Spectacular Youth Cultures and Ageing: Beyond Refusing to Grow Up



For decades, research on the subject of music and style subcultures has presented participation in such groups as a temporary manifestation of adolescence. More recently, sociologists have begun to examine the lives and identities of those who remain involved in so-called ‘youth’ subcultures beyond their teens and early twenties. This article examines the ways such work has begun to illuminate the role of enduring subcultural identities as part of the developing lives of older participants. Such work, I suggest, rejects simplistic understandings of older participation as a refusal to grow up in favour of a detailed focus on the relationships between continuing participation and other aspects of developing adult life, including career, family and the ageing body. Identifying core themes and debates while identifying areas for further work, I argue that this developing field of research addresses one of the primary criticisms of youth cultural research in the past, which is that such research has tended to examine leisure related affiliations in a fixed period of time and in isolation from the rest of participants’ lives.