How Are the Kids?

In 1981, hardcore punk band Minor Threat's "Straight Edge" song presented the idea of living drug-free. The song became the impetus for a subculture that advocated abstinence from promiscuous sex, alcohol, and recreational drugs. Today, the straight-edge philosophy for some includes shunning cigarettes, caffeine, and promoting vegetarianism and veganism.

"It was introduced to me in the early '90s, and I simply embraced it," says Zak, 32. "I loved the music, I never drank, never smoked, never did drugs. I'm now married with three kids, I consider myself somewhat successful in family, career, and life.... To be honest, I don't look up to many individuals or bands. Obviously I admire individuals who have paved the way for this movement to exist.... It's hard to say if straight edge is becoming mainstream or not. My instant reaction would be to say yes."

Eighteen-year-old Amber says, "It's really nice to have friends that support you and don't question your reasons behind not doing drugs, smoking, or drinking.... For a while, it seemed like it was becoming more mainstream. There are plenty of 'scene kids' that put Xs on their hands and act like they're sXe [straight edge], but later you see them smoking at a show.... It's frustrating that people claim it for social status."

Zak says, "Being straight edge and tattoos go hand in hand, for some reason. I think it has something to do with the fact that people who consider themselves straight edge are fairly proud of the way they live. I have one tattoo on my lower-middle back. It's an image ripped from the album cover of an old Cleveland-based straight-edge band named Confront. The picture is of a person raising his fists in the air and he has Xs on his fists. Across the tattoo it says, 'One Life, Drug Free.' "

Amber says, "I don't have any tattoos, but I have two planned. The first one is 'sXe' on the inside of my lower lip. It'd represent the idea that I don't want poison in my body, so I'm not going to smoke or drink. And I plan to have an X on my back. That represents me being edge and also the fact that I need to stay grounded in my life and remember who I am."

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