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Straight Edge: A Subculture of Self-Control

CEO Tinh Phung
Image: A straight edge tattoo Straight edge, also known as sXe or signified by XXX or X, is a subculture of hardcore punk that goes beyond just the music. It's a lifestyle choice that encourages...

A straight edge tattoo Image: A straight edge tattoo

Straight edge, also known as sXe or signified by XXX or X, is a subculture of hardcore punk that goes beyond just the music. It's a lifestyle choice that encourages its adherents to abstain from using alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs as a reaction to the excesses of punk subculture. But it doesn't stop there. Some straight edgers also refrain from promiscuous sex, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, and avoid caffeine and prescription drugs.

The term "straight edge" was popularized by the hardcore punk band Minor Threat in their 1981 song of the same name. Since then, the movement has evolved and diversified, with various beliefs and ideas associated with it. The straight edge subculture encompasses more than just abstinence. It has become intertwined with concepts like vegetarianism, animal rights activism, and even political ideologies.

Minor Threat, pictured in 1981, coined the term "straight edge" Image: Minor Threat, pictured in 1981, coined the term "straight edge"

The straight edge subculture emerged in the early 1980s within the hardcore punk scene. It quickly gained traction and attracted individuals who were dissatisfied with the excesses and self-destructive behavior prevalent in the punk subculture at the time. As the movement grew, different interpretations of straight edge emerged, leading to disagreements and debates among its followers.

The history of straight edge can be divided into several eras. In the early days, it was a counter-movement to the rigid and intolerant aspects of the hardcore scene, known as "bent edge." Then came the youth crew era, which saw the influence of music on the straight edge scene reach its peak. Bands like Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits became pioneers of the movement.

By the 1990s, straight edge had spread beyond the United States, reaching Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South America. It had become a global subculture, with its own variations and interpretations across different regions. However, by the early 2000s, the more militant and extreme factions of straight edge had largely disassociated themselves from the broader culture and movement.

Boston straight edge band Have Heart's 2019 reunion show outside the Worcester Palladium had the highest attendance of any hardcore show in history. Image: Boston straight edge band Have Heart's 2019 reunion show

The philosophy behind straight edge has always been about rebellion through self-control. It empowers individuals to stand against mainstream norms by demonstrating the ability to control their actions. However, the movement has not been immune to criticism. Some view it as self-righteous or dogmatic, while others have associated it with militant and violent behavior.

One of the significant aspects of the straight edge lifestyle is its connection to veganism. Many straight edge followers prioritize animal rights and environmentalism alongside their dedication to sobriety. Veganism has become an important theme within the subculture, aligning with the principles of compassion and non-exploitation.

The letter X has become the most recognizable symbol of straight edge. It is often tattooed on the back of both hands or displayed on clothing and pins. The origin of the X symbol can be traced back to the Teen Idles, whose members had their hands marked with an X to indicate their underage status at a show. This mark soon became associated with straight edge and has been used creatively by bands and individuals within the subculture.

Italian straight edge band To Kill performing at a club Image: Italian straight edge band To Kill performing at a club

Straight edge is more than just a rejection of certain substances; it's a way of life that promotes self-discipline, social consciousness, and personal growth. Its influence extends beyond the boundaries of music, inspiring individuals around the world to embrace a lifestyle focused on positivity, compassion, and a commitment to making a difference.

See also:

  • List of people who follow a straight edge lifestyle
  • List of straight edge bands
  • National Edge Day
  • Animal rights and punk subculture
  • Teetotalism
  • Temperance movement
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