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I really wanted a full ensemble of crusties, but not knowing when or if I may have the opportunity to photograph a group, I present you with a lone crustie girl.

I did actually have opportunity some time ago for group shots, but a photographer friend and I both found them rather menacing, and we were unsure as to the reaction we would get if we fired away with professional-looking photo equipment. So we abstained. However, since that time I have been yearning to capture crusties for this blog. The woman in this posting was photographed in Tompkins Square Park, where groups of crusties can sometimes be found.

What is a crustie? A contemporary nomadic bohemian. Anti-authority with varying politically nihilistic values such as anti-work, anti-government, anti-war, anti-religion, anti-vivisection, and anti-civilization. Of course, there have been many other subcultures that loosely fit this definition, such as hippies, with whom crusties have much in common.

The countercultural incarnation known as crusties have their own brand with signature characteristics, the most apparent being the rejection of bathing, dirty clothing in drab brown, greens and black, and dirty dreaded hair – hence the term “crustie.” A dog is a common accessory, as seen in the photo. Other accoutrement are butt flaps, tattoos, clothing patches, punk rock hair styles, bullet belts, and sleeveless jean jackets.

Fundamentally homeless, crusties survive using various means, such as dumpster diving and begging. They are sometimes associated with crust punk (or crustcore), originally known as Stenchcore, founded by the bands Amebix and Anitisect in Britain in the 1980s. In the USA, crust punk began in NYC with Nausea from the Lower East Side.

I’m fascinated by subcultures so wide and deep, with a long history and about which I was completely uninformed…

27 Responses to Crustie

  1. Check out http://neithermorenorless.blogspot.com/
    for pretty much daily posting on ‘crusty row’ over in thompkins square park.

  2. they’re not anti-cellphone

  3. We have the kids here but this is the first time I’ve heard the term ‘crustie’. Yuck!

  4. you just made me realize how much I have changed since becoming a parent.

  5. Seems to be a tough subculture. Haven’t seen any crusties where I live. Yet.

  6. D.C. Confidential says:

    Sometimes, I don’t know whether to celebrate subcultures like this and think, “Good for them” or snub my nose at them and yell, “Grow up and get a job!”

    Clearly, it’s a tough call.

    Great pictures, though! You’re far braver than I am.

  7. I’m so out of the culture loop. Never heard of the term “crusties”, but they are prevalent during the summer months here. What a gross name, though.

  8. LOVE your blog! I’m so excited to have run across it. Lived in NYC three years back and miss it like crazy! This brings back so many memories! I will be checking in every day . . . or at least every time I feel homesick for that crazy city! Thanks so much! You do an amazing job!

  9. They are called ‘ferals’ here, and I’ll be honest, the attitude of the few (quite a few, actually) that I’ve encountered doesn’t endear me to them. Hatred (at the extreme end), disrespect and deliberately offensive behaviour seems to reinforce the attitude.

    And example, I’m at a buffet style salad bar on a ferry, a bloke and his girlfriend stick their hands in the food; they’re politely told to use the utensils; the response of “your rules f%^kwit, not mine!”; guy told “any more of that you’re out”; they spit in all of the food and storm off mumbling something about “fascist pigs”. This is the extreme end of it of course, and I’m sure that they cop plenty of unprovoked flack, but being on a constant downer and walking around with a chip on the shoulder isn’t conducive to getting along.

    This is amplified when you’re talking about a lifestyle that commonly ‘rejects’ the state, taxation and (structured) work, but broadly seem to happily accept welfare payments. Hence resentment and aggravation, which increases the ‘disenchantment’ felt by the sub group.

  10. Uh, no bathing? Yuck. And anti everything? I hope they realize that the reason why they can live that way is because of all the people who do work and provide these services that they live off. I wonder how they’ll feel if everyone just stopped working and became like them. I actually pity them — all that anger and must be a tough life too. But I don’t think they’ll appreciate that at all.

  11. So how did you get the shot in the end? Long lens from a safe distance or did she give you consent to take her photo?

  12. mo – This was taken during the Police Riot concert. So cameras were everywhere.

  13. I love these images. Anyone who is ‘different’ interests me. Nice shots, as always on your blog and good to know they are called a crustie. I’ve never heard that term before.

  14. Wow. That’s a stunning shot and now I feel more informed on different subcultures. Thanks :)


  15. Never heard that term before. I’d say half of Portland, OR was Crustie.
    Ever notice how there are no older Crusties? Must get bothersome, not bathing.

  16. There’s a good book about this, looking at the nation-wide phenomenon of street kids (a.k.a. crusties) and “street families” — but focusing primarily on the street kids of Portland, Oregon (where there’s a strong undercurrent of violence in the scene): All God’s Children byy Rene Denfeld.

  17. i really like stenchcore and crust, specially amebix and dystopia!

  18. Anonymous says:

    There are “older crusties” out there. Just because we hide and generally stay away from infested streets doesn’t mean we don’t exist. You’ve just gotta find the right areas. We’re around. (;

  19. yeah crusties are anti- establishment basically but that doesnt mean they just rely completely on govt checks and complain… its hard to reject a materialistic society when thats all there is anyone trying to classify wheather they understand their beliefs just by reading this blog are ignorant.. and looking at a picture and reading a paragraph isnt understanding a subculture

  20. Anonymous says:

    Like said, its a subculture with a lot diferent individuals who dresses like most of the people in this culture. So there is a lot og assholes, but there is more assholes out there who dresses like those who belonge to the "grown-up" civilized spectacle.

    I never actually called myself a crustie, some of my friends do, some just call me an angry-hippie. I like to be called by my name hehe, my point is that it can be related to hippies. But crusties are often anarchists og nihilists. So by those theories we are often over-nice (is that a word?) to people. Thats my experience. And to those who say; grow up and get a job. Then I ask what you values are, like deep inside if you try to see the whole picture. They tried to teache me that life is about production and its time should be spent producing and to shop the things we produce.
    I don't thing that whats life is really about, so what we now know as work, thats what I want to abolish. Because its not democratic and its harmfull. and so are the social-contract ccalled the state, the structure of this society is destructive to a people of the world to be progressive and actually live in peace.

    Some words from a north-european "crustie".

    Fred og Respekt!
    (peace and respect!(in norwegian)

  21. Anonymous says:

    ok, now some words from a mid-south-european crustie

    i agree with the last Anonymous. crusties or crusters as we like to call ourselves here are a extended comunity in the place i live. i'm 19, but all the other guys are more than 25, mostly around 35 or 40 yrs old (some of them are parents). younger ppl are mostly junkies :( . there's another point: some ppl think crusties are all about drug abusing, rioting and not bathing. but in fact they are perfectly nice, drug free, and kind persons (to the ones who don't stare at them with disgust), some are also vegeterian. they are good friends and love good music. they are open to other cultures and livestyles.
    the thing i love the most about crusters is the tradition of squatting and travelling! :) travelling their way makes everything cheaper and easier. most of them also has jobs and families but a different philosophy that excludes consumism, positivism and religions.

  22. johnny.acid says:

    i'm a crustie from east borneo

    all i can say is not all crusties practice all the ideas and philosophies that you state..
    some of 'em would live a normal life.
    like the last anonymous said, they hold to their own individual philosophies. their own way of life.

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  26. … they kinda look like trustys, not crustys

  27. … these look like trusties, not crusties

    also, if you want to take a picture of a group of em, just ask em… and maybe just offer em each a buck if they take a group picture for you lol

    theyd probably be down for that

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