UK’s Top 10 Subcultures Revealed: new research

Friday, July 24, 2020

NATURISTS, PUNKS, GAMERS & MODERN-DAY WITCHES – the UK’s subculture scene is thriving with 56% of the population involved in a subculture according to new research by leading research and planning agency The Nursery

Conducted online during lockdown, the research asked 1800 UK adults a series of questions designed to reveal the depth, variety and motivations of subcultures in the UK. Going beyond the mainstream, the study is a rare glimpse into an often secret and misunderstood world.

Gaming is the UK’s biggest and most popular subculture that has seen a massive surge during lockdown with women accounting for 50% of the new adopters. Already a £5.7bn market in the UK – one-in-eight identify as being part of a gaming subculture – and they’re in good company. Snoop Dogg, Lady Ga Ga, Jack Black and Daniel Craig are just a handful of A-lister’s who have revealed a penchant for gaming and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down. 18% of those surveyed saying that they have taken up gaming since lockdown began with two-thirds stating that they will keep it up.
Role-play gaming is also gaining momentum (10th most popular subculture in the UK) as is Cosplay – which attracts a younger female following.

Modern-day witchcraft (Wicca) is gaining momentum in the UK with 3% of those surveyed identifying as being part of the pagan subculture. Attracted to its embracing of feminism, spirituality, mindfulness and environmentalism – modern-day witchcraft is attracting a growing following of mainly younger women. As a sector, religion and spirituality (not including mainstream religions) account for almost one-fifth (18%) of all subcultures in the UK.

Straight Edge, Satanism and Non-monogamy are on the subculture fringes but are growing in numbers.

Born out of hardcore Punk in the early 80’s (7th on our list of top 10 UK subcultures) – Straight Edge was a radical response to the drug and alcohol use associated with Punk – with Straight Edge Punks choosing to abstain from booze, drugs and tobacco. Over the past four decades it’s morphed into different forms with today’s substance-free younger generation keeping it alive by ‘claiming edge’.

Satanism is a religious subculture that, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t believe in hell or heaven – but is rather a ‘church’ of atheists who are gaining numbers globally due to its non-judgemental, liberal stance. Non-monogamy is also a growing subculture (and part of the non-formative sexual practices umbrella group) that includes swingers, people in open relationships and those that are polyamorous.

As a sector, non-normative sexual practices account for 8% of all subcultures in the UK.

And the motivation for being part of a subculture? ‘Belonging’ is the main driver (44%) followed by ‘the opportunity to be creative’ (41%) and ‘meeting new people’ (40%).

Top 10 subcultures in the UK:

  • Gaming
  • Religious groups (not mainstream religions)
  • Hippy
  • Spirituality
  • Political movements
  • Restrictive diets (e.g. paleo, vegan etc)
  • Punk
  • Bikers
  • Goth
  • Role-play gaming

Top 5 ‘fringe’ UK subcultures:

  • Steampunk
  • Off-grid living
  • Straight Edge
  • Incel
  • Non-monogamy

Key findings:

  • 56% of the UK public describe themselves as involved in a subculture
  • 43% only connect with their subcultures online
  • 75% consider their subculture to be a key part of their identity
  • 44% identify ‘belonging’ as the primary motivator for joining a subculture
  • 20% spend at least £500 on their involvement with their subculture
  • 18% have taken up gaming since lockdown began
  • 11% are part of an alternative lifestyles subculture that includes: home-schooling; living off-grid and naturism
  • 12% belong to fantasy world subcultures
  • 3% of the UK public are part of body modification subcultures