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Edge Day

Ian MacKaye, musician and member of the Teen Idles, Minor Threat, and Fugazi, once said that when it came to rebellion, "the only option made readily available was self-destruction. So in schools or any arena, the kids who were the rebellious ones were the ones who were hurting themselves. And that just seemed counterproductive to me. If you wanted to rebel against society, don't dull the blade." His type of rebellion—of which he is seen as a founder of, is credited with naming, and of which he became an unwitting ambassador—eschews alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs, and is known as straight edge. Each year on October 17, Edge Day—which is also known as National Edge Day—celebrates the straight edge lifestyle.

The inaugural Edge Day took place on October 17, 1999, when Edge Fest was held at the Karma nightclub in Boston, Massachusetts. Five straight edge bands played the fest: Ten Yard Fight played their final show, and the bill also included Bane, In My Eyes, Watch the Sky, and Floorpunch. Since the first Edge Day, it remains most prominently observed in Boston, where an event is organized each year. The day has grown to include events in cities all over the United States and around the world. Events in the United States have been held in cities such as Atlanta, Georgia; Santa Ana, California; Richmond, Virginia; and New York City, New York; while events around the globe have been held in cities such as Gothenburg, Sweden; London, England; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. An important part of the day has continued to be the playing of shows by straight edge bands, most of whom play hardcore. If October 17 isn't a weekend, the shows often take place on the Saturday after or before it.

There are different types or levels of straight edge. In most cases, adherents abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs, and some also abstain from caffeine, prescription drugs, and promiscuous sex. Some are also vegans or vegetarians, are anti-fascists, or focus on environmental issues. Since its start, straight edge has been closely connected to hardcore, a fast and aggressive form of punk with relatively short songs and shouted vocals.

Born out of the hardcore punk scene of the early 1980s, the straight edge hardcore scene started as a reaction to the excesses of the punk scene, where drug and alcohol use are often prevalent. It was a form of rebellion against rebellion; a counterculture to the counterculture. It tied common punk views of individualism, DIY, anti-authority, and left-wing politics to conservative politics—or, at least, tied the punk views to a conservative form of discipline that mirrored the "Just Say No" movement of the time.

The term "straight edge" comes from the 1981 Minor Threat song "Straight Edge." At 46 seconds in length, the song announces the band has better things to do than use drugs as a crutch and proclaims that they instead "got straight edge":

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and f*ck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
Things I just don't need

I've got straight edge

I'm a person just like you
I've got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
'Cause I know that I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
And laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
I'll always keep in touch
Never wanna use a crutch

I've got straight edge
I've got straight edge
I've got straight edge
I've got straight edge

The movement began in Washington, D.C., and then spread to the rest of the United States and Canada. Early straight edge bands included Teen Idles, Minor Threat, State of Alert, 7 Seconds, The Faith, DYS, SSD, Justice League, America's Hardcore, and Stalag 13. They played mainly at all-ages venues where admission prices were kept low. The youth crew era of straight edge took hold in the mid-1980s, with bands such as Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits at the forefront. There was a movement towards vegetarianism and veganism at this time. By the early 1990s, straight edge was well-known within the punk scene and began spreading beyond the continent. This was due in part to the relentless touring of the bands, and because of the easiness of buying records from American labels by mail. At this time, some punk and straight edge shows were still often held together, but they began splitting as well.

An "X" is the main symbol of straight edge. It is sometimes marked on the back of both hands with a marker, or on other places of the body. Some straight edgers have even gotten X tattoos. X's have been put on clothing and pins by fans and bands, and have been used by bands on album covers. The symbol is sometimes written as xxx or sXe. An abbreviation for hardcore punk is hXc. Today we celebrate straight edge, and acknowledge its importance to the hardcore scene and its impact on transforming or defining the lives of its adherents.

How to Observe

Celebrate the day by checking to see if there are any Edge Day events happening near you that you could attend. If not held on today's date, they often are held on a nearby Saturday and are almost always hardcore punk shows. If you don't wish to or are not able to attend a show, listen to some straight edge hardcore punk. A good place to start is with Minor Threat, and there is no better song to check out by them than "Straight Edge." The first Edge Day event was held at the last Ten Yard Fight show, so they may be another good band to listen to today. There are countless other straight edge bands you could listen to.

Perhaps this could be a day to transform your life and become straight edge, or maybe you are already straight edge and the day could be used to reflect on why you do what you do. This is an ideal day to wear straight edge clothing with X's on it or to get that X tattoo you've been contemplating. The day could be spent reading Straight Edge: Hardcore Punk, Clean Living Youth, and Social Change or Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics. It could also be used to explore Straight Edge Worldwide magazine.

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