Punk rock is known for many things, but restraint is not one of them. It is a musical movement that began in the mid-1970s, and was a reaction to the disingenuousness that was perceived to be part of popular culture. Punk music was intended to paint a picture of how the world actually was, instead of how the culture wished it was. A desire for authenticity was a large part of the punk movement, and this was reflected in many punk recordings, which often included false starts and conversations between band members.
One thing that punk music inherited from its predecessor, rock 'n roll, was a love of excess. Drug use and sexual promiscuity were a very large part of both cultures. Just as rock music and punk music were reactions to things that they felt were wrong in the culture around them, a subculture of punk music was born in the early 1980s. This subculture came to be known as Straight Edge.
The Straight Edge movement was known for its core ideals of rejecting illegal drugs, alcohol, and promiscuous sex. As the Straight Edge movement evolved, it began to change and other ideals were added to these core ideals. In the 1990s, those who were particularly vocal about Straight Edge and its ideals added vegetarianism, and eventually veganism to the lifestyle.
As the 1990s progressed, some bands from the Straight Edge movement formed what came to be known as the Hardline movement. Hardliners took the ideals of Straight Edge even further. Sex was discouraged for any purpose but procreation. Hardliners tried to avoid items that were produced via exploitative practices in the third world, like coffee and chocolate.
One thing that is extremely interesting about the Hardline movement is its pedigree. Rock music was seen as rebellious and edgy when it was first created in the 1950s. Due to perceived deficiencies in rock music, punk was created. As punk evolved, its deficiencies caused Straight Edge. Straight Edge, in turn, was not perceived as being enough, so Hardliners came into being. The Hardliners had a great deal in common with the main ideals of mainstream 1950s America, yet for completely different reasons. One thing that was very different, however, was the willingness of those in the Straight Edge and Hardline movements to use violence to support their ideals.
As the Straight Edge movement matured, its bands became more tolerant of other punk bands that were not Straight Edge. At one point, it was common for Straight Edge bands to play exclusively with other Straight Edge bands, because they espoused the same ideals, and there was less of a chance that violence would occur.
One of the most well-known symbols of the Straight Edge movement is the letter X. Its usage began when a young punk band was signed to play at a club. When the band arrived, it was discovered that each band member was under the legal drinking age, and could not be admitted to the club. To get around this, the club's management wrote a large X on the backs of the band members' hands to indicate that they should not be served alcohol. The idea eventually spread as a way to allow Straight Edge fans access to Straight Edge concerts that took place in establishments that served alcohol. Eventually, the X became a symbol of the Straight Edge movement, and a simple way for people living the Straight Edge lifestyle to identify themselves.
Straight Edge is both a musical style and a lifestyle choice. It is intriguing, to say the least.