FASH-ISTS: REGARDING METAL, FASHION, AND SINCERITY
I frequent Tumblr every once in a while for the usual dose of cute cat antics and half-naked men. Occasionally, a hot metal (female) babe pops up on my feed. This in and of itself is not so surprising, since I actually follow Metal Babes. I have a delightful friend who is often posted there. Pictures on the Internet never stay contained though, and one particular image of her got passed around and garnered many, many notes. Mostly because she’s a pretty girl wearing a Lamb of God shirt, which automatically means she doesn’t really like the band, she’s just doing it for fashion.
Well, that’s just silly. Why would a pretty girl work to impress the most socially awkward of music fans? Yeah, stereotypes work both ways. However, it is kind of apparent that metal has become a fashion statement, and according to a recent piece on Metal Army, a really popular one.
I guess I can understand why this would piss people off. Music has a way of defining a subculture and many would be infuriated that the average ass is adopting their way of life and beliefs just because they learned it was “in.” But can you really get mad at every single person wearing a shirt that says Black Metal and sporting inverted cross necklaces? I mean, you know they look like fools, and isn’t the best punishment to let them rot in their ignorance? Why must you waste energy on it? Personally, I’m psyched that band shirts are more accessible these days. It was damn difficult finding anything that related to my favorite musicians when I was younger, and as “authentic” as home-made shirts were, they were fucking ugly and usually very badly done. I have scars on my hands and knuckles from faithfully studding vests and jackets, but if I can find one pre-done, no hassle, ready to wear, well sign me up.
The argument may be that making it yourself and personalizing it is the point. It makes it authentic, makes you a sincere fan. Then it’s not fashion that we all have a problem with — it’s people and their sincerity. But then, again, you get the example of my friend, a person who lives and breathes heavy metal, and yet she gets crucified for wearing a band shirt and taking a photo in it.
Heavy metal imagery is a lot more common these days in pop culture, but who is to say the makers aren’t sincere? Käärme Concepts is a rather new label that has a very clear heavy metal influence, but one of the creators behind it is Hal Liebling, the wife of Bobby Liebling, doom pioneer and founder of Pentagram. Yet, I’ve seen her personal blog get attacked just because she wore shirt featuring He Who Shall Not Be Named (hah, the Voldemort of black metal) paired with Chanel. (That’s a fancy designer label, for those of you who are confused.) I mean, how do you doubt her sincerity? She married a man whose life revolves around metal! It’s not like she can ignore that part of him! And I highly doubt it’s because she agrees with the artist in question’s views; her husband is Jewish, for crying out loud. She likes metal, and all the imagery that comes with it, and she likes fashion. I actually really like one of the brand’s designs, too.
People like metal. Allegiance to metal is popularly expressed through clothing — that’s nothing new. Sometimes, some one might prefer something more than simple meat and potatoes leather and denim. General appearance should not be a deterrent to someone’s sincerity. Take for instance the label Toxic Vision. Heavy metal body suits and heavily studded jackets are the signature pieces, but the designer gets shit because she’s a cute skinny girl who most assume is riding the metal is popular wave. Well, then Iced Earth must be poseurs who just appreciate that metal is “in,” because their tour clothes are primarily from Toxic Vision. I guess the common thought is, if you’re into certain music, you’re not the type to wear a skimpy little shift with the band stamped on it.
What’s the point in being an elitist if no one’s even listening to you on your soapbox? I really don’t give a shit that Urban Outfitters has a Van Halen shirt. I’m just curious if anyone is buying it (it’s a Sammy Hagar-era shirt). To be honest, it does bug me when a faceless corporation indulges in the fad rather than independent labels that function off their own merit. Again, it’s a sincerity issue. I know the dudes behind Full Breach 77 grew up listening to and playing in punk bands and started printing shirts for fun before they realized people beyond their friends liked their designs.
After all this open-mindedness though, I still don’t think I’d actually invest in anything like Unif’s pre-studded and shredded vest. Mostly because it’s about $200, and damn ugly. Sincerity is important to me, but ,honestly, take some pride in how you present yourself, because I’ve seen some truly shitty DIY. If you love a band so much that you’ll get them tattooed on your body, then fucking go to someone who can do it well. I’m talking to you, stupid dude at my local dive with the Black Flag tattoo. None of the bars on the logo are the same width! I wouldn’t buy the UO Van Halen shirt mainly because my bootleg shirt I got in some crappy back alley shop in Europe just looks better. Also, I’m cheap. But if people are going to judge on outwards experience, then do it literally.
If all this isn’t convincing enough, then take the term “trend” itself. By definition, it refers to something that is always changing. Heavy metal might be fashionable now, but by tomorrow, it could be some other sub-culture in the spotlight, and then another group of people can get all up in arms about it. But hey, if anyone feels like getting me the King Diamond posing with a pug shirt from Actual Pain, I’m not gonna stop you because I sincerely like King Diamond. And pugs.