Straight edge scene growing in Richmond

Emily Satchell
Social Media Specialist

While walking to class on a Monday morning, it’s not uncommon to overhear students talking openly about the drunken mischief they got into over the weekend.

Some students, though, are committing themselves to a different lifestyle.

The straight edge scene is growing in Richmond as more and more youth pledge to abstain from using tobacco, alcohol or recreational drugs. Some take it even further, also vowing not to consume animal products and prescription drugs, as well as avoiding engaging in promiscuous sex. Some are so devoted to the scene that they have the common symbols for straight edge, ‘XXX’ or ‘SxE,’ tattooed on their bodies as a reminder to stay clean.

Tyler Conrad is one student who’s choosing to live straight edge.

Conrad, 20, said he has seen firsthand the negative impact frequent drug and alcohol use has had on people’s lives. Witnessing those negative effects was an incentive for him to stay sober, he said.

“I’ve been edge forever, really. Once I realized there was a term for it, I picked it up,” Conrad said.
Conrad is a junior at VCU, where he’s a Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness major. He also works as often as he can, which keeps him pretty busy. Conrad said he would rather wind down at home with Netflix and friends than go out to parties.

In college, “claiming edge” can be considered against the norm. Conrad said that the decision to do so stands out on campus, where drug and alcohol use is common.

“It comes out a lot during college and at this age, if you’re around people going to parties or whatever, saying, ‘I don’t want to be about that,’ makes a statement,” he said.

The straight edge scene dates to the mid-‘80s. The term originates from the hardcore punk scene, where it was first coined in the song “Straight Edge” by the band Minor Threat.

While leading a straight edge life has had positive effects for many, the straight edge scene has been criticized for sometimes taking their cause too far. Rumors circulate about straight edge gangs targeting people who don’t abide by their standards, sometimes resulting in violence.

Conrad said this isn’t the norm and that the few of those who do act violently create a misconception about the straight edge community endorsing violence and rage.

Regardless, Conrad said the straight edge scene is blossoming in Richmond, with more and more young people embracing the lifestyle.

“There’s a huge hardcore, punk and pop-punk music scene in Richmond and a lot of hardcore bands and hardcore kids claim straight edge,” he said. “I think there’s more straight edge out there than people think, especially in this city. It’s prevalent here.”

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