should put there mentality into postive action. Instead of just going to shows and looking “cool”. 
 
Jon “old man” Burger
heh
Written by Guest on 2004-12-28 13:45:27Im sorry but what you just wrote doesnt just apply to sXe kids but to everyone. Kids almost always act or talk or dress in a way to make themselves look cool. Its natural to want to be excepted by your peers. you, my friend are not talking about sXe you are talking about everyone under the age of 50 (the age were being “cool” its cool) are you gonna tell me that you dont dress like anybody. im sure i can walk down the street and point out hundreds of ppl who dree like you or even me. Every does the popular thing there was a time when doing the unopular thing was the popular thing (ex. new Punk). There are always gonnabe posers and ppl who will suck a dick for attention but judging a goup by their youngest and most confused members is idiotic.
wait a minute
Written by thatsplunkintalk on 2004-12-16 19:44:52you obviously did not read this line 
 
“I am not saying everyone who is edge is this way. Just the majority of newer edge and scene kids.”.  
ok
Written by thatsplunkintalk on 2004-12-16 15:32:54You should have emailed me I really am curious as to how many people have actualy attended an AA meeting. Also the whole point about clothes I was trying to make is that alot of edge kids dress the same much like punk….the only differance is that it’s all name brand all usualy slightly expensive clothes. Very few KIDS key word here KIDS (14-19) actualy follow it as something other then a fad. And alot of these KIDS like to pick on other people who shop at stores equaly expensive but are just following a differant trend. Again thats my whole point like you said if they like something who cares? How come alot of edge KIDS all wear the same thing? They all have the same look? Why? Because if they wear something else they might get looked down apon. But yet much like other movements like punk…they are non-conformist in that Doc Martin confomist type way. They claim to be about one thing then clearly adhear to something else. I can almost garuntee you if one of these kids baught some Wranglers and some Voits like I grew up having to wear because I was Poor. And their friend seriously thaught these items of clothing were cool. Most of his friends would disassociate themselves with him simply over fashion. Which again is’nt what revolution is about. Also I asked if you have helped out at AA. Donated time and money for people who have addiction? My whole point is if your so against alcohol and living “clean” and most kids who are sXe claim to be how come they just stick to there little circles? Why don’t they goto urban communitys and try to help? Why spend a Saturday nite at some random core band when you can be helping unwed pregnant post-drug addicted woman shop for grocerys ? And unless you live in literaly po-dunk bum-fuck nowhere you can’t say, “there is nothing like that around here”. All you have to do is look. And they are always looking for people to volunteer. Anyways again why I posted that disclaimer at the top. I don’t know everything about sXe so cheers. 
 
Jon Burger
wow.
Written by Guest on 2004-12-16 14:48:48mkay, that is so completely stupid. 
 
yes, you do have some valid points, but about the whole “sXe” thing being a fad, that isnt true for some people. especially me. i’m sXe cause i’ve seen what alcohol and drugs can do to people. people who i love and who love me too. there is no way in hell i’m putting my loved ones through that. 
 
secondly, who gives a flying fuck where the kids get their clothes at?! if they like something there, then they can get it.  
 
and yanno what, i have gone to AA meetings. with my mother. i have talked to many alcohlics and druggies that are either sober now, or are trying to get sober.  
 
so please, dont assume just cause i’m sXe that i’m like some of the kids that do it as a fad.

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