3rd March 2006 at 00:00
Condemned by date of birth to fall between the two opposing youth movements of my formative decades (hippies in the Sixties, punk in the Seventies), I have an outsider's unhealthy interest in youth cults in general. An interest tinged with envy, it must be said, for almost every fully fledged member of a teenage tribe, with the possible exception of the New Romantics. And their astonishingly enduring offspring, the tribe of Goth.

Last week, however, a new Goth-related thread arrived in the Opinion forum which might stiffen the antennae of any amateur social anthropologist. It concerned one poster's stepdaughter, who, after being "smacked in the face by some chavettes because she was dressed as a Goth", had announced she was going "straightedged". What, our correspondent wanted to know, did this mean?

Seren_dipity left this question-begging response: "Lucky you - no drink no drugs - rubbish music but we expect that from teenagers!" - plus a link to a "straightedge" website, which presumably explained all.

Before I could check the url, average chipped in with this: "Got a straightedge child. They are sooooooooo dull."

Next came Part Deux, sounding authoritative: "It means vegan, and no drugs or alcohol. It's a term that originated with hardcore skatey punk bands during the Eighties like Minor Threat and Oi Polloi."

As so often happens in this forum, a row broke out. Seren_dipity insisted that veganism was not an essential component of straightedgism. But Part Deux stuck to hisher guns. If you're sufficiently interested, check out the thread and its links. And while you're at it, dip into a parallel thread expressing posters' amazement at how well mannered 21st-century Goths seem to be.

Thling's daughter had invited a young Goth round for a sleepover: "I've never met such a polite 13-year-old. She produced a non-stop cascade of pleases and thank-yous and even got out of her chair and asked if I would like a seat. An image that will stay with me for a long time is that of our teenage Goth, dressed head to toe in black, carefully stacking the tea dishes and carrying them through to the kitchen."

Packerguy offered some historical corroboration: "Yes, the Goths were a famously polite and punctilious race, which incurred the wrath of other Germanic tribes and also the Roman legions."

While artaud confirmed my suspicions: "All the Goths I have taught have always been well mannered and very bright. But miserable."

I'd like to end with what might be the first sighting of a new youth cult in the making. Over to shake_ya_thang: "My name is Shake and I am a 26-year-old woman who enjoys crochet." Pink obbit took up the thread: "I started when I was 17 at college, then stopped when I went to uni, just started again a few months ago. I'm no expert but so far apart from cloth stitch and half stitch, I can now do three different spiders and am now learning roseground. It's so pretty!"

Two are a trend, but three can be a movement. And here was TC7: "My mum taught me ladylike pursuits too... I'm 19 and I crochet, cross-stitch, sew, cake decorate and can make roses out of marzipan. But I think I'm cool cos they're dying arts!"

From vegan straightedgers to polite Goths to rampant stitchers - is there anywhere an old anarcho-punk, bovver boy or Hell's Angel can feel safe?

Follow these threads at www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

* Opinion: Schoolteaching is now overfeminine

* History: Irving verdict

* Personal: Any type 1 diabetics out there?

* Behaviour: Assaulted with snowballs

* Opinion: Is a shadow thrown on to a curved surface 2-D or 3-D?

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website

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