Alternative Fashion: Trend or Lifestyle?
My love for alternative fashion was the main reason I opened this blog. I have always been struggling with how who I am would show in my external look since I was a teenager.
I have always firmly believed that the only way to instantly make people know who you are is having a look that is strongly related to your personality and beliefs. I know what you’re thinking now: “what if I don’t care about what I wear at all?” Well, that says a lot about you as well. You see?
I have never allowed my parents to decide what I should wear: I was a very obnoxious child when it came to dressing for the day. You could say I wanted my clothes to reflect my personality or at least my mood for the day since I was able to speak.
However, it was during high school that I expanded my view on what a “personal look” really was, and the internet played a huge role in it. I suddenly came to know that there was much more to it than just wearing clothes you felt like wearing. The mix of a 16-years-old me + the internet + the discovery of visual kei was the start of a journey I’m still on. I have never gone back to “normal clothing” again.
What is Alternative Fashion?
Err, go to London and spend a couple of days in Camden Town, trying to ignore the increasing number of H&M, All Saints and the like. I’ll tell you something more, though.
Alternative fashion is an umbrella that includes a plethora of styles. Those styles differ from what is usually available in high street shops and they are worn by a smaller percentage of people. Alternative fashion is usually associated with subcultures, but it is not limited to it, and even if largely connected, not limited to the music one listens to. The main acknowledged alternative styles are punk and gothic. Under this two, a whole world unravels: cybergoth, deathrock, batcave, punk rock, gothic lolita, visual kei, industrial goth, steampunk, gothabilly, rockabilly, trad goth, romantic goth, metal and more.
Most alternative fashion movements stem from music. This is something that needs to be said, because when fashion swallows subcultures that’s what usually happens: everyone forgets where those styles came from, or they never knew they were subcultures before being used by mainstream designers in the first place.
The boundaries are extremely blurred today: mainstream fashion has always been interested in subcultures, and has always dipped into young people movements to inspire itself, and keep itself alive. This is called the bubble-up effect: when trends start from the street and end up on catwalks. Think Yves Saint Laurent and his bringing fetish materials in the spotlight, or Vivienne Westwood, completely re-shaping what punk meant.
Photo credits: Roel Wijnants
Alternative fashion is not something that you just implement in your style, it is something you fully embrace. That’s why the latest trends like 90s revival and the style of the various Cara Delevingnes can’t be identified as alternative fashion. Those are trends that are here in this moment, and will be gone in a season. Same goes for studs&skulls: they are everywhere today because they were legitimised by big fashion designers, but wearing them because you find them on Zara’s shelves doesn’t mean alternative fashion. It’s still a trend.
Following trends is not necessarily bad: as long as you keep your integrity.
At the end of the day, fashion has crossed the line many times. Some styles are still clearly identifiable, some shops can be labelled as alternative clothing shops, but some can’t anymore. Think Pleaser USA and Hexagon: those are definitely alternative fashion brands. Think Dolls Kill and Nasty Gal: what the hell are those? They can call it nu-goth, mainstream hipster and what have you, but at the end of the day they are trend-oriented stores that sell what it’s trendy right now. (They still have cool stuff tho :P)
Remember, the vital thing is to keep being you no matter what and not giving a damn about labels. But still, be careful with naming things what they are not.
Now I want to hear about you. What’s your opinion about the so-called “alternative fashion”? Do you think people who know nothing about the subculture should not wear the clothes? Do we still need to label things? Let us know in a comment below, and don’t forget to share this with your friends.
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Resources: London Alternative Fashion Week – Camden Lock Market – List of Subcultures on Wikipedia (can you believe that I’ve never heard of some of those) – Another post about this issue, from a “feminist” point of view
Disclaimer: This is an updated version of the post published in July 2013.
About the Author
Hey, it's Elisa, the woman who founded styleonvega.com in 2010, when it was called styleBizarre. I gave this blog to another awesome woman and she's now running the whole thing: Cynthia. If you want to follow me on my website or social media please click on the icons that are probably showing somewhere around this text box :D