Urban Tribes – Concept, function, characteristics and examples

We explain what urban tribes are, their role in adolescence and why they are subcultures. Also, examples and characteristics.

urban punk tribes
Urban tribes can be distinguished by their appearance, language, or consumption habits.

What are the urban tribes?

An urban tribe is a group of generally young or adolescent individuals, who share a daily way of dressing, their own language and in general a series of consumer habits and tastes, typical of a modern and urban environment. This is one of the most common forms of grouping of young individuals in contemporary society.

Urban tribes are, in essence, identities shared in a group way and expressed through certain habits and behaviors. Many understand them as a way to navigate the complexities of adolescence and youth, clinging to a group identity and ideology, capable of providing a sense of belonging, very important during certain stages of life.

In sociological and anthropological terms, however, urban tribes are inscribed in what is known as “subculture”: a massive sociocultural expression, but underlying the official or hegemonic culture. That is to say, a culture that subsists within another larger and more formal culture, as are the traditional cultures of each country.

In this way, a young man from a specific urban tribe may have things in common with another from a very distant and different culture and country. These types of experiences are typical of a globalized society and are facilitated by relationships through the Internet.

These are marginal, minority groupings that resist traditional society, but at the same time undertake a model of urban life, typical of global and post-industrial capitalism. Music, technology, fashion and fictional imaginary (stories, symbols, etc.) are central elements in each of the tribes, whose identity can end up being stereotypical, that is, easily recognizable.

Urban tribes they change over time, are born and die, like any other collective phenomenon, and they adapt to new aesthetic, social and technological scenarios.

That is why they are considered an important anthropological expression, which proposes certain models of connection and association within the community: many of them form “gangs”, promote “congresses” or mass meetings, and in general mobilize a large amount of digital information in networks. social and other exchange spaces.

Examples of urban tribes

urban otaku tribes
Otaku often dress up as their favorite characters at special events.

As we have said, urban tribes tend to continually change and reinvent themselves and disappear, and many of them are specific to a given geographic region, at least until they become popular and global. The best known of them are, by way of example, the following:

  • Hippies. Appeared between the 1960s and 1970s, this is probably the oldest urban tribe in existence. Its values ​​of antimilitarism, pacifism, anti-consumerism and promotion of free love and sex have been inherited to many other later urban tribes. Hippies (or hippies) are recognized for their disheveled or informal look, passive and hedonistic attitude, prone to drug use and a spiritual vision new age, which seeks to connect with ancient traditions or other cultures.
  • Punks. Associated with the musical movement of the 1980s, as well as with a rebellious and combative attitude towards society and politics, it is one of the oldest urban tribes that still survives, although adapted to the new times. They are characteristic of punks (or punks, punks, etc.) their garments with abundant leather and military boots, piercings and tattoos, colorful crests and radical haircuts, as well as their nihilistic slogans (there is no future) and an ideology of oscillating between the apolitical and the revolutionary.
  • Geeks or geeks. Initially, these terms were used for any fan of technology, certain games or video games, or certain learning subjects (astronomy, mythology, etc.), whose devotion was considered “excessive” or unusual. However, the massification of these hobbies gave rise to the urban tribe of geeks (mostly fans of technology) or geeks (mostly fans of fantasy and comics). Today it is an urban tribe with highly variable features, of people prone to introversion and shyness, to the 2.0 world, role-playing games, and horror and fantasy stories.
  • Otakus. With this Japanese name of very specific uses in its mother tongue (it is basically an honorific form of the second person), an entire urban culture born in the early 1990s in the West was baptized, and characterized by devotion to the Asian world , in particular Japanese, and especially for its comics and animations. Otaku are known for their quirky, futuristic dress, and their taste for comic book and anime conventions, in which they often dress up as their favorite characters (cosplay).
  • Emos. Its name comes from “emotional“(” Emotional “in English), and emerged in the early 1990s in the United States, linked to certain genres of pop / rock. However, their greatest popularization took place during the 2000s, as inheritors of the depressive and suicidal aesthetic of other later and extinct urban tribes, such as the grunge, the gotics (goths) or the skateboard (skateboarders). Their clothing tends to be dark colors, to the use of makeup and nail paint in both sexes, to piercings and tattoos, to hairstyles with bangs (usually covering one or both eyes), and their behaviors are often cynical and withdrawn.
  • Gamers. This is the urban tribe of inveterate video game players, whose clothing and codes of conduct tend to be much more lax and varied than in the rest of the list, although always with the presence of elements from the world of video games, especially those considerate retro or vintage. However, the «jugones» (Spain) of both sexes are recognized for dedicating a large amount of time to the video game, and for decorating their homes with merchandising from the industry, as well as tattooing symbols of their important video games, and always being very aware of the novelties of the industry, around which his way of life revolves.