8 American Subcultures You Know Nothing About


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America is known for being culturally diverse and tolerant. This not only means that people can continue the traditions of their ancestors from other countries, it means that new subcultures are popping up all the time. Some are worldwide phenomena, and others are exclusively home-grown. While there are plenty of subcultures that you've heard of (think hipsters and gamers), there are many that remain relatively obscure. Look hard enough around you and you might find some of these communities outside of the mainstream.

  1. Survivalists

    This group of Americans takes the Boy Scout idea of being prepared to extremes. Also known as preppers, they spend their time readying for the end of the world, which they have a variety of reasons for believing is coming. Some are afraid of terrorism, others environmental destruction, while many just point to the stupidity of mankind as a sure sign of impending doom. Survivalists normally build their own little survival centers, not too different from the nuclear fallout shelters of the Cold War, stocked with generators, water, food, and often weapons. For some reason, many members of this subculture move to Idaho, which may seem random, but if Armageddon comes, we know where we're headed.
  2. Furries

    If you've ever longed to be an athletic team's mascot, but more for the chance to be an animal than for the stunts and publicity, you could be a furry fan in waiting. Furries are interested in animals with human characteristics, like walking on two legs, talking, and wearing clothes. And there are more of them than you think. Furry conventions take place around the world every year, and fans meet to show off their fursuits, or costumes, furry arts, music, and literature. The attention furries often get is focused on the sexual aspect of the subculture, since the majority of furry fans report at least a minor sexual interest in the furry culture.
  3. Otherkin

    Unlike furries who wish they were a different creature, the community of otherkin actually believe they are something other than humans. Members of this subculture normally felt out of place as a child and come to believe it's because they are reincarnated or evolved elves, dragons in human bodies, or possibly even vampires. Many claim to have supernatural powers such as the ability to heal more quickly than humans or to shapeshift (even if others can't physically see the change in their form). If you feel like you belong to this group, a quick Internet search will turn up a variety of forums and sites that will help you relate to other otherkin.
  4. Pro-ana

    We've all seen weight-loss blogs online that we would probably consider inspirational, but there's a subculture of people, mostly girls, who find their identity in extreme weight-loss communities. Many of the members keep their online pro-ana (or pro-anorexia) lives secret from family and friends that don't understand it, but may wear red bracelets to be identifiable to other members. Most go through and post "thinspiration," or thinspo for short, involving photos and quotes, sometimes spending hours each day on the Internet for this purpose. The photos are often of emaciated women with ribs, shoulder bones, and hips sticking out, and they share with each other how to stave off hunger and hide the eating disorders most undoubtedly have.

  1. Steampunk

    You've probably gotten some glimpses of the steampunk culture — jewelry made of gears, modern technologies that look like they were made in Victorian England, anyone wearing driving goggles and carrying a pocket watch. Steampunk fans are a sect of the general sci-fi/fantasy community and they like to imagine a world that still relies on steam power but adds in the elements of science fiction. Those who are really into the subculture will often dress in a style that looks as though they came from the time and modify their cell phones or iPods to look as a Wild West-era person would've imagined them. Though it's arguable what exactly qualifies, there is also a steampunk style of music that fans enjoy.
  2. Hardline

    We use this term a lot when speaking about politics and someone who is uncompromising in their position, but the subculture isn't related. Hardline is an extreme offshoot of the straight edge hardcore scene, whose members abstain from alcohol and drugs, but hardline takes the idea even farther, emphasizing a respect for innocent life and the natural order. They're vegan, pro-life, and often don't consume caffeine (meaning no coffee or chocolate) or any third-world cash crops (we're talking sugar and tropical fruits). Though they are related to the hardcore subculture, their militant stance on abortion and sex often alienates them from other hardcore members.
  3. Bronies

    If you're not watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, you might be missing out. At least, that's what the population of bronies would have you believe. A brony is an adult who is a fan of the kid's show. The term can refer to a man or woman, but some women prefer to be called pegasisters. The majority of bronies are males, which has caused them to attract a lot of ridicule and negative media attention, but you shouldn't think they're dumb: most have a college degree or higher. This community of Friendship is Magic lovers often creates their own fan fiction and takes part in conventions like Comic-Con.
  4. Deaf culture

    While most of the other subcultures on this list are joined by choice, Deaf (the capitalized version of the word referring to the culture rather than the condition) culture chooses a person, more or less. While not all deaf and hard-of-hearing people are part of the culture, choosing instead to be a part of the hearing culture, many prefer the community they've created for themselves. Besides the obvious use of sign language, Deaf people differ from the hearing community because they don't consider their deafness a disability and often oppose technologies like cochlear implants. They are also typically much more open about their personal lives, from why they're running late to their sexual orientation, communicate more bluntly, and have their own arts and literature.
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