Izikhotane is a developing subculture emerging from Johannesburg’s East Rand. The movement has spread into Soweto and perhaps further afield since it was investigated on SABC1′s “Cutting Edge”.
The name Izikhotane can be loosely translated as, to show each other up. Crews of kids in their teens gather in parks to battle it out in a style wars kind of way. They compete by showing off valuable product, (clothes primarily but also alcohol, electronics and physical currency) which they often destroy as part of the showdown. This is done to prove to competitors and spectators that these items mean nothing, and that the isikhotane can afford to do this as they could go out tomorrow and buy more. All of this is set against a backdrop of alcohol, music and dance.
In its infancy the subculture is still being defined although fashion plays a major role. In its current form it includes a strict dress-code comprising of smart casual and sportswear looks. Nike, Carvella, Murrachini (DMD), Sfarzo, Rozmola and Adidas are the key brands. Members of an Izikhotane crew amashisa ova mentioned that on the weekends they don’t wear sportswear, “Saturday we don’t wear sports, we rock Sfarzo, Dmd, Versace…stuff like that”.
Fashion is the vehicle for mobility as it is used to distinguish crews. You’ll find that each crew has a uniform or “number plate” which they wear as a sign of camaraderie like a sports team would. At an Izikhotane gathering in Soweto one of the crews called “ama 18Boyz” adopted Dmd sporties (bucket hats), white-long sleeved Adidas crew neck tops, luminous orange Adidas vests, white Nike track pants and black – pvc Carvella loafers as their uniform on the day. All but two members were in full uniform, the others using one or two different pieces as substitutes for the code. According to sources the main reason for a diversion from the prescribed or agreed upon uniform is that some members just can’t afford to keep up and the other reason may be availability of a piece of clothing whether it be an issue with size or numbers of stock in stores.
There isn’t many ways for young people to make cash in South Africa and if you do not come from a wealthy family, which these kids don’t, then you are faced with the option of starting up a small business or getting involved in crime. I would be tempted to bet on the latter as who in their right mind would work really hard to start something and then literally burn their hard earned cash? With that being said the Izikhotane subculture has the potential to become a very influential youth movement. If this is the case players could find infamy and with it a platform to do bigger and better things.