Words: Red Mosiane | Images: Tiiso Moabi and Siphesihle Hato

Fashion subcultures are formed by people who instinctively gravitate towards each other which then makes them noticeably unique enough to be recognized as their own separate group from the rest of society. Depending on the group, subcultures are defined based on certain aesthetic features – such as clothing, gender, race, social class and physical appearance – influenced by one or more common interests like music genre, political views, location, etc. they collectively identify with.

Subcultures form and expand due to the fundamental human need to belong to a people. But unfortunately mainstream media has taken the raw honesty of subcultures to exploit these groups and profit off them by taking the superficial and generically appealing aspects and turning them into mainstream drivel. This leads to a complete misrepresentation of the original intentions of the group and may kill off the group entirely because nobody wants to be part of a subculture that is being watered down in front of their eyes.

Braamfontein fashion

The same thing happens in local and African fashion media. Fashion subcultures exist here too and they are magnificent, but local fashion media does not dispense any effort in finding, investigating, understanding and spotlighting them. Instead they go by what’s commercially acceptable and end up mislabelling entire groups of people.

Take for instance the most famous subculture originally formed in South Africa in recent years, Izikhotane. They became a local pop culture sensation practically overnight, starting that infamous floral t-shirt trend as well as being featured in multiple ads and TV shows. But many of it’s originators and early adapters have complained that South African media misrepresented their culture. They took the marketable aspects like custard, floral shirts and pantsula dancing and ran with it. An entire culture was misrepresented to be an archaic exercise instead of their authentic message of making something out of nothing.

This is the reason why SUBS – a new  doci-series from new YouTube channel, REconnecteD TV – was created. Its creators set out to find out how far the misrepresentation goes by investigating the truth behind fashion stereotypes and subcultures across Africa.

The first episode is up and set in what’s pedalled by mainstream media as being the gentrified hipster and known creative hub of Braamfontein in Johannesburg. Google this area and what will come up is images of hipsters and fashion influencers in the latest Instagram trends all on one street but if you actually go there during the week and most of what you see is anything but the false image portrayed. So, what is the truth?