Do-rag vs. mohawk haircut - a comparison of punk and hip-hop culture

Term Paper, 2010

23 Pages, Grade: 2,3


Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. Main body
2.1 Origins and developments
2.1.1 Punk culture: between Rock ‘n’ Roll and Hardcore
2.1.2 Hip-hop culture: four in one
2.2 Visual representation
2.2.1 Punks: colorful Mohawks, leather jackets and safety pins
2.2.2 Hip-hoppers: do-rags, baggy pants and bling bling
2.3 Values, attitude, world view and behavior patterns
2.3.1 Punks: anti-mainstream?!
2.3.2 Hip-hoppers: it’s all about the Benjamins?!

3. Conclusion

4. References

5. Appendix

1. Introduction

First of all, the terms Mohawk haircut and do-rag, according to the title, and their connections to the stated instances of youth cultures should be explained. A so called Mohawk haircut is a type of coiffure “in which the head is shaved except for a band of hair down the middle of the scalp”[1] (cf. picture 1) which is typically worn by members of the punk culture in different varieties. In contrast, the term do-rag belongs to a special kind of headdress, more precisely “a scarf or kerchief worn as a head covering, often tied at the nape of the neck”[2], commonly occurring in hip-hop culture (cf. picture 2). Incorrectly, people often expect do-rags to be worn only by African-Americans or hip-hoppers, but actually this headgear is usually used by other groups like motorcyclists, too. Nonetheless, do-rags developed gradually to a representative symbol of the hip-hop culture.

Both words belong to youth cultures which are, for example, described by Gabriele Rohmann: “Vorwiegend junge Leute sind Träger der jeweiligen Kultur. Den (...) Kern bilden die ca. 14 bis 24jährigen.”[3] It is a compound word consisting of youth, i. e. “the transition from childhood to adulthood and (...) a transition from a state of dependence to a state of independence and full maturity that enables people to fulfill the rights and obligations attached to adulthood status”[4] ; and the second part culture which contains “the beliefs, way of life, art, and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a particular society.”[5] Similarly, another term related to youth culture is subculture which “was initially developed by the US 1950s Chicago school of urban gang sociology”[6].

At first view, these two youth cultures distinguish very much which is one of the reasons why they are confronted here with each other. Moreover, we will have a closer look at the cultures’ origins and developments as well as some of their typical characteristics. Additionally, questions like How do punks/hip-hoppers stereotypical look like? or What is the attitude of hip-hop/punk culture? will be tried to be replied and consequently both cultures will be analyzed and compared.

2. Main Body

2.1 Origins and developments

2.1.1 Punk culture: between Rock ‘n’ Roll and Hardcore

As many other youth cultures, punk has its origins in, and therefore a strong relationship to, a music genre. First of all, there was Rock and Roll music developed in the 1950s as a descendent of different American music styles like “gospel, blues, country”[7] and some others. With its representatives just as Elvis Presley, who is even called The King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and many more, Rock and Roll became a very popular and commercial music genre. Punk, short form of punk rock, outgrew of Rock and Roll as an alternative movement in the USA of the 1970s as a style of music; but obviously it distinguishes a lot from its predecessor as a subculture. Early punk bands “like the Stooges, the New York Dolls, the Ramones (...) were clearly influenced by rock ideologies, melodies, and fashions, yet they began to assume a critical distance from rock”, even separated themselves from it and “attacked rock as a part of the establishment.”[8] Starr describes this distinction as “a ‘back to basics’ rebellion against the perceived artifice and pretension of corporate rock music” and notes that punk rock reached its peak in the middle of the 1970s.[9]

Besides the punk rock movement in the 1970s, another genre called New Wave evolved which “approached the critique of corporate rock in more self-consciously artistic and experimental terms.”[10] As we can see in Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics[11] - a typical New Wave band of the 1980s - for instance, not just the characteristic use of synthesizers later obviously contrasted New Wave from punk music and made it a completely different music genre.

But punk culture did not just developed out of a music genre, e. g. Rock and Roll, and alongside another, e. g. New Wave, it also was the origin for some. Today many subgenres of punk are known like garage-punk, gothic-rock, grunge, and so on. “But the most significant (...) is the hardcore or hardcore-punk movement developed in the United States during the 1980s.” At the beginning, famous representatives of HC – short for hardcore-punk – were, for instance, called Dead Kennedys or Black Flag.[12] As we can see in a comparison between Blitzkrieg Pop by The Ramones[13], who belong to early punk music, and California Über Alles by Dead Kennedys[14], who are affiliated to hardcore-punk, the latter is more ‘hardcore’, i. e. it is faster and sounds more aggressive.

