American Subcultures: Definition & Examples Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Louis Wirth's Urbanism as a Way of Life

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Are Subcultures?
  • 1:42 Subcultures & Opposition
  • 3:22 Musical Subcultures
  • 4:39 Subcultures & Hobbies
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
American culture is a broad category that includes a seemingly endless number of subcultures. Through this lesson, you will learn what defines a subculture and explore the role that subcultures play in the larger American culture.

What Are Subcultures?

When it comes to terminology, culture is one of those words that are so broad as to be almost meaningless in any usable sense. Culture is simply the umbrella under which things like language, food, art, or music fall. For example, the term 'American culture' is a category that includes all of the ways that Americans express themselves and their history, from literature and films to religion and politics. Given the broad and often ambiguous nature of such a term, it is sometimes easier to discuss American culture in terms of its subcultures.

In a general sense, a subculture is a smaller group that fits into the larger culture. If you think of American culture as the big umbrella, the subcultures are all of the smaller groups around the country that fall into that category. For example, all of the citizens of the United States are Americans, but under that are African Americans, Asian Americans, Irish Americans, and so on. All of these groups fall into the bigger category, but beyond that are certain differences among them that differentiate them from the others.

In the previous example, the subcultures are differentiated by race or ethnicity, but they can be organized by just about anything that sets them apart from the larger category. Grammatically speaking, these differences are known as qualifiers, which are words that are attached to nouns to indicate a certain quality or characteristic. In the context of culture, these individuals are a part of the larger group (i.e. 'American'), but the qualifier indicates that they are also part of a smaller group within that culture (i.e. 'Asian American').

Subcultures & Opposition

While it is by no means a requirement, it is common for subcultures to be formed or defined in opposition to the larger culture. For instance, you've probably heard of the 'youth culture' before, which is loosely defined by the things that differentiate young people from adults. This can include things like the music they listen to, the leisure activities they prefer, or even things like their priorities and ideals.

Along those same lines, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered Americans make up a large subculture. In this case, the LGBT community is defined as a subculture because they are different from the larger heterosexual population. However, it is not simply their sexual orientation that defines them, but also their behaviors, political beliefs, or values. For example, in the 1960s and 70s, the dominant majority promoted things like marriage and family as stable social institutions. Because these institutions weren't equally or easily available to those within the LGBT community, they formed different social systems and values against that which they had been denied, such as an emphasis on sexual freedom and political activism.

In these two cases, members of these subcultures are sort of automatically included by their age, sexual orientation, or gender. Other subcultures like this include those built around race, ethnicity, or some other characteristic that is beyond a person's control. It is important to point out that even within these groups there exists smaller subcultures based around that which differentiates them from the larger group, like drag culture within the LGBT subculture.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account