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`Swag`: an ethnographic study of izikhothane fashion identity

Skhothane is defined by ostentatious performances that involve dance, ‘dissing’ and flamboyantdress. The following study identifies and analyses the neo-tribe’s fashion codes in order to understand more thoroughly howand why these are constructed as well as to shed light on subcultural phenomena in South African township culture. The idea of neo-tribes such as skhothaneand hip-hop being counterculture has become challenged by the increasing influence of mass culture on the youth -especially in post-apartheid South Africa, where media dictates on lifestyle and identities are continually evolving. This qualitative research project aims at uncovering the stylistic nuances of the Skhothane neo-tribe. It further maps out the factors that inform how the members negotiate andexpress their identity using fashion. In this respect, phenomenological epistemology was appropriate as it lent itself to the deep inquiry into the culture’s identity from the perspective of its members.The ethnographic research methods of observation, journaling and interview were employed on the study sample of 9 participants belonging to the Italian Gates skhothanecrew, in order to explore the fashion identities of Skhothanes.The common defining feature of the Italian Gates skhothanefashion performances is the acquisition and pageant-like display of members’ perceived wealth through colourful Italian branded clothing. In this study’s sample, the practice of vandalism on consumer goods is a rarity and is understood as being an uncommon skhothaneperformance. Instead, the idea of vandalism being inherent to the culture seems to have gained notoriety through subjective media coverage. The overall findings of the study indicate that the self-reflexive identities of the skhothaneItalian Gates group make the participants intertextual authors in their use of luxury clothes to portraythe image of their desired affluence and social positions. The existence of the skhothaneneo-tribe reaffirms the reality of a postmodern society but more so it demonstrates a shift in the identities of young black South Africans. The study has provided terminologies relevant to neo-tribal phenomena that are defined by consumerism and performance in the context of fashion.
August 2017