The idea of a “sub-culture” is something that I have always found interesting, because I believe that I am part of a very unique one. The sport of wrestling has always been in a very strange position when considering sports. Although it has a massive amount of participants across the world, wrestling has never had a popular following like basketball or football. In essence, wrestling has become its own weird subculture that has developed its own exclusive styles and practices, often which others would probably find very strange.
Wrestling style seems to never align with what the rest of the popular sports are wearing. For example, when basketball shorts became long and baggy, wrestlers kept wearing short shorts. There are many more examples of style that others would find strange. Dyed hair, multicolor singlets, a variety of strange looking shoes, etc. have all come and gone and come again since I began wrestling 20 years ago. Wrestlers will start some weird trend by wearing a pink singlet or shoes that their grandma made, and then, of course, Nike or Adidas will commodify this with its own version of a wacky singlet and the trend will die. I cannot help but think that the uniquely bizarre style choices seen in wrestling are, at least on some level, a reaction to the rejection the sport has felt from popular sports fans, universities, and title 9 laws in recent history.
Wrestling has long been stigmatized negatively for its seemingly strange and brutal practices and issues. I have heard some extremely strange questions from people when they find out that I have been a wrestler my whole life. One lady asked me if I gave myself cauliflower ear on purpose. No, I just got hit in the ear, lady. Others ask me if I starve myself for days on end to make weight. Again, no. I just don’t eat ice cream for 5 months. Still, these ideas had to come from somewhere. Although the negative aspects of wrestling are not around much anymore, they were at one point. Misunderstanding always seems to be the central issue between wrestling and the general population. This being said, wrestling does seem to take pride in being different and separate from other sports. Wrestling has been fighting to stay alive at the collegiate level for some time now. Although there are a vast amount of colleges that have wrestling still, many were being dropped in the early 2000’s because of title ix. Wrestling was also dropped from the Olympics, however a massive worldwide protest saved it. Wrestling culture has also seen a resurgence and unfamiliar rise in popularity due to the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (UFC). The dominance of wrestlers in mma has brought with it the commodification of many of the old wrestling trends that many probably wouldn’t recognize as such.
There are many other reasons why I believe wrestling is truly a unique subculture. I could probably write 50 pages pretty easily on this issue, but alas, here is my annotated bib .