Britain’s subcultures in the Margaret Thatcher era

Anarchy in the UK

           Britain’s subcultures in the Margaret Thatcher era (’75-’90)



Though some say there is no relation between them, it’s a fact that under the M.T. era the number of the subcultures suddenly increased. There were lot of people who liked her, but even more, who hated her , and she’s still polarizing figure for the public opinion (just think about the death-parties after she passed away in 2013).

Welsh Office, Cardiff - 30 July 1984. Women and children demonstrating against £15 being deducted from striking miners’ benefit in lieu of strike pay (which was not being paid).

Her governance brought the country into a disastrous economic situation; the unemployment rate broke a negative record. For her opponents “Thatcherism was the common enemy that sparked the proliferation of countless ‘80s sub cultures…But it was what ultimately atomized us as a nation.”(Aaron Meart)

A bit of subculture studies

What is a subculture exactly? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture. Dick Hebdige (media theorist, sociologist) argued that a subculture is a subversion to normalcy. He wrote that subcultures can be perceived as negative due to their nature of criticism to the dominant societal standards. Hebdige argued that subcultures bring together like-minded individuals who feel neglected by societal standards and allow them to develop a sense of identity.
The reason behind the apparition and evolution of the different subcultures is the inability of modern societies to offer the same living conditions for each and every person.


“It was a fiery time. You felt like something was going to kick off, see, I never felt that politics was a dreary thing … when we were ranting it was all from the heart.” – Mark Stewart.

Who were these youngsters?

Actually those years were pretty hard times for the young generations, „society had left them with very little hope for the future”. It is evident that intensifying extremities are natural reactions of a society to any kind of threats (to financial threats in this case). When elaborating his theory in Subculture the Meaning of Style, Hebdige argues almost in the same way: the significance of style in the case of these subcultures – the fashion and music of these youth groups – was that it represented an unambiguous reference to the social and economic conditions of the UK. „The Thatcher era was a time of considerable economic and social upheaval in Britain, and popular culture necessarily reflected a certain amount of tension and anxiety.”

Punks on the Kings Road, 1981. This image may be published free of charge if used to review or promote the exhibition 'Stomping Grounds: Photographs by Dick Scott-Stewart 27 May – 18 Sep 2016'. All uses must be credited © Dick Scott-Stewart Archive/Museum of London. Images may not be cropped or overlaid with text without permission. Images published on the web are limited to a maximum size of 600 pixels high. Uploading to social media channels is not permitted. All other uses must be cleared with the Museum of London and the copyright holder.

Punks on the Kings Road, 1981.
 Photographs by Dick Scott-Stewart 27 May – 18 Sep 2016′.

The punks and the skinheads were the first who came into view, later the Goth and new romantic subcultures and other smaller offshoots of these groups.
Of them all, the punk and the post-punk movements were the most radical opponents of the government – but let this be the topic the next part…

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