Later, other branches of this youth culture occurred mostly as a consequence of subgenres in music. For instance, grunge which “emerged from the blending of punk and hardcore energy with pop and rock melodies”[15] became well-known mainly because of the band Nirvana around 1990.

In contrast to some other music genres, punk music and culture survived many decades, perhaps because it was not just an artistic subgenre in music; Hollow Skai gives a short explanation which might be seen as one reason for the survival of punk culture until today: “Punk war (und ist) nie lediglich eine Modeerscheinung der späten 70er Jahre, ein Produkt der allgegenwärtigen Warenwelt, ein Medienereignis gewesen. Punk war immer auch ein Ausdruck von Stadterfahrung, modernen städtischen Lebens, eine Attitüde/Lebenshaltung“[16].

2.1.2 Hip-hop culture: four in one

Almost everyone mostly expects hip-hop to be a kind of music – but this is not everything. The part most people identify hip-hop with is actually called rap or rap music, which is defined as “a type of popular music in which the words of a song are not sung, but spoken in time to music with a steady beat.”[17] Even though rap is the best-known section, hip-hop rather describes a whole lifestyle consisting of four branches: the art of playing records, called DJing (DJ is short for disc jockey; cf. Picture 3) containing particular techniques termed as scratching or backspins. Additionally, a kind of dance, called break dance[18], as well as graffiti (cf. picture 4), which means a variety of painting art, normally done with spray cans, often illegally on public walls.[19] And last but not least, rap, as already mentioned, which gained the biggest popularity with famous representatives like, for instance, Run DMC and N. W. A. throughout the 1980s, Tupac Shakur and Notorious B. I. G. within the 1990s and 50 Cent among others in the first decade of the new millennium. From now onwards, the focus will be on rap music because of its influential effects on youth.

Although different other examples of rap-like songs might have been appeared before, it is said that “the modern history of rap [and therefore also of hip-hop] probably begins in 1979 with the rap song ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ by the Sugar Hill Gang[20].” With artists like Grandmaster Melle Mel and DJ Kool Herc, today famous for being pioneers of hip-hop, a small rap-scene slowly began to rise, initially only located within The Bronx, New York.[21]

Over time, rap music turned “into a form combining social protest, musical creation, and cultural expression” but was miles away from being recognized as an own culture because “rap was still viewed by the music industry as an epiphenomenal cultural activity that would cease as black youth became bored and moved on to another diversion, as they did with break-dancing and graffiti art.” But when time went by, hip-hop culture became more and more popular, especially with the MCs (abbreviation for Master of Ceremony) of Run DMC and their DJ Jam Master Jay. With the fact that rap music gained awareness in public, it also “brought along another charge that has had a negative impact on rap’s perception by the general public: the claim that rap expresses and causes violence.”[22]

Despite this critique has lasted until the present, as well as other points of criticism like homophobic[23] and misogynistic[24] statements or violent messages[25] of some rappers, rap is still represented in today’s music charts as we can see on the high amount of rap, e. g. in Billboard’s list Best of 2010 [26] . All in all, one can say that hip-hop as an artistic subgenre and, consequently, as a youth culture is still very current as well as famous compared with Eminem’s albums’ record sales, even the latest one Recovery[27].




[3] „Expressin‘ Myself“ by Gabriele Rohmann (p. 8)

[4] „Youth and youth culture“ by Suellen Gawler Butler (p. 67)

[5] „Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English“

[6] „Beyond subculture“ by Rupa Huq (p. 9)

[7] „Youth and youth culture“ by Suellen Gawler Butler (p. 19)

[8] „Youth and youth culture“ by Suellen Gawler Butler (p. 20)

[9] „American popular music” by Larry Starr (p. 207)

[10] „American popular music” by Larry Starr (p. 208)

[11] cf.

[12] „Youth and youth culture“ by Suellen Gawler Butler (p. 21)

[13] cf.

[14] cf.

[15] „Youth and youth culture“ by Suellen Gawler Butler (p. 32)

[16] „Punk“ by Hollow Skai (p. 30)

[17] „Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English“

[18] cf.


[20] cf.

[21] „That’s the joint!“ by Murray Forman (p. 61)

[22] „That’s the joint!“ by Murray Forman (p. 62)

[23] cf., for instance, (at 0:55 min.)

[24] cf., for instance,

[25] cf., for instance, (chorus)

[26] cf.

[27] „Eminem Will Score Biggest Sales Week of 2010” by Daniel Kreps

Excerpt out of 23 pages


Do-rag vs. mohawk haircut - a comparison of punk and hip-hop culture
University of Bayreuth  (Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften)
20th Century Britain
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
878 KB
Hip Hop, Punk, youth culture, 20th century, Rap
Quote paper
Christian Roßmeier (Author), 2010, Do-rag vs. mohawk haircut - a comparison of punk and hip-hop culture, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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