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Where we sat at lunch [Sep. 3rd, 2006|04:41 pm]
The American Caliban
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What were the cliques at your high school or equivalent (ages 14 to 18)?

Clarification: This isn't a request for your particular affiliation or lack thereof; there's loads of quizzes and "memes" where you can relive that for good or for ill. I'm fishing for descriptions of the social groups from your teen years as you observed them, whether from the inside or the outside. It's a survey of environments: what were the groups you saw? If you weren't at anything like a school with social groups then, none of this really matters.

I went to an almost entirely white public school in a Southern California beach resort town from 1979 to 1983. Think Fast Times at Ridgemont High. So, mine were, in roughly hierarchical order:

Preppy/"Sosh" (rich pretty kids or those who could pass for rich, anyway): pink and green clothing, lots of chinos and khaki, cashmere sweater knotted around the neck, penny loafers.

Jock/Cheerleader (sports and beauty competition winners in the classic American vein)

Surfer (specific to my locale; not quite the same as jock: they were too obsessive about surfing to participate in much of anything else or deal with the hierarchy at all)

"Band-O": marching band members as obsessive social phenomenon

Theater club: actors singers dancers and technical theater types and wannabees

Pop Music Lifestyle Subculture: at the time this meant rockabilly revival kids, metalheads, and some of the new wave stuff.

Mods and Punks: this was the early 1980s, so a Mod Ska/The Jam flavored revival was going on, and punk was a seriously transgressive style that set you apart. the two groups were pretty interchangeable because they were scarier than the other pop music identities. The mods were always high on black beauties and the punks burned things and put safety pins in their noses.

Academic/geek/nerd. You know the drill. The straight A's crowd plus anyone who liked computers or Dungeons & Dragons and science fiction.


Total outsider of some kind (doomed).

I'm interested for a few reasons. Subculture identities are multiplying, for one thing, and most of the pop music-related ones that have appeared in the last 20 years became permanent options on a kind of menu. And high school has a huge presence in American life. Some people spend their whole lives rebelling against the slights they got in their teens. Others don't ever move beyond the subculture they found then. If you know what clique an American middle-class person claimed at age 16, you know a lot about them right away.

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From: hersheyjumper
2006-09-03 11:58 pm (UTC)

Total outsider of some kind (doomed).

That was me.
Only I'm not doomed.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2006-09-04 12:13 am (UTC)

Re: Total outsider of some kind (doomed).

I didn't mean this as a personal call-out, and I didn't mean to imply that I bought into the sad priorities of high school kids. I was interested to hear which cliques existed at anyone's school in a general way; maybe that didn't come across clearly.
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[User Picture]From: ahhhlisaaah
2006-09-04 12:04 am (UTC)
Rock chick then...rock chick now...rock chick forever
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[User Picture]From: dorothy_parka
2006-09-04 12:08 am (UTC)
78-81, NYC:
guidos/guidettes: the dominant subculture. the disco queens and boys w/ camaros and feathered hair. tight jeans for all, fur coats for the rich girls, and dadillacs when you turned 16. lots of hairspray. fights every day between classes. they all smoked and looked 40.

nerds: pretty much the same as everywhere.

heads: what everyone else called stoners. they were the only group the punks were friendly with, as they sold drugs and at least listened to some sort of tolerable music.

punks: we were few but highly noticeable. this group included the younger new wave girls. we were teased, but in a vert good natured way. everyone was scared of us. teh guidos gave me a nickname, even--sheena. my cuter friend was ramona.

jocks/cheerleaders: no one paid any attention to these people

preppies: the nemesis of the guido. they were often the targets of the guidos' anger and would be beat up and picked on much more than any other group

the kids who took alot of shop: we had no name for these kids, but they hung out together and were different from the rest of us. and about 2 years older. largely made up of "super-seniors."
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[User Picture]From: nosrialleon
2006-09-04 12:18 am (UTC)
Same school, a few years later.

Mods & punks had sort of decreased to just any pop music lifestyle culture. In the place of mods, there were NewRo's who became goths eventually.

I don't recall a major surfer population, but metal kids and stoners were definitely on the rise.

