Thursday, 9 June 2011

Superficial, moi?

I had a conversation recently that made me think. It was on people adopting a particular style wholesale but not liking the music or subculture associated with it. I thoroughly support people's right to wear what they want, even if it is a rather revolting garment like a burka. Not my body. But it was food for thought.

It has never really occurred  to me that someone would dress like a mod and not like mopeds, Italian movies and the Small Faces.  Similarly what on earth is going on if someone adopts that most musically inspired of appearances 'rockabilly' but doesn't really love rock n roll or r & b? I think we are mainly magpies but what of those who do seem to adopt the whole shebang?  Potentially someone might really want to look like a metal head whilst preferring to listen to Cheryl Cole and surely there is nothing wrong with this?

On the other hand as groups of music/era/subculture fans use their appearance to recognise each other and form a cohesive community it must be downright irritating to get someone saying they just like the clothes but expropriating your social markers wholesale. As Londoners we get away with a lot, but some people have had to endure a lot to defiantly express their musical and cultural preferences. 

However the risk is that you find yourself being 'holier than thou' and a bit elitist.  I have to say  however from experience of a long time as a Goth (once a Goth always a Goth....) that those amongst us who didn't get the music, movies, novels and style behind it didn't stay around for long.

My conclusion is that if you just like the way something looks, sailor jerry tattoos or whatever that's great, but if you don't like the music and subculture you cannot be expected to be taken seriously by those who do.  You can't really call yourself a mod girl or a rockabilly girl if you just want a dusty do or to wear your hair in a bandana. Well you can, but who is going to believe it? 

Thats my personal opinion, what do you think?
Redlegs xx


15 comments:

Mim said...

I definitely share your views on music. I get especially annoyed with people who don't realise that goth as a subculture has its roots squarely in music - I'm not talking about gothic style, of course, but the goth subculture with its roots in late 70s postpunk, and for me if a person's not into the music, they're not really into the subculture. Other thing have accreted to it over the past 30 years or so, but ultimately it comes down to the music.

I don't think it's elitist to expect people to be into the fundamentals of a subculture in order to be part of that subculture. If people feel that such an attitude is elitist, perhaps they need to look at why they feel excluded from, why they feel excluded, and why they so desperately want to be a part of it that it matters even when they don't like the things involved.

Um, that's waffly. Sorry. Your blog provokes thoughts!

Dandy Man said...

I don't think it's elitist at all and I'm with you on the point of not being taken seriously by those who do honour that way of life,so to speak. Being a Mod today I believe knowing it's history and what the originators sought in terms of inspiration is a valid foundation from which to start your "look" upon. I'm really smiling as I write the next line,please take no offenc! As all Mods dislike "mopeds". Scooters? We adore! Cool Blog X

Esz said...

Interesting topic! My preferences in music lie towards techno and minimal yet I wear vintage 40's and 50's clothes.

They don't really belong together but I've never noticed any wierdness about people's musical tastes and what they wear. Maybe because I've never really fully been involved in a 'scene' - I guess the only time being when I picked up my taste for electronic music...I ditched the clothes (fluro raver anyone?) and kept the tunes.

It's not that I don't appreciate the music that goes with the clothes I wear, I just don't know all that much about it. I'm not a purist when it comes to vintage but feel I'm educated enough about the lifestyle to make my own decisions and back them - whether I choose to be 'pure' about one thing over the other.

Maybe it's not as segregated here in Australia. Our vintage community is strong and from what I've experienced, has a distinct lack of snark....we're a small community so we stick together :-D

Um - back to the music - each their own I guess - and it would definitely depend on the scene and how involved you are.

Anonymous said...

Hi, insomniac lurker here...
I wonder why you feel so strongly about those issues... I can't really understand. You seem to advocate snubbing people is ok, just because they don't buy a whole pre-packaged "scene".

Well, maybe it is because being a clone is boring!

