Blog

Why is street culture important?

Street Culture is the beliefs, dispositions, ideologies, informal rules, practices, styles, symbols, and values associated with, adopted by, and engaged in by individuals and organizations that spend a disproportionate amount of time on the streets of large urban centers (Ross, 2018, p. 8). When interpreted in this manner, street culture is not simply graffiti and street art, or street styles or street wear, and street food. It is a more encompassing term and practice. Street culture is the glue that holds many urban environments together.

You don’t need to hold an advanced degree in urban anthropology or geography and/or spend years training in street ethnography to understand street culture, but you have to be curious, patient, aware of your surroundings, focus on the nuances of the street, ask appropriate questions, and not be overly judgmental of the people who live and work in these unique environments, and the places you encounter to understand street culture.

Although most aspects of street culture are observable, a considerable amount of it requires first-hand experience to understand the underlying meanings and impact. Likewise, many actions that people on the street engage in are subtle and you need to see things from a broad vantage point, and not get caught up in the moment, the minutia of detail, or your own biases. You also need to learn to appreciate the diversity of the urban environment not in a kitsch or tourist like manner, but in a holistic way.

People, in particular those who live, work and/or visit large urban centers throughout the world, are exposed to street culture every day, however many do not understand it, and/or appreciate its contribution to the vibrancy of urban culture. We are too busy making a living, trying to get by, as part of the precariat. Otherwise we are like tourists, looking to drink our first margarita after we disembark from the cruise ship docked at the harbor of a popular Mexican vacation spot, or we get off the plane at Charles De Gaul airport and rush to Paris to take a selfie of ourselves in front of the Eiffel Tower to share on Instagram.

All of us can probably function reasonably well without noticing or acknowledging the impact that street culture has on the way we talk, walk, dress, food we choose to eat, as well as on the way we think about where we live, how happy or miserable it makes us feel, and how we belong. It also impacts our preferences for certain kinds of entertainment (i.e., the shows we watch on our electronic devices, the music we listen to, etc.). And this happens quite inadvertently – as we walk the streets from one place to another, we are absorbing our surroundings, forming perceptions of what we see and do, that eventually shapes what we do and choices we make on important domains in our lives