What is Straight Edge?

by phil on Sunday May 10, 2009 5:02 PM

The Straight Edge subculture fascinates me. According to wikipedia Straight Edge refers to a lifestyle that started within the hardcore punk subculture whose adherents make a lifetime commitment to refrain from drinking alcohol, using tobacco products, and taking recreational drugs. The term was coined by the 1980s hardcore punk band Minor Threat in the song "Straight Edge".

Straight Edge is also covered in the HBO series Big Love, which I've excerpted here:

If you're at outsider and see a straight edger walking down the street, you imagine they are like other hardcore music types (whether rock, rap, or punk) and assume they're just young, confused troublemakers. But no, these are the good guys. They've independently reacted to their peers in ways that should make parents proud but probably doesn't.

And yet, I was "straight edge" in High School simply because I was square. These guys managed to take the stigma of being a prude, and turn it into something cool and edgy. It's almost like twelve-step-chic.

What's going on with Straight Edge to me seems like a compressed version of what's happening in Christian Rock, wherein the meanings of formerly anti-establishment motifs are being manipulated.

It's also fascinating because it shows to me the beginning of a counter-counter-culture, wherein the children of boomers are reacting negatively to drugs. For example, Elgin James, co-founder of violent Straight Edge gang FSU, was raised by his adoptive parents who were civil rights activists and grew marijuana in their backyard.

Is this a sign of a nation becoming more socially conservative or is it just a random blip on the radar?

Link to "Inside Straight Edge" Documentary.

Supporter's Information: Many teenagers enjoy hardcore types of music and still avoid being sent to teen drug rehab by being straight edge.


Sarah Q Browning said on May 13, 2009 1:06 PM:

Interesting! I had no idea.

aaronw said on July 21, 2009 7:04 PM:

in the "punk" scene being different is a badge of honor. when you have run out of superficial ways of expressing your differences (safety pins, converses, etc) you need something new. what is something different within the punk community? sobriety.

btw, how many straight edge kids does it take to drink a beer?
...one when their straight edge friends are off getting straight edge tattoos!

Eric said on October 3, 2009 1:02 PM:

FSU is not a gang. FSU is a group of friends that gathered together to push assholes out of the hardcore scene. Its grown large, but it still is not a gang. If some one hit your bother, would you hit them? Probably. Thats how it works.

I don't think we as a nation are becoming more socially conservative. What you're seeing is the continual migration to the extremes. Kids are getting harder into partying, and others are getting harder into sobriety. We're not a unified nation, we are a nation of extremes.

Also, don't get the wrong idea of straight edge. It may seem cool to you, and its cool among edge kids, but outside of that we're the target of an ample amount of ridicule. Most of us, just don't care.

Philip Dhingra said on October 3, 2009 1:09 PM:

A couple things. Yeah, I don't buy into the whole idea that FSU is a gang. I saw some documentary on it, and it just seemed like a small group that protected each other.

That's an interesting point about more extremes. I think I would agree with that more than getting more socially conservative, because its so obvious in many ways how liberal we're getting.

Also, I'm neutral toward straight edgers. I don't find them cool or uncool. But they have adopted a "cool" look. Certainly that's what they're going for, being cool and sober. To outsiders, as well, they may be referred to as "cool" but it would be used with sarcastic quotation marks. So there is something inherently cool about the way they dress, even if most people wouldn't find them cool at all. If that makes any sense.

eric said on October 3, 2009 1:43 PM:

That documentary gangland did was ridiculous in some ways and true in others. I live very near troy NY, and go to school in troy. The last thing I am afraid of when I'm there is FSU.

I wish more people were neutral. Most people think that its a stupid concept. I wouldn't agree that cool is what everyone is going for though, its more just people doing what they want to. I can't think of one person who really does anything because its cool, not in the true hardcore scene anyways.

Bands like Bane, and Have Heart, both straight edge bands stress being yourself, a lot. None of it is about being cool. Its about being yourself, with a clear mind. Hardcore is such a misunderstood thing. People lump it in with some things that it has no business being a part of. Most of us are normal people who just like a different type of music and tattoos.

I'm not cool. I don't want to be, not with what cool is. I'm just staying positive, staying clean, and loving life.

As for how liberal we're getting, thats a tricky subject really. How liberal are we really getting when people are so judgmental? Look at how (some, not all)Obama supporters feel about McCain supporters. We've become so opinionated that no one can keep an open heart or open mind. We're definitely all extremists though, everyone wants left or right.. no one wants the middle.

No one is willing to work with anyone else. I hope that changes though.

Philip Dhingra said on October 3, 2009 2:56 PM:

But I'm curious, not trying to antagonize, since I don't have a camera inside other people's heads, what goes through people's minds when they select the clothes they want? Do they try it on and look in the mirror and think, "this is me" or do they think, "this is me, oh and it looks fucking badass on me"? Or maybe I'm the only one who thinks that.

Eric said on October 4, 2009 2:42 PM:

Haha, no, I doubt you're the only one who thinks that. People make selections based on what they think is cool, you're right. What I'm saying though, is that just because I, or some one else thinks its cool, doesn't mean that any other edge/hardcore kid is going to think its cool. Wear what you like, be who you like, what other people think really doesn't matter.

xjamesx_GMHC said on December 21, 2009 11:44 AM:




Devin J said on November 13, 2010 9:57 PM:

Two Words: Attention Whores

Guy said on November 15, 2010 11:57 AM:

Listen u peice of shit edge fucks... i dont give a shit if you dont do drugs and dont drink or smoke. but stay the fuck out of my life. just because i want to do that shit doest mean u get 20 of ur little straight egde bitches with bullyrags to jump me and my friends... go fuck your selves

Devin J said on November 15, 2010 1:33 PM:

Why do straight edge have to prove themselves to us as an identity more than anyone else? Cops don't like thiefs, the same way a librarian doesn't like a punk, or a teacher doesn't like a drop out. Why can't you just continuously make better decisions towards a better life instead of branding yourself "good"? Why should you straight edge want to walk around with some facade that put you above everyone, because of one choice you made about drugs and alcohol? WOW IDIOTS & ATTENTION WHORES.

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