Why is street culture important?

Street Culture is defined as 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 wear, or even 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, geography, or sociology, and/or spend years training in street ethnography to understand street culture. Nonetheless, you have to be curious, patient, aware of your surroundings, focus on the nuances of the street, ask the pertinent questions, and not be overly judgmental of the people who live and work in these unique environments.

Although most aspects of street culture are observable, a considerable amount of it requires first-hand experience to understand its underlying meanings and impact. Likewise, many actions that people on the street engage in are subtle and you need to view things from a broad vantage point, and not get caught up in the moment, the minutia of details, 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 don’t understand it, or fully appreciate its contribution to the vibrancy of the urban landscape. As part of the precariate, they are too busy making a living, and trying to get by. Otherwise they are like tourists, who after disembarking from the cruise ship docked at Puerto Vallarta, can’t wait to demonstrate their interest in Mexican culture by sipping margaritas at Senior Frog. Or we are more like the tourists who get off the plane at Charles De Gaul airport and rush to downtown Paris to take shareable selfies 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, and eat, as well as on the way we think about where we live, how we feel, and how we belong. Street Culture 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 unconsciously – as we walk the streets from one place to another, we are absorbing our surroundings, our perceptions of our experiences, that eventually shapes what we do and the choices we make on important domains in our lives