What happened to individuality?
I guess a teen would obsess about fitting in, following silly guidelines or such, but you should know better. Is it because you live in a big city full of anonymity, and the need for a closer community you can control (such as the vintage scene)is much bigger, even for an adult?

Dear god, even when I was part of a scene as a youngster I did it because of admiration at some cultural references - the original trailblazers, not their crowd of followers. And why should anyone?

Well, nowadays I enjoy stuff from the 20's and the 30's for several reasons, which are personal and not derivative from any scene. Childhood fixations, old magazines, typography and graphic design, my home, politics in my country, pre-code films, my own family history, art, recalling the fun at compared European literature classes at college, tracing women lives back then, comics evolution... So many things.

While researching this stuff, I've found some amusing "vintage blogs" and forums. Some I enjoy. Though it's great to read them when they deal about something I'm interested, they can quickly become generic.

Old clothes, red lipstick, curling hair... you fing this again and again, and most of times, nothing else. It seems to be the core of the "vintage community". It is not much.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that next time you find yourself facing a fake moustache or a costume dress, please think twice before burping one of your judgemental barbs.

You just cannot know what lies behind someone's interest in an era. Appreciating stuff from the past is not a monopoly. Thinking so is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I have never labelled or pigeonholed myself into one "scene" Musically, I listen to vastly different genres- Garage rock, RnB, blues, rockabilly, swing, soul, folk, country (yes and I’m ok with admitting that), punk & metal. Hell I’m not even above going out to cheesy pop clubs and dancing myself daft. Fashion wise I have a little bit of everything as well, but mainly retro pin up, rockabilly with a little steampunk, goth and psychobilly tossed in the mix to add flavour. People outside have labelled me as a goth, a punk, rockabilly and emo (???!!!??) but those labels were applied by society, not by me. Labels are used by people who don't have a clue what you are about to give them a nice, easy way to figure you out and put you in a box. Not everyone will agree with my opinion I’m sure and I guess if you are proud of your subculture then you will be dismissive of those who seem to disrespect it, just be aware that some people who don’t look like goths may like the sisters of mercy all the same.

RedlegsinSoho said...

Hmmm, nice to ruffle some feathers, as for electro and being suited and booted recalling John Foxx, Sparks and the boys in Kraftwerk it makes sense. I think what I was referring to was the wholesale adaptation of a very music specific style such as Rockabilly and then saying 'I don't fancy the music much'..it would be like doing the whole rasta thing and not liking reggae. I was responding to the thoughts of someone who was genuinely nonplussed and offended by the mocksters, who felt mocked.

Insomniac lurker, please have a scan through this blog next time you cannot sleep. Since you are as judgemental as I am (and a great deal more patronising)you are always welcome. Or not, I don't care but comments are always welcome.

As for what is behind someone's interest in anything I don't give a flying fuck if it is a banker in a fake moustache taking the piss. I'd be the same with someone blacking up at a reggae event. I'll be continuing to burp tequila tainted abuse in the direction of anyone or thing I don't like.

Redlegs x

hannahasprey said...

I am really an aesthetics-only 50s fan - 50s music is great but it doesn't move me like the other, more modern, subcultural music I've adored for 20 years. I don't think I am any less obsessive about or dedicated to the clothes, design, architecture and interiors of my chosen era than other vintage fans I know, but then maybe the fact that I embrace the entire aesthetic culture of the 50s rather than clothes alone, puts me in a slightly different category than the people you're talking about. I do think it's possible to be as passionate about the clothes alone as someone who also embraces the full culture of the era.

Helen Highwater said...

I do know what you mean. I got quite annoyed once on a vintage hair 'community' (term used loosely) on Livejournal where someone was going on about a "rockabilly fringe". I thought, fucking hell, it's a genre of music! I think for a lot of people, they don't even know what rockabilly sounds like but will still bang on about how their look is rockabilly.

