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In Defense Of Metal Fashion

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On July 12th, following a nontroversey involving Kim Kardashian donning a Morbid Angel t-shirt, Loudwire posted an article accompanied by a tweet and the hashtag #metalisnotafashionstatement. We’re not even going to discuss the inciting post itself because everyone hashed this out in 2016. Frankly, I’m surprised that the fickle fashion world hasn’t moved on already from the metal shirt boom and started wearing shirts that read “INTERSECTIONALITY,” or some shit. Oh, wait.

So, anyway. “Metal is not a fashion statement.” Right, ok. Searching the hashtag on Twitter, you’ll find examples to the contrary, e.g. pictures of Rob Halford in full leather-and-spikes mode, Immortal decked out in corpse paint, and a wide array of power metal bands in everything from full suits of armor (fucking lol) to faux-victorian costumes.

There’s a few different things happening here.

The reaction to the hashtag is a willful misinterpretation, but in order to make a valid point. The hashtag’s intention, and the intention of the article it was advertising, was to whine about a celebrity wearing metal merchandise despite having no tangible connection to metal culture. Loudwire’s idea was to protest against the use of metal imagery as a fashion statement by “outsiders.” The negative reaction is addressing a separate idea, but one I think takes aim at the actual spirit of the hashtag, if not the letter. By posting examples of particularly flashy dressers in metal culture, folks were attempting to prove that metal itself is actually full of fashion statements.

Yes, by dressing like the villains from Hellboy II, Behemoth are making a fashion statement, but so are the fans wearing Behemoth shirts and camouflage shorts in the crowd. Decking out a denim vest with patches and finding the perfect pair of black jeans to go with your DC shoes is a fashion statement, just like wearing corpse paint or covering yourself in pelts in your music videos. Hell, metal’s streetwear might be even more daring in a sense. Bands can at least claim artistic license and theatrics, but if you’re waking up and the first thing you think to wear is a Cannibal Corpse cover, then, my friend, you are making a choice.

And by all means, make that choice. Fashion isn’t just the playground of wealthy designers and attractive people. It’s the choices, big and small, that people make to dress ourselves on a daily basis. Even if the sum of those choices is, “I don’t care what people think about how you dress,” you’ve still made a choice. The hashtag Loudwire started rejects that premise. Instead of viewing metal merchandise as a deliberate fashion choice, it suggests that wearing band shirts is inseparable from the metal “lifestyle,” an obligation done not out of personal taste but loyalty to the genre’s status quo. This seems ludicrous to me, and joyless, too. I wear metal shirts because I think they look cool, not because I feel like I have to. When I took an informal poll on the subject at the Invisible Oranges Facebook page, our readers expressed interest in merchandise along the same parameters your average shopper might: price, design, comfort, color.

Arguing for metal as a lifestyle while demanding it be devoid of life is nonsense. Metal has fashion, metal has dancing; it has traditions, inside jokes, collective memories, and cultural touchpoints. This is why people want to cop metal aesthetics to begin with: not simply because of the images, but for the things which imbue those images with meaning. To act as if metal culture is unable to make fashion statements is to deny that metal fans are able to express their love their subculture with their clothing. That’s bullshit, and it speaks to a degree of internalized shame which some metalheads have concerning the way they dress, and the music they love. Fuck that. Wear that death metal longsleeve with pride. Stunt on the haters.

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