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Straight edge: How one 46-second song started a 35-year movement

No drugs, no booze…just “positive mental attitude” and lots of testosterone

Those are the words of Ian Mackaye, frontman of the seminal Washington DC hardcore band Minor Threat, in 1981. The loud, pissed off 46-second track, which appeared on the band’s eponymous debut 7”, quickly took on a life of its own, and went on to become the anthem of an international movement.

Straight edge — abstinence from alcohol, drugs, nicotine, and in some cases promiscuous sex — is a self-imposed label that alienated young punks, nerds, and other outcasts have chosen for themselves for more than three decades, starting in the early 1980s and continuing through today. Straight edge kids are recognizable by the letter X, which is often emblazoned on their clothing or Sharpied on the backs of their hands. (It’s a symbol adapted from the pre-wristband era, when doormen at bars and clubs flagged underage patrons by marking their hands with x’s.)

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