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Z-Boys: The politics of style

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  1. Subcultures, like the Mods, and Punks, and the Z-Boys.
  2. 'Style was like the most important thing' says Z-Boy Tony Alva.
  3. It was through this new skating style rather than their physical style that they most effectively communicated.
  4. Dick Hebdige notes the parallels of the communication of a significant difference as well as a group identity.
  5. In his study of how subcultures generate their own style, theorist John Clarke redrafts Levi-Strauss's concept of bricolage.
  6. The Z-Boys' style as communication.
  7. This signified expression of the Z-Boys' value system.
  8. Z-Boys began to skate on the playgrounds attached to five different elementary schools of the Dogtown area.
  9. Z-Boys were indeed being political in vying for their own space.
  10. Craig Steyck's Dogtown articles began appearing in Skateboarder magazine in 1975.
  11. This entire analysis of the Z-Boys has so far neglected to tackle one major question.
  12. Guys tend to perform their gender by taking risks.

When land designer Abbot Kinney set out to create Venice, California, the European-style beach community of amusement piers son known as the ?Coney Island of the West,? he had no way to foresee the eventual decay of Venice and neighboring Ocean Park and south Santa Monica. But when the piers began to close in the mid-1960s, Venice, like Brooklyn's Coney Island, became a ?place where pyromaniacs, junkies, artists, and surfers could excel in symbiotic disharmony.? Up to that point, surfing was life for the beach boys and California girls, and skateboarding was a popular after-surf activity. Early companies and organized competitions were successful until the skateboard industry crashed in 1965, and the final pier of the Venice Beach area closed two years later. Skateboarding became an activity of outcasts, and the area became known as Dogtown, ?the last great seaside slum?It was dirty, it was filthy, it was paradise,' says Skip Engblom, owner of the Zephyr Surf Shop, which became in 1972 a home on the corner of Bay and Main streets for the outsider surfer-turned-skater kids who had nowhere else to go. Engblom, with co-owners Jeff Ho and Craig Stecyk, became a mentor to the ?Z-Boys,? encouraging their surfing and skating as a Captain Hook parent figure, ?killing Peter Pan and turning the lost boys into pirates.?

[...] Her aggressive skate style did not fit into the male-female division mandated by the contest standards, because apart from her sex, Oki was a boy for the purposes of skating. Skating was always ?boys stuff,? as Willard mockingly calls it,[66] and the addition of Peggy Oki to the circle did not change that. Thus within the Boys subculture, it is fair to note that apart from Oki, girls will remain marginalized until dimension of sexuality is included in the study of youth subcultures,? and girls are seen as not outside the subculture, but as occupants of different roles within it, ?negotiating a different space.?[67] Under McRobbie's breakdown, the Dogtown girls offered a separate kind of resistance through roles that may not have included central skateboarding roles, but that certainly were crucial aspects of the Z-Boys subculture. [...]


[...] In short, the Z-Boys separated the signifier of skateboarding, which previously signified an everyday, safe amusement, and allowed it to signify their seize-the-day lifestyle. This signified expression of the Z-Boys' value system can also be read through James C. Scott's concept of infrapolitics. Whereas Hebdige discusses the hegemony as the total social authority exerted by certain groups over others, and therefore culture as an unstable struggle between discourses,[30] Scott reframes this struggle on a political level. He describes infrapolitics as unobtrusive realm of political struggle,?[31] or, in other words, a zone of negotiation or conversation in which the dominant elites (mainstream Social society, as well as the police) exert their guidelines and standards while the subordinates Boys) work beneath the surface to push their values?via hidden transcripts?into the accepted public transcript. [...]


[...] as such they communicate specific meanings through their style,[2] demonstrate covert political resistance through their actions,[3] take part in the struggle of popular culture,[4] and present a dilemma regarding the apparent absence of girls within the subculture.[5] Subcultures, like the Mods, and Punks, and the Z-Boys, ?display their own codes,? according to theorist Dick Hebdige,[6] as a way to contest mainstream culture?a culture which tends to act as nature, or as the only possible configuration of the world.[7] It is through demonstrating these codes that sub cultural style becomes a form of intentional communication, and the purpose of this communication is to mark a distinct difference?and to subsequently create a group identity.[8] The Z-Boys used their style to communicate their difference in Hebdige's sense. [...]

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