I was a Total Outsider who was able to social butterfly between the Stoner/Metal kids/Geeks/Theater kids/Bandos.
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[User Picture]From: loveminus0
2006-09-04 12:21 am (UTC)
Maybe it's because I went to a school of 200, with very few extra-curricular activites outside of sports, but we basically had only four groups:

The hoodrats (stoners)- who nobody really paid any attention to.

The "popular" group- though, looking back, I don't know that they were "popular" with anyone but themselves. You know, the pretty kids of doctors and lawyers, who were also the jocks of our school.

The nerds- but, by this, we didn't mean the "good students," since almost all the "popular," athletic kids were also A/B students.

The rest of us. So, I don't really know what I would have been considered in a more diverse/hierarchied school...
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[User Picture]From: miss_geek
2006-09-04 12:22 am (UTC)
we had basically the same thing, but we also had the beginings of the raver/club kid thing starting with cat in the hat hats, large stompy boots, and glitter (and lots of acid.) we also had the grunge kids, the hippie kids, goth kids and that's about it.
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[User Picture]From: nosrialleon
2006-09-04 08:59 am (UTC)
Basically, same high school, even LATER...
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[User Picture]From: studeronomy
2006-09-04 12:30 am (UTC)
I didn't attend high school, but if I had, I would have doubtlessly been an academic/geek/nerd. Maybe a film/literature nerd, which is like a hybrid of the theater geek (without actually being in theater) and the regular nerds, who might go so far as excelling in fields such as calculus and computers (all totally foreign to me). Also: while I have a healthy interest in genre lit and film, I'd probably never engage in anything like D&D (or the video game equivalents).

But I'm just blathering about the degree to which I don't fit a stereotype. Naturally, nobody fits these categories perfectly; I'm sure most surfers would protest, "Hey d00d, I care about some things other than surfing!" Right, d00d. You're still a surfer. And I'm a geek.

While I didn't go to high school, I know many people who did. In smalltown Iowa, these categories tend to overlap or consolidate into larger, broader categories...just because there are fewer people. You can feasibly be one of the ten jocks in your school and one of the eight academics, because there are only fifteen people in your class, anyway. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: handstil
2006-09-04 01:03 am (UTC)
Wow, this did not answer your question at all.
I was busy watching Ryan tie a victorian ladies mask to his face (photos later!) :)

