Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Metal Chic: Is Metal a Fashion Statement?

When a band goes out on tour, they've got to bring a lot of shit out with them if they want to make bank. A band can sell CDs, vinyl, posters, and an assortment of thingamajigs and doodads, but the most iconic of merchandise is the classic t-shirt. There's all kinds of varieties out there: You've got that one shirt that quotes a fan-favorite song, tour shirts, badass black and white shirts of Satanic goodness,  brightly colored shirts for the cool kids (read: scene kids), and of course your garden variety album artwork tee (that's your goddamn staple). Usually these shirts are like a house crest, symbols of loyalty and devotion to this entity. Them proudly and will probably do unspeakable horrors for these bands.

Metalheads regard these as something more than a fashion statement, which might explain why websites like Metalsucks and Metal Injection completely lose their shit whenever someone famous who is decidedly not metal wears wears metal merch. We've seen this happen a lot in the past couple years. Kendall Jenner has been seen wearing some shirts from the Big Four (Megadeth and Slayer in particular), and Chris Brown was caught wearing a punk inspired leather jacket with some Suicidal Tendencies and Corrosion of Conformity patches among others. Even Kanye West has been seen in a Megadeth shirt.

Full-on brain aneurisms occurred in comments sections. These celebs were blasted by the metal community. Often the comments would say something along the lines of "do they even know who they're wearing?" or "bet he didn't sew those patches on?" The second one I'm pretty sure is spot-on, but I get skeptical at the idea that many of these people don't know who any of the artists are. At this point, Megadeth and Slayer are pretty huge names in the music world; I mean, I'm fairly certain everyone in the world knows who Slayer is simply by the stereotype of the metalhead constantly screaming "SLAYER!!!" as a reaction to everything. We tend to be isolationists, keeping to ourselves and thinking metal is in its own sphere but its not the island in the middle of nowhere we like to think it is. Heaven forbid these people actually have an actual interest-- or even affinity-- for the music.

Except there are people out there who are trying to separate metal from the music and culture to make it something chic and trendy. Example A: Kanye West's sweatpants..

What the fuck are these?! Fake patches meant to be cool, that's what it is. These "metal" sweatpants were designed by Sasko Bezovski and sold through his Kokotozai stores (currently unavailable). Then clothing companies Diesel and H&M have decided to sell shirts with fake bands on them. H&M sells real band shirts, but I can't for the life of me understand why they'd go off and make fake bands. There are plenty of popular bands out there they could try to capitalize on. Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Avenged Sevenfold... those are just three of the most popular bands out there. If they wanted to be "edgy" they could go ahead and go to the more underground bands like Napalm Death or Obituary. Promote REAL bands.

The backlash against H&M came in the form of Strong Scene Productions, an art collective formed by Henri Sorvalli of Finntroll and Moonsorrow. Strong Scene created recordings and backstories for these fake bands. Hilarity ensued when a couple of bands were determined to be NSBM bands. The pseudo artists H&M are selling are now Nazis. Sorvalli's point is that metal isn't just something you can package and sell to people because it looks cool. The subculture is a complex entity and not just something that can be defined by skulls, chrome, flames, and the ace of spades. The closest example I can think of (though by no means am I equating the two) is that of  the controversy of Native Americans as mascots to symbolize a warrior's spirit. Apparently the people who recorded the songs are going to be playing the Tuska festival in Finland this June.

I have to say Sorvalli's trolling is by far the greatest thing I've heard happen in a long time. I for one am appreciative. Metal gets trod on by people and often isn't taken seriously. And here we have some companies trying to use it to make a quick buck, though I have to wonder why they'd target the metal crowd. Metalheads are a pretty big audience, but, generally, we tend to buy our shirts directly from the source: the bands who bring us joy. Our shirts are symbols of our love and our battle jackets an embodiment of our devotion (my sewing skills are shit, but I'm working on it). We buy our shirts not because they distinguish us as badasses but because this is what we love.

Also, a celebrity wearing a shirt isn't news. Stop it, metal media.

So what do you guys think of all this weirdness? Are these celebrities using metal merch as some kind of marketing tool or is it just non sense? What do you think will become of the Strong Scene bands?  Have any favorite metal shirts? Patches? I dunno. Let's talk shit!

Stay heavy, my friends!

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