Conversely, it doesn't bother me if someone describes their look as "vintage" - it's such a free-floating descriptor now anyway, and pretty much, as long as it's not applied to 80s or 90s clothing, it makes sense.

Me, personally, I look quite 40s and 50s, go to rockabilly events sometimes, but I've never called myself a rockabilly, even though I listen to rockabilly music and r'n'b. I used to call myself a mod, but had other people who called themselves mods saying I couldn't possibly be a mod because I liked Morrissey. I think though you had a lot of people coming to mod from Britpop, and they were embarrassed about the fact that they hadn't liked the Small Faces from the moment they exited the womb. Indeed, a lot of them would then go on about how they didn't like bands like The Who etc because they "weren't mod" and they'd just like early 60s r'n'b and motown. Fair enough if you do like that kind of music - but sometimes I think there was a case of "methinks he doth protest too much" involved.

I do love my indie music, Smiths, Suede, Manics, Blur, and I feel that they draw on vintage aesthetics in a way (well, Blur certainly did because they had quite a mod look, and there's periods in Suede & Manics where they played about with ideas about glamour). I'd never say they're vintage, but I don't think it's bizarre to like them and also Carl Perkins! But of course, it wasn't like I expected to hear indie bands at Rhythm Riot. Even though a member of the Polecats plays guitar in Morrissey's band! ;)

Then again, I am actually *in* an indie band: I was recording backing vocals yesterday in a pair of Freddie's of Pinewood jeans.

I tend now to describe myself as a... I dunno... sort of vintage-y indie person, because it covers several bases. It includes 40s and 50s style, suggests my fondness for old music but also points out that I like indie stuff. But then I don't tend to "describe myself". I've found in the past when I've done that it was a bit limiting, but more because of people around me making assumptions.

Helen Highwater said...

Something else I feel like adding... there's some extremely amazingly vintagely dressed people who describe themselves as rockabilly - but I spose when people see them, they class them as 'vintage' whereas people in the more 'obvious' stuff that gets called rockabilly - cherry print and leopard print - even though a lot of people wear that who don't listen to rockabilly!

and then again, some people choose to do both, depending on their mood.

All somewhat confusing....

But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. Life's too short to squeeze into a box of someone else's making.

RedlegsinSoho said...

My copy editor has pointed out that parties is grammatically wrong, tis indeed! x

Anonymous said...

Revivalism can only ever be a pastiche. No one owns a patent on the past , the past reborn can only ever be Frankenstein's monster. Subculture is rebellion by conformity ..real rebellion has no conformity.

Actuarius said...

I'm afraid that really doesn't make any sense to me Anonymous - well, last Anonymous. Of course no-one owns a patent on the past, but then no-one has suggested that anyone does. As someone who takes their cues from the between wars period I can tell you that for me its not about trying to recreate the past. Its not even about trying to create a small reflection of it. What it is about is living the life that I wish to, both aesthetically and culturally. The fact that others do so along similar lines is merely a bonus. Remember - conformity is death, walking without direction is only a stroll and tea without crumpets is no tea at all! (One of these is a view I actually hold very dearly but I shall let you guess which)

Anonymous said...

"I would assume tea without crumpets is no tea at all" ;-) I would second that..
There is a fashion for escapism into a 'phantom' past , from a present that may seem unbearable...

Actuarius said...

You could be right - erm - "latest Anonymous". Having said that, although I merely speak for myself, I have only on a very few occassions seen people who I think are trying to "escape" from the present. Please note though that I assumed nothing with regard to the central question of tea and crumpets, but rather asserted what can surely be seen as the only sensible view?

Reality bites said...

Agree with Anonymous 1. So bored with the word vintage anyway and really don't get reproduction calling itself vintage. I love the 30' and 40's but not to the point where it takes over my life, what's wrong with taking the bits of an era you like and leaving the rest. If you were really that much of a purist then communicate by ways other than internet.

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