Cliques in Huntington Beach in 1993:
* Surfer dudes who were stoners- everyone liked these guys, even the straight edge kids.
* Surfer *bros*- essentially, wannabe surfers who wore the clothes but didn't really surf
* Artsy kids- photo class, cigarettes, old cars, jack kerouac
* straight edge- (most of the skaters were part of this group as well) this was just turning into a nightmare around 1993, previously it had been a cute subculture that embraced untiy, peace, and brother/sisterhood. By this time it had mostly gone to shit.
* "the Long hairs*- I swear to you that this is what everyone called them. Just metal heads who smoked at the park after school and drew dragons on each others backpacks. Mortal enemy: New wave straight edge kids.
* Jocks- didn't really exist because football players all fell into one of the other subcultures. They didn't seem to hang out together, at all.
* Goths- We didn't really have traditional goths, it was more the artsy kids who listened to The Smiths all the time; a semi-culture.
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[User Picture]From: brianenigma
2006-09-04 12:58 am (UTC)
In my high school at the time (88-92, Huntington Beach), it was much the same but with a few differences. Preppies dressed a bit differently, the jock and surfer archetypes were certainly there exactly as you describe. There was a lot of crossover between band and theater and there were at least two bands (marching and jazz) that did not always see eye-to-eye (jazz band was also the theater orchestra.) There wasn't a whole lot of music-based subculture. It was a little too late for Metal to be taken all that seriously. While there was a greater Grunge subculture in the world at the time and lots of students were in to it, it was not well represented as a specific group of people at school. There were maybe one or two kids that I'd really describe as Punk, and like true punks, they were just doing their own thing; fuck the rest of you. There were a couple of different classes of Goth-like groups (although me being part of the Goth culture may be skewing my memory toward it's nuances and a lesser knowledge of the other cliques.) There was a sort of "happy goth" group--not entirely goth, but with a big heapin' helpin' of 80's alternative, and not entirely conformant to the Goth "dress code." I think this group morphed into candy-ravers in later years. Then there were the regular Goths--certainly dressed the part, were very into the music, some recreational drug use, etc. There were also some more hard-core Goths that were more into hardcore drug. There was a separate stoner group (pot smokers) and a group that was into harder stuff (some crossover into the hardcore Goths) that most people shunned. There was a specific group of people from various cliques (goths, stoners, etc.) that would hang out/hide out behind the "temporary" trailer classrooms behind the school (those "temporary" trailers, I believe, are still there and still used for teaching health and driver's education.) They were the (cigarette) smokers. In the Academic realm, there were really two distinct groups. The one I guess you'd call the College-Prep Academic. They were slightly preppy in their own way, but didn't really have the time or inclination for D&D or computers, maybe Chess Club or Math Club, because they could put that on their college application. They were all about getting into the MIT and Harvard and the like, directly without having to bother with a 2-year community college, preferably with a scholarship. The rest of the academics were the D&D, comic, sci-fi, and computer nerds (these were most of my best friends.)
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[User Picture]From: handstil
2006-09-04 01:06 am (UTC)
You went to Edison, right?
Do you remember "Viola"? She was my favorite goth at Edison!
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[User Picture]From: sesby
2006-09-04 02:01 am (UTC)
whereabouts in az? i'm from tucson.
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-09-04 01:25 am (UTC)
There was that occasional person who seemed to have at least one friend in most all of the groups. I was one of those. Early identity crisis in full swing I suppose, but I liked something about each group, or found something in common with someone in each group. I was always facinated with how people interacted with each other so differently, always looking over our shoulders to see who might be near by listening. Mostly I always found that when you got to know an individual really well from any of the groups, we all turned out to be pretty much concerned with the same things.
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[User Picture]From: halfjack
2006-09-04 03:02 am (UTC)
Jocks, Heads, Brains, and the usual band and drama cliquery (something about those classes just sticks people together). Substantial cross pollenation between Brain and Head factions.
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[User Picture]From: fimmtiu
2006-09-04 03:08 am (UTC)
My high school was a very college-prep-oriented upper middle class affair, and the top of the social hierarchy were actually the academic achievers. Next were the people involved in the school's extensive band, orchestra, and choir programs. The jocks weren't all that celebrated that I can recall, and I don't really remember any music-based cliques except the metal kids. Disclaimer: I was not in an ideal position for observation.
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[User Picture]From: freshwater_pr0n
2006-09-04 04:49 am (UTC)
You forgot the art room. We were the ones who would have been crucified if we'd been left to our own devices. Thank god a frustrated ceramic artist gave up, moved to the suburbs and got a teaching job.

Each of us went to a school that matched our talents, and another group of oddballs rose up to fill our place once we'd moved on.
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From: ganatronic
2006-09-04 05:09 am (UTC)
My HS had pretty much all those that you mentioned. Except instead of rock-a-billy we had these like folk-hardcore kids.

But, of course, there were sub-cliques of cliques -- with the surfers (the group I was closest to), there were stoner/longhairs surfers, jock surfers, studious surfers, white pride dude surfers (the north side white boys). I know you didn't ask, but I was a sort of surfer/skater, with three friends who were either dropped out or three years older, we all had long hair, and we were friends with all those groups (probably because we supplied weed), but still outside of them (we named ourselves the High Fivin' White Guys).

My school (santa barbara high school) was also like 50% latino. So we had some bronc groups, and gangster types.

I don't know, I ignored most people in high school. I parked off campus, ate off campus, ditched to surf, and figured out how to take all my classes during senior year at the city college. Then I watched that slideshow of high school memories about 30 minutes before graduation, and I realized how much I missed. So there's probably some other groups that I was ignoring. It felt like my school was 30% soshes, 50% vatos, 10% surfers, and 8% band/theater kids, and 2% misc.
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