The Alternative Marketplace
Individualism finds its way into a particular alternative subculture due to the balance required in self-validation and resistance to the perceived conformist conditioning presented by general society. A match must be made not only in self but in the perceptions of those around self. To truly fit in to a particular subculture, those within it must recognise an individual as within it for themselves. And still more, this individual must also recognise themselves as an active member of the same subculture. Often the collective terminology can be fairly loose, and broad terms that incorporate most forms of alternative expression are used to count everyone in.
So, in order to be recognised as a member of a subculture by our peers, a person must to some degree buy into that trend or scene image that reinforces the statement. The majority of alternative scene merchandise comes in the form of clothing and music. As these two types of goods have immediate reward effects, they speak for themselves in an instantaneous manner, and allow a person to express and enjoy without too much work. Books and films are the next two main supplies for scene identification, as they require a little more effort and are more for private enjoyment over time, their purpose is more personal and doesn't necessarily express to the same magnitude as clothing or music, which is visible/audible to anyone nearby, without the need for focused attention.
Independent artists and small collectives are able to sell their art and clothing online. When they find a niche market for a particular subcultural theme, they can easily set up a front and retail like any other market and with very little ground costs, their work can become an area of digital interest. With eBay offering store fronts, many people choose to retail from there, as it lets the seller hold full control over their market without having to worry about anything but their service.
Specialist alternative scene shops exist in most major cities, and have an ever growing presence online. They will stock a large selection of many items that all relate to a specific theme within alternative sub-culture, often run by and employing members of that particular scene, these specialist shops can become social hubs as much as places of retail. Finding a crowd and forming loyalty by being on the ball with what the scene is doing is for those who enjoy being a part of it themselves. These shops will sell clothing for the majority of the customers, and then often they have art and jewellery sections too. Music of that sub-culture is played, mainly compilations of many artists from small labels, to draw interest into the new sounds and to rekindle some of the older ones.
Charity shops are gold-mines for pieces of clothing or jewellery that can be used to fit into alternative style. Often everyday items are used in slightly different ways in order to make something sub-culturally relevant. Many musicians and artists take a style to a new edge and this is repeated by many people after, who see it first hand or see others doing it. Finding garments from previous eras, or from small and unique retailers in among the second hand items in charity shops is not uncommon, and these all contribute towards material capable of being used to express alternative subculture.
Also, main high street designers know that affiliation to particular subcultural themes runs further than those who do their shopping in specialist shops and markets. Often department stores offer a varied array of styles of which many draw on the more radical clothing styles society chooses to wear. Maybe they don't have every pointer, but those they have speak volumes to a particular audience, who are able to wear it in a style that fits the subculture they identify with.
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