Sportos, Motorheads, Geeks, Wastoids, Dweebies
November 30, 2015 2:14 PM   Subscribe

For a board game I'm working on, I need a "definitive" list of teenage cliques that would have been present in a suburban American high school in 1989. This is mostly a "free-form, go nuts" question, but I have a few guidelines I'd like for you to keep in mind...

Clique here just means "a group of teenagers who choose to hang out together" so school clubs, sports teams, youth groups, co-workers, etc are all fair game. I'm looking for the entire spectrum of teenage life in the late 80s.

The 1989 setting is pretty can go from around 1984 to about 1992.

I'd like to go a layer deeper than just "geeks" and "jocks." What kinds of geeks? What kinds of jocks?

But not too specific. Remember this is for a game, so "Those two weird friends that even the other weird kids won't hang out with" would be too cumbersome. But "The Weird Kids" would be fine.

Nothing that mentions a specific race or ethnicity, but suggestions like B-Boys or Fly Girls are great. I'd love suggestions that reflect a high school experience that isn't just white kids.

Also nothing that mentions obesity, poverty, sexual promiscuity or lack thereof, being disabled, etc. I know teenagers can be cruel, but that's not the kind of game I'm making.

I would prefer to avoid gender-specific cliques where possible, but as you can see from my examples above I know there are cases where it can't be avoided.

That's all I can think of...go nuts!
posted by Ian A.T. to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Stoners, absolutely - kids who liked metal and hard 70s rock and wore denim jackets that reeked of weed and patchouli. Also, if my high school was any indication, drama/theater kids (many of the guys would later come out, which lent this group a specific character) and goths (eyeliner, "Candleland"-era Ian McCullough and Peter Murphy shirts, black jeans, great parties.) I graduated in '91.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:24 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Are you ok with proper names that wouldn't translate? Do you just want categories or their special names?

Rats (see also: Hesher, smokers and maybe potheads)
Gearheads (worked on cars)
Metalheads (music)
PCers (this was because our drama group was called Proscenium Circus)
SHYFers (senior high youth fellowship, a church group)
Band Geeks
Newspaper kids
Computer Lab Kids
The Hockey Team (so formidable)
Honor Society
Student Council
Hall Monitors
Philosophy Dorks (lots of overlap with potheads and hippies)
Farmer Kids (sometimes got time off to do harvest stuff)
CCD (catholic kids - all had classes in the morning before school, took the bus together)
The Kids Who Lived Close and Walked to School
Rich Kids
Teams: diving, football, swimming, tennis, baseball, field hockey, basketball
Kids Whose Parents Did Not Give a Fuck
posted by jessamyn at 2:25 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Soccer Players (Jocks X Stoners)
Football Players (Purebred Jocks)
Wrestlers (Punks X Jocks)
Chorus Geeks
Band Geeks
Jazz Band Geeks
Theater Geeks (actors)
Tech Geeks (backstage crew)
Dance Girls (like, took ballet lessons and whatnot)
posted by Rock Steady at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

This might be Texas specific, but Kickers, short for Shit-kickers. They were the FFA kids who wore Wranglers and drove Big Ass Trucks.
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:27 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Shop kids, hicks, skaters, bangers (headbangers)
posted by Sassyfras at 2:31 PM on November 30, 2015

We had rockers (into metal - long hair lots of makeup and hairspray for girls, band t-shirts)
Skaters (pegged pants, long bangs on boys)
Theater geeks
Popular kids
Skins (skinheads, don't include them in your game!)
Backpackers (hip hop heads)
and Hippies (me)
posted by latkes at 2:49 PM on November 30, 2015

In my late 1980s high school, there was a large contingent of kids (mostly boys) who hung out in the parking lot and bonded over having the largest, loudest stereo system in their cars.

I also grew up in an area with a heavy Mormon population, and all those kids hung out together, especially since they had seminary (a church-run religious class) right before school together.
posted by heurtebise at 2:50 PM on November 30, 2015

Where? And how much money? Because this will vary by location and by the wealth of the school, with a significant city vs suburban divide in classifications.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2015

I'm not sure if "goth" would have been a common term then. I remember a time when people in my school called pale girls in black "Cure chicks", although I don't know what they would have called goth guys. (We didn't have any in my school.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:36 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gamers/D&D players.

("Goth" was totally a term in my junior high circa 1990.)
posted by wintersweet at 3:42 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

In Southern California...
Student Council / Yearbook / elected and involved kids
Key Club [service group which was more geeky than Student Council…]
Gang Bangers [of all flavors]
Football/Basketball Jocks

We were too poor to have 'preppies' although we did know what that style was...
We were too close to the beach to have 'valley girls'
posted by calgirl at 3:57 PM on November 30, 2015

Specific types of geek at my school:
Latin Club
Society for Creative Anachronism
A/V club
ROTC & Civil Air Patrol kids (in my very liberal area, this was a rare, weird thing)
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:01 PM on November 30, 2015

posted by thebrokedown at 4:05 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Socs" (pronounced "sohshiz"), short for Socials, was originally from The Outsiders, but was definitely a presence at my high school in 1986 as a name for rich, popular kids.

