Updated: Dec 2, 2019
When we hear the word ‘goth’, the image of a dark-lipsticked, spike-collared, fishnet- cloaked figure most likely floats to mind. But by poring over its rich history, gothic culture seems to encompass so much more than just a seasonal fashion trend or a partiality towards dark attire. It represents a movement in the collective arts, giving birth to the Romantic literary obsession with ghosts and monsters, inspiring the majestic architectural structures of churches and cathedrals, and fuelling up philosophical discourse within the youth generation, particularly in regards to the existential works of Friedrich Nietzsche. But perhaps the most distinctive feature, seated permanently in the flesh and core of gothic worship, is the revolutionary music of 80s gothic rock, introducing lush, atmospheric sounds and moody vocals through bands such as The Cure, Joy Division and Bauhaus.
So where did this pool of associations with conspicuously dark, witchy accessories originate from? How did changes in musical tastes metamorphise into a widespread penchant for dressing a certain way?
A big part of the answer lies in the influential power of musical celebrity. As Billboard magazine has stated in 2003, “music stars are the fastest-rising groups of fashion celebrity”. Take for example, one of the most well-known rappers, singer-songwriters and designers of our day: Tyler, the Creator. His aesthetic world of explosive pastel colours and cartoonish vibrant graphics is undoubtedly threaded with influences of the 90s hip- hop scene, with its emphasis on comfortable DIY streetwear and a revival in popularity for the ultimate skateboarder’s classic, the Converse One Star.
Since the launch of his clothesline Golf Wang, a streetwear craze is witnessed to have engulfed the appearances of his young fans, with more and more kids popping up in preppy chinos, cherry blossom shirts and chicken and waffles bucket hats. If you were to go out on the streets and ask a group of teenagers who their current fashion icon is, you would be more likely to hear Tyler’s name come up than that of say, Vivienne Westwood, even though she is renowned for having brought modern punk and new wave fashions into the mainstream.
Tyler’s linkage of music and fashion continues in his latest synth-heavy, neo soul dipped album ’Igor’, released earlier in May of this year. Introducing the alter-ego character of Igor in his music video for ‘EARFQUAKE’, Tyler conveys the importance of spectacle as his enigmatic persona prances around on stage in a striking platinum blonde wig and cyan blue suit. After just one viewing of the video, it is hard for anyone to listen to the song again without a subconscious visualisation of his sleek, colourful garments. In this way, Tyler reveals to us the ability of musical celebrity in merging the auditory qualities of a song with the material contents of clothing and accessory.
Another factor in bridging the transition between music and fashion culture is rooted in the pure translation of the philosophical ideals behind lyrics or instrumentals into forms of material clothing. An almost crystal clear translation of The Sex Pistols' fast-paced, angry guitars in their 70s single ‘God Save the Queen’ (an attack on the social conformity of Britain) into the language of fashion can be seen through punk’s obsession with obscene graphic tees and carefree safety pins dangling from torn-up clothing. For the youth culture throughout generations then, music taste appears to stride hand-in- hand with an unapologetic expression of fashion and political individuality.
In light of this historical connection between music and fashion, we should then be encouraged not to view the world of fashion as a closed-off, polished sector constituting solely of runway models and high-end designers, but rather as a collective melting pot of artistic endeavours. This dynamic view of fashion allows us to understand its continual fusion with multiple musical styles, from the tie-dye frenzy of the 60s, inspired by the psychedelic freedom of bands such as The Electric Prunes, to the androgynous thrift- store clothing of 90s grunge, championed through the moody sounds of Nirvana and later interspersed into the Tokyo-inspired futuristic aesthetic of Grimes.
As we edge closer and closer to 2020, we may expect to see more of the dramatic rhinestone-covered, intensely glittered style of masquerade makeup brought to media attention by the HBO show ‘Euphoria’ as well as through the music videos of leading electronic pop female artists such as FKA Twigs, Ariana Grande and Rina Sawayama. There has also been a rapid surge in popularity with cloud rap fashion (hazy, low-fi hip-hop subgenre), as more and more young fans of artists such as Yung Lean and Bones are increasingly seen to sport black graphic tees, nail polish and metallic chains, as well as label themselves as part of the now viral subculture of e-boys and e-girls.
Words by Shir Ariya
Graphics by Fiona Campbell
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