Straight Edge

Getting wasted is for losers. This month, The Knowledge goes clean (for once) ’cause we’ve got.. Straight Edge.

It started simply enough in the early ’80s Hardcore Punk scene with a bunch of kids that swore off drugs, cigarettes and booze. Taken in the context of the time, with punks rebelling by getting wasted, it was pretty rad.

A Hardcore band called Minor Threat started and epitomised what Straight Edge is through a song of the same title. Although it was only 45 seconds long, that song that started the youth movement is still active today on a global scale.

Straight Edge kids basically banded together because they wanted to be part of Punk’s idealism but didn’t want to partake in the self-abuse that came with it. Opting to go positive, they made a lifelong commitment to refrain from drugs, tobacco, alcohol and promiscuous sex.

Some Straight Edge Kids argue that the alcohol and tobacco industries are part of the government to a certain extent. So rebelling against these money-making corporations also means taking a stab at the establishment.

In a world of symbols, Straight Edge has claimed its place through the letter X. Commonly worn as a mark or tattoo, the symbol has come to represent Straight Edge followers of all ages and creed. Even the name Straight Edge is often abbreviated as sXe while bands show their affiliation by adding the X to the front and back of their names (eg: the band xDEATHSTARx).

The history of the X mark can be traced back to a band called Teen Idles. The band was scheduled to play at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens during their West Coast tour in 1980, but denied was entry when the club management discovered that the entire band was under the legal drinking age. As a compromise, management marked each of the Idles’ hands with a large black X as a warning to the club’s staff not to serve alcohol to them.

During the mid-80s, Straight Edge was gaining momentum in the Hardcore scene with bands like Gorilla Biscuits and 7 Seconds inciting massive slam dancing at underground shows. In 1988, Youth of Today released the song ‘No More’ which introduced vegetarianism into the subculture. This began a trend of animal rights activism and created an offshoot culture called Krishnacore that combined Hardcore and Hare Krishna values and beliefs.

What started as a declaration of choice and positive peer pressure turned into radicalism during the ’90s. Militant Straight Edge was an uneasy presence in the scene. The term Militant referred to someone who didn’t only “walk the walk”, but would stomp all over you if you opposed their ways.

Elgin James, a troubled youth who was raised by Hippie foster parents formed a crew called FSU (Friends Stand United, originally F**k Sh*t Up) in Boston. Becoming modern day Robin Hoods, FSU fought racism within the scene (most commonly against Nazi Skinheads) and robbed local drug dealers. The money that they “collected” was donated to charities and used to make documentaries about their way of life.

The Militant minority believed that violence was justified in their cause. Swapping one high for another, Straight Edge Militants were involved in numerous crimes such as arson at a McDonald’s outlet, bombing a mink farm and even manslaughter. After spreading throughout America, FSU was considered an illegal gang by the police.


Eventually, negative reports from the media caused a stir in the scene and the Militants went underground (or under-the-underground). Today, Straight Edge bands play alongside non-Straight Edge bands at concerts. Many Straight Edge bands have openly criticised the movement’s extremism in the 90s.

Straight Edge began as a reaction to an out-of-control world, an appealing fusion of self-control and in-your-face protest. And while the battle might not be won yet, the movement continues to grow with every restless youth marking an X on their bodies.

National Edge Day is an unofficial holiday for members of the Straight Edge movement where parties (without alcohol) and gigs are held in abundance. The holiday is now in its 10th year.

• Minor Threat
• Gorilla Biscuits
• 7 Seconds
• Teen Idles
• Judge
• Youth of Today
• Slapshot
• Birthright
• Earth Crisis
• Strife
• Righteous Jams
• Stick To Your Guns


Hardline is a notoriously elitist right-wing Militant movement that opposes abortion and homosexuality.

Youth Crew was started by the band Youth of Today and is distinguished from other hardcore and punk scenes by its optimistic, fraternal and more moralistic outlook.


Minot Threat + Slam Dancing + 45 Seconds of Mayhem = SXE