Old school

A school (in the sense of old school) is a grouping of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlooks of philosophy, craft, or belief. It is in this sense that people refer to schools of thought, or schools of belief or practice, as in a school of painters. Schools are often—particularly in the field of popular music—characterized by their currency, and thus classified into "new" and "old" schools. Often there is a defining event or work which comes to be seen as separating old from new.

The term old school may have come from religion—in the 19th century the Presbyterians split into "Old School" and "New School" denominations, based on theological differences. Bleak House by Charles Dickens, published in monthly installments in 1852 and 1853, is an early example of its passing into common language. Dickens uses the phrase several times to describe the villainous lawyer Tulkinghorn. In Chapter II, he writes of Tulkinghorn: "He is of what is called the old school—a phrase generally meaning any school that seems never to have been young..."

Uses of the term in music

Hip hop and R&B

In hip hop music, old school is used to refer to its earliest period: the 1970s and early 1980s (hence to artists like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Sugar Hill Gang.)

The "new school" was comprised of the new crop of rappers rising up after that period, such as Run-DMC and LL Cool J, in turn followed by Public Enemy and Eric B & Rakim. Eventually, what was the current "new school" turned into "old school" in popular perception.

R&B Old School refers to the soul acts of the 50's through the 80's and includes such soul artists as the Whispers, OJays, Temptations, Spinners and the like. There are now "Old School" sites on the internet that cater to the "Baby Boomer" generation that still prefer old school rather that Rap. Such sites include Soul Tracks, and more.

Electronic Dance Music (EDM)

Oldskool (with a 'K', one word) is now a popular term that usually refers to a style of music popular in the early 1990s, which was at the time called breakbeat. The style fragmented in the mid 1990s but the "cheezy" Oldskool roots and even direct samples are easily found in many Happy oldskool genre tracks as well as in other genres that share a common link with breakbeat drum and bass. Oldskool style parties are still widely held in the UK. Referring back to the music generally played at oldskool events during the period 90-94 (the group Cappella is an example of Oldskool and break beat music) that were staged by the likes of Fantazia, Rezerection, Raindance, Obsession, The Eclipse, Helterskelter and Perception. Several of these companies still stage events, alongside a number of newer DJ's from DJ Scott Brown to DJ JMS(Newcastle).


In the world of rock music, Old School can refer to the period between the late 1960s, when hard rock and heavy metal emerged, and the early 1990s, just before the advent of grunge. This period is a common format for classic rock/AOR radio stations.

Punk and Hardcore

In punk rock, earlier styles (from roughly 1976 to 1982) are typically referred to as classic punk (bands such as The Clash, Ramones, and Sex Pistols), while the era that predates it is known as proto-punk. The term "old school" in punk rock is generally reserved for the era of old school hardcore punk from 1977 to 1984 and includes pioneering acts like Black Flag, Bad Brains, and Minor Threat that existed in the first wave of hardcore before its hybridization with heavy metal.

Heavy Metal

In heavy metal, music old school refers to the big guitar sounds of bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. In extreme metal it often means 80's bands like Slayer and Death.


Old School Goth or Old School Gothic refers to goth music made without metal or techno influences. Old School Goth can be a reference to Gothic rock or Death Rock, or members of the goth subculture that shun modern versions. These members of the Gothic community are also referred to as "Elder Goths".

Other uses of the term

  • For classic car fans, old school can refer to a style based on popular styles of a particular era.
  • In the realm of custom motorcycles, many features which were popular in the 1960s and 1970's are considered Old School by today's standards. This includes such things as ape hanger handlebars, king & queen type seats, and unusually tall sissy bars.
  • In computer and video games, the dividing line for Old School is often before the advent of 3D graphics, generally the 8 to 32-bit sprite based games of the late-1970s to mid-1990s such as Super Mario Bros. However, some believe that the dividing line is generally between 20th and 21st centuries, respectively.
  • In demoscene, an old school production means a production made before the mid-1990s.
  • Some fans of pencil and paper role playing games use the term to describe RPGs characterized by simple game mechanics and flexible rules. The character generation system in such RPGs tend to lack extensive lists of skills and abilities. Basic Dungeons & Dragons and the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons are often considered "old school" role playing games.
  • The term is also in use in skateboarding, referring to the third generation.
  • In tattooing the term refers to the style of tattoos that developed from the classic sailor, military and carnival tattoos of the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is characterized by bold lines and maritime themes, as well as pinup girls and classics like the heart pierced by a dagger. Those who tattoo primarily in this style often refuse the term "tattoo artist" and go by "tattooists" or "tattooers". The most famous of Old School tattooers is probably Sailor Jerry. This style is sometimes called "classic" or "Americana".
  • The "Old Skool" is also a style of shoe made by Vans.
  • The Old School Rope Walk is the name of a wrestling move performed by "The Undertaker" Mark Calaway in WWE. The move involves grabbing an opponent's arm, walking along the top rope (demonstrating precision balance), and jumping off to deliver a clubbing forearm to the victim's arm or back. It is called Old School because it was a standard part of his repertoire in his early days with the company.
  • Old School (film) is a 2003 film starring Will Ferrell that revolves around a group of thirty-something men trying to recapture their old school college days.
  • Photographers who resist using digital equipment and continue using traditional film cameras are sometimes referred to as Old School photographers.
  • The term is often used in the field of seduction to refer to actions such as bringing flowers, paying for dining out, opening doors, and the like.
  • The term is used in BMX to refer to a whole bike or parts made between the beginning of the sport, when the bikes were just modified Schwinn Stingrays and cruiser bikes in the late '60's, through the early '90's. Mag (plastic) wheels are considered to be very old school. Of worthy notice is the thickness of most parts of the frame on an old school BMX bike compared to a bike made from the late '90's to present day.
  • The trading card game Magic: The Gathering has a long history amongst its players, but the precise definition of "Old School" varies from player to player, based on his/her age and how long (s)he has been playing. Usually, Magic's Sixth Edition set is the typical cut-off point for defining "old school", but it isn't absolute; players who have played for the majority of the game's history would refer to cards no newer than Fourth Edition in such a way, while newer, typically younger players see pre-Scourge cards as "old school", as this was the last set to use the old card layout.
  • Anime fans (particularly in North America) tend to consider any anime made before 1990 to be old school. However, some consider the early 1990s to be the cut off point as this is around the time that traditional hand drawn cels began to be replaced by digital animation. This is also roughly the period that anime began to become mainstream popular in the U.S.


See also

External links

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