Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guest Student Post: Straight Edge Lifestyle

The following is a guest post submitted by Dylan Niquette, a CCV Burlington student in his first semester. He wrote this piece for his Fall 2008 English Composition class with Deborah Straw. If you'd like to contribute some of your work to the CCV Burlington Blog, contact Adam Warrington (

Straight Edge is a philosophical lifestyle, a sub culture revolving mostly around the punk/hardcore movement. Straight Edge is a philosophy based around self-control, with the ability to abstain from drug use, alcohol use, and casual sex. Straight Edge centers around a lifestyle of personal development and well being, with belief in having a healthy body and mind. The movement attracts those away from the dependency lifestyles of drugs and unhealthy living habits that are common in our modern day culture. Straight Edge is a lifetime commitment.

Straight Edge ideas could be found in songs by the 1970s, but were more expanded on during punk movements in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Straight Edge lifestyle found its way throughout the United States and Canada in the ‘80s, along with the punk movement that made its way around European countries. Although Straight Edge shares common beliefs with Christianity, it is not considered a religion.

The phrase, Straight Edge, comes from the drummer Jeff Nelson of the punk band, Minor Threat. While Nelson was drawing a poster with a ruler for one of the band’s shows, he told his band mates that the straight edge of a ruler was a metaphor representing what the band stood for (keeping themselves straight/clean). Minor Threat was one of the first bands to preach being a clean punk band. In 1981 Minor Threat came out with a song named “Straight Edge.” The lyrics of the song written by Ian MacKaye became the anthem for Straight Edge lifestyle of the punk/hardcore movement:

I’m a person just like you, but I’ve got better things to do, than sit around and**** my head, hang out with the living dead. Snort white **** 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.

Straight Edge can also be represented by “sXe,” which is an acronym for the word, and by the symbol of an “X.” The “X” symbol comes from the common practice at all age shows where those under the drinking age are marked with X’s on their hands by security. Even those of the drinking age who are Straight Edge mark their hands with X’s as a sign of solidarity when they go to shows. Since Straight Edgers are into the hardcore scene of music, they tend to have the same fashion of those in the scene. You may see Straight Edgers with camouflage shorts, hardcore band t-shirts, gauges, and possibly tattoos (sometimes Straight Edge tattoos.)

Several aspects of Straight Edge are common within the lifestyle. Many may follow the lifestyle of no drugs (including tobacco), no alcohol, no casual sex. Some may choose to abstain from caffeine while others believe that caffeine is not an issue. Many individuals become drug free, but in other cases (not Straight Edge), being drug free is not a lifetime commitment.

The militant view of Straight Edge is called Hardline. A more extreme lifestyle of Straight Edge, it forbids the use of caffeine and modern day medicines. It also tends to be a more conservative lifestyle, with views against abortion and homosexuality. Those who are Hardline are for animal liberation and live a vegan lifestyle. Hardline is also against pornography, masturbation, and artificial contraception, for some believe that sex should only be done for reproduction. Hardline tends to follow rules from Abrahamic religions.

Anyone can become Straight Edge, whether you’re straight or gay, a boy or a girl, old or young. Even if you have done drugs in the past, a way to change is to claim Straight Edge. Those who cannot become Straight Edge are those who have claimed it before and have sold out their moral beliefs and resorted to drugs, alcohol, or casual sex. Those who have done this are called sellouts in the world of the Straight Edge movement.

A common question asked about the Straight Edge lifestyle is: “Why do you give yourself a title?” Since Straight Edge is a philosophy, it is easier to describe your beliefs as a whole by saying you are Straight Edge. For example, if you are in a social situation, and someone asks you if you want to drink, or do drugs, or smoke, or have sex, instead of saying “no,” you can say you’re Straight Edge. Some may already know of Straight Edge, and those who don’t know may look it up. The label is like calling yourself Christian, Jewish, Republican or Democrat; it describes your beliefs. The label shows that you are committed and serious about your beliefs and lifestyle.


  1. This is a well written essay. I'm curious that the student didn't at all touch on the violence that is often associated with the Straight Edge group, which has been well-documented. Rolling Stone recently wrote an article that looks at that side of this movement in depth, and it's worth a read.

  2. Thank you :)

    The reason I did not touch upon the violence that is associated with the straight edge group is because this was supposed to be a "definition" paper. The definition of straight edge has nothing to do with violence. Just like Christianity and the Christian Crusades, you'll find bad eggs in just about every lifestyle. When I think of violent straight edge people, I keep violent-people together, for straight edge isn't a lifestyle about violence.

  3. problem is, the media and society only ever look at the negative aspect of the Straight Edge movement. Its more interesting for the news to report on the bad things very few straight edge kids do as opposed to the endless amounts of good the movement does for youth. Its about time someone focuses on the good.

  4. In my opinion, a movement that encourages hatred of anyone -- even drug users and (gasp!) masturbators -- does more harm than good.

  5. the straight edge movement doesn't encourage hatred in the slightest sense. it's about purifying your body and mind of all negative influences, because in case you didn't know, drugs/alcohol/promiscuous sex aren't all that great for you. where in this paper did it ever mention supporting hate against those who weren't straight edge?