"Keeping it real": subcultural media and the discourses of authenticity in alternative sport

Belinda Wheaton, Becky Beal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the consumption of alternative sport's subcultural media. Our research is situated in the context of `post' CCCS subcultural research which has explored how the media and the market are central to the authentication of popular cultural practices. Qualitative audience research was conducted with windsurfers from the UK and skateboarders from the US, examining the meanings that the niche magazines have for the participants of those alternative sports in the construction of their sporting identities. We focused on participants' readings of magazine advertising images, exploring their discourses about `authentic' identity and status in their subcultures, particularly through their complex and `creative' readings of the meanings of images and brands. Our empirical research suggests that the magazines played an important role in providing and circulating cultural knowledges, but also were an avenue for the participants to display their subcultural capital. We map the interpretive frameworks used by both groups to discuss `authentic' discourses of their sports. These centred on action photos of people `doing it' and their associated lifestyles and social worlds. Inauthentic images included those that portrayed equipment simply as commodities, or brands that could not demonstrate long-term commitment to the sports and lifestyles, or were targeting outsiders/beginners. Additionally authentic status was based on assumptions of maleness and whiteness, making full inclusion complicated for females and non-white participants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-176
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


  • consumption
  • media
  • sport
  • subculture
  • youth


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