Of all the alternative subcultures I’ve been a part of, other than the pagan community, the rock scene has been the most enduring influence on my own cultural and aesthetic sensibilities. It continues to influence me, and forms the foundation of how I define my own fursona in the furry fandom. Though I’ve explored various iterations of goth, industrial, punk and metal, no particular subgenre has set itself apart as my favorite. Because of that, I have come to identify my own culture and aesthetic through the lens of rock culture as a whole. Though many people can be satisfied with a particular niche of the rock scene, I think that there is a place for being a rocker with a diverse palette, and this has been made possible by generations of creative and cultural innovation. With that in mind, I would like to use this space to describe the symbolism, aesthetic qualities and philosophical characteristics of the rocker subculture.
The rock or rocker subculture is a broad, inclusive community that encompasses various forms of rock, punk and heavy metal – across generations, nationalities and personal backgrounds. Beginning in earnest during the 1950s and 1960s, it has been at the forefront of alternative culture – both in countercultures and the various iterations of subculture that continue to flavor society in the present day. Rock culture includes various flavors of classic rock, rockabilly, heavy metal, punk, post-punk, and a whole myriad of other genres that often defy concise categorization. In that various styles that have emerged from the early rock sound, the rocker subculture has developed a shared ethos that has shaped the way it has been experienced over the decades. The following is what I believe to be the core pillars of the rocker subculture.
The Four Pillars of Rock
At the core of rocker culture is the virtue of independence. Rock music’s most enduring legacy is one of personal freedom, and the importance of rebellion against authority to maintain it. In each generation, rock culture has fostered the virtue of independence, and this pillar of rock culture has greatly influenced the rise and proliferation of a myriad of alternative musical styles and subcultures – not just in rock, but in jazz, folk, and even electronic music.
As an extension of independence, personal authenticity is vitally important. Being free and independent is important, but independent rebellion should come from a genuine, heartfelt place – not performance. Because of this, rock subcultures have unfortunately developed a reputation for aggressively gatekeeping so-called poseurs, so it can sometimes be intimidating to participate in rocker cultures. That said, the value of independence is so strong that elitism very frequently gets challenged by the rest of the subculture.
All rocker subcultures place great importance on personal autonomy, and for this reason, a DIY approach has always been encouraged in rock culture – not just in punk, but in rock and metal of all types. Resourcefulness manifests in a myriad of ways in rocker culture – whether it is in creative art, developing a personal style, making your own gear, finding new music, or in the many inventive ways that rock, punk and metal music is created by musicians from around the world.
At its core, all rock music greatly values experimentation. It was born out of the bold fusion of styles in the American cultural milieu, and has continued to vanguard new and exciting creative horizons. Though new styles are not always well-received, the impulse to experiment and explore new territory will always supersede attempts to maintain genre purism. The fluidity and cohesiveness of rock culture and musical genres has only increased over time. New genres, creative projects and subcultural fashion will always emerge as rocker culture continues into the future.