Industry Tips

Urban Tribes and The Garments that Identify Them

“Urban tribes are young city people that gather in relatively small, fluid groups. These groups share common interests that are, in general, different from the interests of mainstream culture.”

With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at some contemporary urban tribes. Some are popular, others obscure, but all are rich in culture and history.


Trekkies or Trekkers

These are people who eat, drink and breathe Star Trek. The media commonly brands them as “Trekkies,” but some of them prefer to be called “Trekkers” because they consider the first derogatory. Whatever name they prefer, these are the “hardcore” fans of the Sci-Fi franchise. Trekkies or Trekkers are typically portrayed wearing Starfleet uniforms, but they’re also known for collecting garments with characters or logos printed on them.


Bears are usually prominent “hairy” men who defy the “Adonis” beauty standard by embracing their appearance. Emblems that define this group are, of course, Bear related images like paws, some leather elements, and lumberjack garments.


Punk is a culture that encompasses music, fashion, and philosophy. It was born in the late 60s and early 70s as a response to the conservative and suffocating culture of the time: fast, aggressive, loud, and in your face. Symbols representing the Punk movement are studs, leather, the color black, S&M elements, and piercings, among others. The first followers of this trend made personalized clothes, which is why it is today associated with a “dirty” look. Northwest Custom Apparel can help you with custom t-shirts for your rock band.

Black T-Shirt with Motley Cru Band
Custom Printed T-Shirt by Northwest Custom Apparel


What can be said about Hipsters that hasn’t been saying before? Either way, graphics typically associated with Hipsters are mustaches, coffee mugs, glasses, and reindeer, among others. When it comes to Hipsters, the presentation is critical. A vintage look and sensitive strokes will go a long way with them.


While never entirely gone, grunge has made a mainstream comeback thanks partly to a 90’s nostalgia that has exploded in recent years. This subculture started in the American city of Seattle where thanks to bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, it spread quickly across the US and eventually the world. As the name implies, grunge is a style that’s mostly (whether on purpose or by accident) unkept. The Grunge visual movement includes long shaggy hair, torn jeans, dirty Chuck Taylor shoes, and untucked plaid shirts.



Somewhere between hipsters and punk rockers are the rockabillies. These people celebrate classic rock, played by Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Bill Haley. The movement started way back in the 50s in the southern states of the US by fusing elements of Western musical style, such as country, with the then up-and-coming rhythm and Blues. Nowadays, rockabillies wear biker leather jackets, classic cut jeans, vintage tattoos, and carefully combed hair. Examples of rockabilly characters would be John Travolta in Grease and Betty Boop.


Described as a microculture by Wikipedia, Seapunk is a subculture of the new millennium. Born on the internet in 2011 thanks to a small group of influencers, the movement is primarily by the nostalgia of 90’s internet culture. Imagery related to this tribe includes pixel icons and famous symbols in the 90s, like the smiley face and the yin-yang. Its palette encompasses mostly psychedelic pinks and fuchsias and aqua blues and greens.

Urban Tribe Shirts at Northwest Custom Apparel

[envira-gallery id=”19308″]

About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!