Strangely, "the Congo," short for "congregation," was the name of the similar kids at a neighboring school. And not religious/racial, either, so I have no idea where the word came from, and I always thought it was strange.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:17 PM on November 30, 2015

Chess club
Cadets (Canadian version of ROTC)
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:43 PM on November 30, 2015

New Wavers.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 4:51 PM on November 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

We moved a lot when I was growing up, but one name that was new to me seemed to be a regional thing: "Hessians" which was kind of a catch-all for stoners and metalheads in Omaha.
posted by Atom12 at 5:12 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Goth" was not yet a term in mid Ohio in the late 80s. We had punks, alternatives, skaters, skinheads, straightedgers, metal heads, stoners, band geeks (though the term at the time was a slur), the smart kids, jocks and cheerleaders, but there was some overlap, too. You weren't necessarily just one thing.
posted by rikschell at 5:31 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

- Burnouts (basically another name for stoners)
- Straight-edge Punks (sometimes separated from regular punks)
- Overachievers (into every kind of extracurricular & volunteer activity and with impeccable grades mainly to get into the best college; also called "Keeners" in my neck of the woods)
- Ravers (1989 might be a bit early, but by 1992 you definitely had a high-school seniors in that era of rave)
- Junior Conservatives (should be self-explanatory)
posted by mhum at 5:33 PM on November 30, 2015

We also had a small contingent of what I will call "Sports Geeks". These were not athletic kids, but they were the student managers of the sports teams, loved Tecmo Bowl and NHL '94, and were into fantasy sports before they were called fantasy sports (Rotisserie Baseball, anyone?).
posted by Rock Steady at 5:41 PM on November 30, 2015

In my late 80s high school the kids in black clothes, Cure/Smiths t-shirts, sometimes combat boots, sometimes in drama, sometimes riding scooters were Mope Rockers.

"B Building Steps" guys might be too school specific.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:39 PM on November 30, 2015

I just wanted to pop in and say this is exactly what I was looking for.
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:51 PM on November 30, 2015

This might be Texas specific, but Kickers, short for Shit-kickers. They were the FFA kids who wore Wranglers and drove Big Ass Trucks.
posted by youcancallmeal at 5:27 PM on November 30

These guys were called "Cowboys" at my school, and the male variety often had a light circle on the back pocket of the wranglers where the can of Skoal wore them out.
posted by SandiBeech at 6:57 PM on November 30, 2015

Batcavers! ('80s term for goths in the Seattle area)
posted by oxisos at 7:22 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

This might be Texas specific, but Kickers, short for Shit-kickers. They were the FFA kids who wore Wranglers and drove Big Ass Trucks.
I think but am not totally positive that this name comes from radio station KIKK in Houston, TX, which was a country music FM radio station in the '80s. They were KIKKers, but it kind of morphed into "kickers" and "shit-kickers", as you say.
posted by smcameron at 7:27 PM on November 30, 2015

- Headbangers were also derogatorily referred to as dirtheads at my school.
- "Stoners" was also a name for them, though most off them were not actually getting stoned when they first got the label. Though some of the stoners were less into metal and leaned toward the '70s rock and Grateful Dead side of the continuum.
- There was a lot of crossover between headbangers, D&D nerds, and honors students.
- They didn't have a uniform name for themselves, but there were kids who were really into dialing into BBSes. Some of them called themselves "phreaks," though few actually hacked phone services.
- Third wave ska was, ahem, "picking up" by 1994 or so and some kids fashioned themselves rude boys. It was a great opportunity for band geeks to get into bands, so there was a lot of crossover there.
- Girl honors students seemed to cross over into "higher" strata more frequently than boys. They were sometimes preppies or popular or into sports. Or you could say girls from those groups were more frequently academically successful than boys from those groups.
posted by ignignokt at 7:35 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I graduated high school in 1989. Our school had an outdoor smoking area which students could use if they were over 16 and had a permission note from their parents. "Smokers" were a group, with some overlap with "burnouts/stoners". They were all poor, and all in the lower level classes. Nobody who was planning to go to college smoked at school. (In retrospect, we non-Smokers were really insufferable snobs toward them.)
posted by Daily Alice at 7:42 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

rock ons
new wavers
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:38 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Death rockers is what we would've called goths at the time.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:45 PM on November 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Haven't seen "squids" mentioned. In my high school, these were the smart but not necessarily geeky kids who were the B crowd.
posted by Giailh at 9:56 PM on November 30, 2015

Swampies were a form of 'goth' in Brisbane, Australia in the 80's.
posted by h00py at 4:34 AM on December 1, 2015

posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:20 AM on December 1, 2015

Southern California, late '80s–early '90s:

Hessians included stoners, metalheads, headbangers; anyone who listened to the KNAC radio station (god I miss it still) and watched Headbangers Ball on MTV.

Drama geeks; the Football team; Foo-foo rah-rah (ASB/student activities kids destined to be cruise directors on the Love Boat); Knuckle-draggers; CAP (Civil Air Patrol- sounds odd, but after Top Gun, Platoon, Paint It Black, and China Beach, the military was a huge thing); band; yearbook kids.
posted by culfinglin at 5:34 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

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