Nov 3, 2010
Readers, as little as I know about fashion, I know even less about fashion subcultures. But I would like to learn and I need your help.
I've always been intrigued by groups of people who like to dress in unusual ways and hang out together. I know a lot of groups have found their inspiration in rock bands. Since the last band I listened to was The Partridge Family, I'm way out of the loop.
I think Goth has to do with dressing like a corpse and eroticizing death. Is that the basic gist of it? I hope I don't sound glib.
As with every Western fashion subculture, there exists its slightly kooky Japanese hybrid. Hence Gothic Lolita:
Kind of Goth, kind of TGIF cocktail waitress.
As a child of the Seventies, my first exposure to fashion subcultures was the greaser. There was a popular Broadway musical, Grease, which celebrated greaser culture. (Who didn't perform a version in their high school or summer camp?) And there was Fonzie on TV's Happy Days.
Real greasers were working class kids in the Fifties who liked to race cars, cut school, and smoke cigarettes. They were called greasers because they put a lot of grease in their hair. There was no mousse.
Of course today the greaser is little more than a nostalgic memory. When you are child's Halloween costume, it's over.
Needless to say, the Japanese love the greaser too.
As I got older, I became aware of punks. Punks wore black leather jackets like the greasers, but they also liked to put safety pins through their clothes and bodies and they could be violent. I read a book by the late Malcolm McLaren, who managed the Sex Pistols, all about the early days of punk, but I forgot what it said.
Like the Goths, punks wore a lot of black and eye makeup, but in a more varied palette. Where the goth is black and blurry-edged, the punk is metallic and sharp. Ouch!
Here is the somewhat more wholesome Japanese version. Is it me or are they always holding shopping bags?
Finally, there's Emo. I had never heard of Emo but I'd see the term used in ads on Ebay for things like used Lacoste tennis shirts. I had to look it up. Kind of adolescent skater-dude meets preppy-with-dirty-hair.
Of course there are other fashion trends: saggers, grunge, preppies, rappers -- but I'm not sure they constitute true fashion subcultures. Or do they? I don't know.
Readers, I fear I have done an injustice to fashion subcultures around the world. I don't get out much and my musical tastes tend toward Your Hit Parade circa 1953 with a dash of late-era Lerner and Loewe. I'm odd that way.
In closing, forgiving friends, have you ever been a member of a fashion subculture? What did your parents think?
Do you long for the days when you could pull on a pair of Doc Martens, paint on some black eyeshadow, stick something sharp through your nose, and feel like you belonged?
Or perhaps you are a parent of a child in a fashion subculture. Are you sweetly indulgent or openly hostile and given to rageful fits?
Have I missed any fashion subcultures of importance? Can you tell us about them and what they represent?
Please enlighten us sheltered city folk!
Labels: clothing and culture