Some teenagers just want to wear brand name sneakers, clothes and caps without being perceived as the wannabe gangsters known as Eshays.
But according to the lead teacher of fashion at St Peters Lutheran College, Ingrid Rucinski, individual style choices can come with biases and prejudice.
“I definitely think there’s a misnomer with clothing, with such a variety of styles, it’s easy to be stereotyped within subcultures,” Rucinski said.
“I think then people can be misinterpreted within subcultures but are not necessarily describing that subculture.”
Many youths are frustrated at their inability to demonstrate their personal style, and make fashion choices without attracting unwanted attention. Rucinski believes this also raises broader issues with how society treats different socio-economic groups.
“Eshays are just lower-class people trying to boast wealth status by having certain brands of clothing. The cost of clothing is depicted on social media now, so people can be misinterpreted within socio-economic groups,” said Rucinski.
One Australian news website has declared Eshays like to instigate fights against innocent children, steal, and even carry knives, all while wearing distinctive designer clothes. Facebook groups routinely warn of young people matching this description in the area.
One disturbing trend among some Eshays is to film themselves committing violent crimes and then post it on social media, which only perpetuates the stigma associated with the clothing and shoes they wear.
Police are also involved in identifying people who break the law. As Libby Murphy, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner, said recently, “there will be zero tolerance to any poor behaviour or criminal offending”.
A large amount of the social trend of the Eshay subculture derives from consumers making decisions on how products are perceived rather than whatever the sporting brands like to promote. This then feeds into broader community structures and divisions, and even inter-generational conflict, effectively giving certain players in modern history a uniform.
But as Sunnybank State High School student Jah-Rhys Erickson argues, society should know not to judge a book by its cover.
“Eshays are associated with using drugs, carrying knives, wearing Nautica polos – I don’t fit those stereotypes, I’m very respectful,” Erickson said.
It remains to be seen whether the clothes and shoes underpinning Eshay culture go the way of other fashion trends and fads.
InQueensland’s Media Academy is a partnership involving Education Queensland and UQ, teaching high school students about critical thinking and the journalism skills needed to develop the next generation of public interest journalists. Their stories will be published regularly by InQueensland.
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