Originally created 09/17/02

Alternative teens don't try to fit in with others



For Natascha Dailey, at least the morning ritual of getting dressed is easy.

That's because Natascha, a 17-year-old senior at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School, doesn't care what other people think of her outfits. Her closet isn't filled with name-brand jeans and designer T-shirts.

"A lot of (people) compliment me on my style," she said. "I think they like that I make some of my own clothes."

That style includes bell-bottom pants, thick chain belts and dog-collar necklaces - definitely a stretch from the squeaky clean, tucked-in and tailored style that most mainstream teens wear.

But Natascha is quick to say she's not trying to be different. "I don't consider it not conforming, it's just doing what I like," she said.

Natascha is just one of many teens who refuse to fit the mold. They are often dubbed alternative - a catch-all name created for people who go their own way and shun mainstream rules of appearance.

Each generation has had them - the 50s had greasers; the 70s had punks - but that doesn't mean that people always accept them.

"Some of my peers treat me differently and comment on the way I dress because I don't look like them," Natascha said. "Some people gawk and whisper, and some call me a poser. But I think it's like that for everyone."

Because of their often-outrageous appearances, many people are also quick to judge a book by its cover.

"I think they're trying too much to be not like others that they go overboard," said Blair Sullivan, a senior at Evans High School. "Sometimes they might not have enough attention at home, so they figure if they dress like (that) they might get some attention at school."

But that may not be the case at all, according to Kay Rankin, a guidance counselor at Strom Thurmond High School.

"The ones that I would call different are often the average to above-average students," she said. "We typically don't have any discipline problems with them, and they're very personable."

Interacting with pupils on a daily basis has also increased her understanding of alternative teens.

"It's made me very tolerant. They're usually very nice and sweet-natured, just walking to a different beat."

Some say that Ms. Rankin may be the exception.

"I wear whatever I want to dress in," said Stephanie Ahmadipour, a junior a Lakeside High School. "I am treated differently when I wear all black. I have had some teachers not be as nice and welcoming as when I dressed normally."

But that doesn't mean the negative comments and stares will stop them.

"I think that a lot of the subcultures are just there for people to fit into something, which I think is silly," Natascha said. "(People) that matter don't even see the clothes, they see the person."

Alternative teens throughout the decades

The 50s:

Teens from the wrong side of the tracks, often called greasers, were characterized by greased-back hair and black leather jackets. They cared more about working on their hot rods than working on their math homework.

The 60s:

It was all about long, scraggly hair, beads and bell bottoms for alternative teens in the era of the anti-Vietnam war movement and Woodstock.

The 70s

Glam rock teens got out the glitter and stack-heeled shoes and listened to eight-track tapes of David Bowie and the New York Dolls.

The 80s:

Think graffiti: everything from hair to attire was wild and wacky colors. Pink dye jobs and mohawks were the alternative hair-do's of the decade. Fishnet pantyhose and spiked leather bracelets were high fashion.

The 90s:

Spawned off the streets of Seattle, the grunge style ruled the early 90s. Worn jeans and torn and tattered T-shirts were everyday attire. Dressing down - and sometimes dirty - was a way of life.

Teen Board members Jamie Howard, Abby Oakley and Samantha Kalney contributed to this article.

Reach Jennifer Hilliard at (706) 823-3223 or jennifer.hilliard@augustachronicle.com.