Down the phone, Helina is explaining what a haul girl is to me. “Basically, you go out shopping for clothes or beauty products,” she says, “then you make a haul video and show viewers on YouTube what you got. You go through the items of clothing one by one. I guess what people get out of them is not showing off, like, how much money you’ve got or anything, but lifestyle: you get to see how one person lives, what their taste is.”
If you’re minded to sneer at a youth cult that involves making videos about your shopping, then Helina has a pretty intriguing counter-argument. “It’s not just about showing what you’ve got,” she says. “It’s a whole creative process behind the videos as well, which is what I enjoy about it. Choosing the right music, going from the filming to the editing. Sometimes I even storyboard things, because I want certain shots, how I can present different items and things like that.” Besides, she says, it’s a genuine community. She thinks a lot of haul girls “turn the camera on because it’s a way to talk to people without having to go outside and face their fears. I know that was the case with me: I turned on my camera because I was at home, signed off work, sick, and really bored. And it helped with my confidence in a way. There’s this community where you can talk to like-minded people.”
I’ve ended up talking to Helina because haul girls and their videos are currently a remarkably big deal – there are scores of the things on YouTube – and I’m trying to investigate the state of youth subcultures in 2014. It seems a worthwhile thing to do. You hardly need a degree in sociology to realise that something fairly dramatic has happened to them over the past couple of decades; you just need a functioning pair of eyes. When I arrived at secondary school in the mid-80s, the fifth and sixth forms, where uniform requirements were relaxed, looked like a mass of different tribes, all of them defined by the music they liked, all of them more or less wearing their tastes on their sleeves. There were goths. There were metallers. There were punks.
There were soulboys, at least one of whom had made the fateful decision to try and complete his look by growing a moustache, the bum fluff result pathetic in the extreme. There were Morrissey acolytes, and even a couple of ersatz hippies, one of whom had decorated his Adidas holdall with a drawing of the complex front cover of Gong’s 1971 album Camembert Electrique: a pretty ballsy move, given the derision that hippies had suffered during punk, and at the hands of the scriptwriters of The Young Ones.