Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For the drawing or cutting tool, see Straightedge.
Primarily centered in the United States, Straight edge is a mostly youth-oriented lifestyle and subculture that advocates abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and the usage of recreational drugs. Straight edge is also a genre of hardcore punk rock advocating a straight-edge lifestyle.
Some 'straight-edgers' also make a commitment to abstain from promiscuous sex, not use any psychogenic substances (i.e. caffeine, medicine, etc.), and not consume meat or any other animal products (by adopting a vegan lifestyle). Some straight-edgers commit to non-violence and pacifism. Others promote environmentalism and the ecology movement. Straight-edgers also tend to be followers of punk or hardcore punk music, and some adherents hold that straight-edge cannot exist separately from the music scene.
Straight-edge can be viewed as a lifestyle option, or as a long term commitment to one's self to stay away from the things listed above.
There are various reasons why people choose to be straight-edge. Often the life-style is used as a 'stepping stone' to allow one to be more positively involved with one's own mental and physical health. Some straight-edgers do not use caffeine, or they choose to be vegetarian or vegan. Straight-edgers also have reservations about medication (particularly psychoactive medications ), which they generally eschew. In its early days, straight edge tended to involve some abstinence from (particularly casual) sex, an ethos some still maintain today.
Attitudes to spirituality
Many straight-edgers feel that having a clear mind is a better way to approach life and/or spirituality. They tend to be atheistic or agnostic, often believing in self-responsibility and rejecting the idea of a deity or any divine moral law. However, in some circles the movement has associations with Christianity, and there was at one time a significant Hare Krishna straight-edge movement. There are also Muslim straight-edgers, especially in Islamic countries, most notably Malaysia.
At punk rock shows, it became common practice to mark an X on the hands of under-aged concertgoers to ensure that the bouncers would recognize a minor attempting to drink alcohol. Early adopters of the "straight-edge" lifestyle voluntarily marked their hands in the same way to show their commitment to refusing alcohol. This practice is believed to have originated with Ian MacKaye's first band, The Teen Idles, and still continues among straight-edgers. Also widespread is the tattooing of the X symbol on other parts of the body, or wearing it on clothing, pins, et cetera. Three Xs (XXX) have their origin in some artwork created by Minor Threat's drummer Jeff Nelson where he replaced the 3 stars in the bands hometown Washington D.C. flag with Xs. Some people interprete this as a symbol of Ian MacKaye's don't smoke, don't drink, don't fuck ethos (see below). Some people believe the three Xs are short for Body,Mind and Soul, although three Xs have also been used as an abreviation of Hardcore (Straight-Edge). The X is both a mark of negation and a mark of identity. Attaching the X to one's name or band name is common practice for straightedgers. For example, 'John Smith' would become 'XjohnXsmithX', or 'xxxjohnxxx', et cetera. "Straight edge" is sometimes abbreviated sXe (S.E. plus an X) following much the same logic. Note that sXe is still pronounced 'straight edge', or occasionally 's-x-e', and not 'sexy'.
Tolerance and 'Hard-Line'
Straight-edgers' attitudes towards drug-users are varied and change from region to region and group to group. Accounts exist of "straight-edge" people exhibiting violent behaviour towards others whom they do not consider "straight-edge", however the majority do not promote violence at all. Intolerant interpretations of straight-edge ideas are sometimes referred to as 'hard-line' or 'Hate Edge'. Such "Hardliners" tend to be held in disregard by the majority of straight-edgers for attempting to associate them with intolerance and violence. In turn, Hard-liners have been known to target other straight-edgers who don't adhere to their interpretations of the life-style, usually including veganism and sexual abstinence. The band Vegan Reich forms a notable example of the hard-line philosophy.
Straight edge and the Police
Straight-edgers were classified as a gang by the police in some communities such as Salt Lake City, Utah in the late 90's according to various media, because of violent incidents involving straight-edgers, and links with the Animal Liberation Front.
In the book Our Band Could Be Your Life, MacKaye reports that he and friends often missed musical performances by their favorite groups because they were held in clubs in and around Washington DC that served alcoholic drinks and banned anyone under 21 years old from entering.
When MacKaye's group, the Teen Idles, made a brief west-coast tour in 1980, MacKaye encountered a club owner in Los Angeles who was sympathetic to youngsters wanting to see musicians perform, and had begun writing a large "X" on their hands with a permanent marker as a warning to bartenders that such persons should not be served alcohol.
Upon returning to Washington D.C., MacKaye suggested this same notion to various area club owners as a means to allow teenagers into the clubs, while preventing them from being served alcohol. Several clubs began doing so, and the "X" drawn on one's hand quickly became a symbol of a growing ideological stand against alcohol and drugs. The Teen Idles' "Minor Disturbance" EP, released on the highly influential DIY label Dischord Records in 1980 featured two X'd up hands on the cover. This EP also marked the beginning of what would become the straight edge scene within hardcore and punk (see sample lyrics below).
The actual term "straight-edge" was coined by MacKaye's second hardcore/punk band Minor Threat in the early-mid 1980s, although it was not originally intended to be a life-style. However the straight-edge lifestyle is largely defined by the lyrics to Minor Threat songs, including the two listed below. It is worth noting however that Ian MacKaye has never associated himself with straight edge as a movement.
Influential Early MacKaye Lyrics
- "Deadhead, deadhead, take another toke
- Deadhead, deadhead, you're a lousy joke"
- - "Deadhead" by the Teen Idles, 1980
- "I'm a person just like you
- but, I've got better things to do
- than sit around and fuck my head,
- hang out with the living dead,
- snort white shit up my nose,
- pass out at the shows,
- I don't even think about speed
- That's something I just don't need...
- I've got the straight edge!
- I'm a person just like you
- but, I've got better things to do
- than sit around and smoke dope
- because I know that I can cope
- laugh at the thought of eating ludes,
- laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
- Always gonna keep in touch
- Never wanna use a crutch!
- I've got the straight edge!"
- -"Straight Edge" by Minor Threat, 1981
- "(I) Don't smoke
- Don't drink
- Don't fuck
- At least I can fucking think
- (I) Can't keep up
- Can't keep up
- Can't keep up
- Out of Step (with the world)"
- -"Out of Step (with the world)" by Minor Threat, 1981
Popular and Influential Straight Edge Bands
- Earth Crisis (bringing together sXe with veganism and ecologism)
- Chain Of Strength
- Project X, Judge
- Youth of Today (originators of a genre of sXe hardcore called Youth Crew, credited with reviving a moribund sXe scene in the mid-to-late eighties)
- Boston Crew's DYS, SSD and Slapshot
- Morning Again
- A Chorus of Disapproval
- In My Eyes
- Ten Yard Fight
- Carry On
- Stand and Fight
- Amendment 18 (Also known as A.18)
- Uniform Choice
- Gorilla Biscuits
- Side By Side
- alt.punk.straight-edge FAQ
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