A few years ago there were two fashions in Eastern Europe – short skirts and boots for the girls, and black trousers, shoes and leather jackets for the guys – but today’s Ukrainian youth is looking for something more, and now you can see many of the western world’s youth movements taking hold here at a rate that would have Brezhnev spinning in his grave.
Skins and Punks
One of the most worrisome youth movements around, of course, is that of the skinheads. It’s no surprise that a lot of the kids who position themselves as skinheads really are racists, though there also exist anti-racist or ‘antifascist’ skins. Be that as it may, the skinhead movement has its roots in England in the 1960s, when working-class kids, both black and white, shaved their heads and guzzled beer as a response to the peace-and-love tenor of the times. It was in subsequent years that the skins became associated with racial violence, to the chagrin of many of them. If you see a bunch of skinheads, you might cross the street until you figure out whether they’re the good guys or the bad guys. If they’re the latter, they’ll be wearing skulls or other death’s-head regalia; if they’re the former, they might be wearing bulldog, cobweb, or smileyface signs. A friend of mine saw a couple of skinheads beating a guy up in Kyiv recently. The victim wasn’t black or flamboyant (which is the type of guy skinheads usually go out hunting for). They just wanted his money. Then there are the punks. I talked to a schoolboy from Podil who looked like one. He wore tight jeans and that weird haircut that for some strange reason is called an ‘erokez’ in Ukrainian. He couldn’t explain to me exactly why he subscribes to the punk movement, but just repeated the boilerplate that you can read everywhere on punk kids’ websites: “I want to express myself, I don’t want to be dull or regular. The music I listen to is full of energy. It makes me want to do stuff, and looking like this makes me stand out from the crowd.” Nothing special, then: just the words of a teenager who thinks everybody in the world is against him. Ukrainian show business has recently welcomed these rapscallions in Vision skate shoes and bleached-out hair, and the hysteria around them has provoked a domestic wave of the sort of high-energy,
At the What’s On office, metalheads attracted more yes votes than emo kids because they aren’t depressed and their music isn’t whiny
nasal-voiced, fast melodic music that started being heard in London almost 30 years ago. Some of the kids who play it do actually know what punk is, and are familiar with its history. Anyway, if you come across a sneering kid with a skateboard and pink hair, don’t be afraid. He’s probably people-friendly.
He’s So Emotional
This brings us to emo. The term emocore is short for ‘emotional hardcore’ – emo is basically punk that expresses sensitive feelings. Emo is associated with a certain style: tight jeans on males and females alike, long black-dyed bangs brushed to one side of the face or over the eyes, tight t-shirts that often bear the names of rock bands, studded belts, canvas sneakers or skate shoes or other black shoes (often old and beaten up), and thick, black hornrimmed glasses. In general there’s a lot of pink and black. You can tell an emo boy because he’s wearing his older sister’s clothes. Emo, in other words, is for vulnerable, effeminate boys who listen to a whiny variety of punk and hardcore in which the vocalists sound like they’re crying, moaning, and squeaking. A 14 year-old girl I talked to on the street, a student at the Podil Lyceum, explained to me that “people are just afraid of being emotional. This world is too cruel. Our parents are too tough on us, and they’re always busy with work. We gather at the Lva Tolstoho metro station. In the winter McDonalds is our favorite spot. We date each other and someone who dates a regular person is considered a traitor.” The girl was touching: I remembered myself at her age, thinking that nobody understood me. Well, it’s a normal stage of human developing. What impresses me is that emo boys are so popular with girls, probably because they don’t try to be macho. Alex, a 15 year-old emo boy I stumbled upon at McDonalds, revealed, “I would say boys are even more emotional than girls, they’re just ashamed to show it. By the way, in case you’re near a record store, the big Ukrainian emo group is called The Used.
Ah, the local metalheads. Typically, they’re still wearing the metal uniform as defined in the late 1970s: tight jeans, motorcycle boots or hi-top basketball sneakers, and t-shirts traditionally augmented with a sleeveless jacket of denim or leather, which itself tends to be emblazoned with patches and band pins. Add a studded leather wristband, a bullet belt, and a chain and you’re all set. Sergey Duda is a student at Kyiv Shevchenko University and a metalhead. “A metalhead isn’t just into getting a kick listening to hard rock, it’s also a state of mind,” explains Sergey. “A lot us prefer old thrash, like Slayer, Pantera, and Metallica. Few metal bands today play real hard rock, the younger groups are into making their music more popular. It’s become all business.” Metalheads are everywhere in Kyiv, but their major hangouts are basically the Maidan metro station, which they call the ‘Truba’ (tube), or the Kontraktova Ploscha metro station. Here at the What’s On office, metalheads attracted more yes votes than emo kids because they aren’t depressed and don’t blame anybody for anything, and their music isn’t whiny. “In my native town of Chernihiv,” Sergey said, “a metalhead club sprung up. Right out there on the stage kids talked about the harm of drugs and alcohol. Some people think we’re strange. But metal’s good for you, it puts more drive in you than beer does.”
Being Slavs, that is, extremely white, doesn’t stop them from saying ‘Yeah’ and ‘Yo’ with seriously heavy accents
You too can become a metalhead by following six simple rules. 1. Grow your hair, 2. Grow it even longer, 3. And even just a little more, 4. And a bit more, 5. Alternatively, shave your head like Phil from Pantera, 6. Grow out your beard The National Aviation University, which organises high-profile metal shows, is the favourite location of metal kids in Kyiv. Metal guys tend to treat themselves and others with dignity.
Yo! Kyiv in Da House!
When you hear the word ‘hip-hop’ you might think of black American street culture, but that’s a narrow view. Ukraine is now full of hip-hoppers: Potap and Nastya Kamenskih, David, Seryoga, the New School. Their main distinctive feature is that they’re all Slavs, that is, extremely white, but that doesn’t stop them from saying ‘Yeah’ and ‘Yo’ with seriously heavy accents as they try to replicate their African-American models. All these pseudo hip-hoppers prod regular Kyiv boys to position themselves as hiphop heads. They hang out at Furshet in Mandarin Plaza to buy beer and try to talk like real products of the American ghetto. “We’re sons of the street,” one of them explained to me, an abundance of fakegold chains about his neck. “It’s the way I am. Besides the fact that I’m a Caucasian, I live like a real hip-hopper.” Luckily for him, hip-hop parties are held every week in different Kyiv night spots. “I live for dancing,” the kid told me. “That’s what sets us apart.” Fair enough. Anyway, that ends our youth culture rundown. Whatever lifestyle you practice, no one really cares if you don’t hurt anybody. Everyone’s free to do whatever he or she wants within the boundaries of the Constitution. I guess that why it’s called democracy.