GOTHIC WON­DER

A re­newed in­ter­est in the dark power of mall goth fash­ion has Is­abel B. Slone re­flect­ing on her not-so-dis­tant past amid this league of non­con­formists.

Fashion (Canada) - - Style Nostalgia -

In 2003, I was a moody, angsty teen with a spe­cial fond­ness for black nail pol­ish, caked-on eye­liner and an­gry gui­tar mu­sic with lyrics char­ac­ter­ized by a se­ries of an­guished, in­dis­tin­guish­able yelps. I wasn’t the only awk­ward loner out there, but I took spe­cial pride in la­belling myself a non­con­formist and as­serted that dis­tinc­tion through a pair of bondage pants laden with sil­ver hard­ware. The pants were a man­i­fes­ta­tion of my at­ti­tude at large: Look ag­gres­sively weird so that peo­ple leave you alone. They had D-rings in coun­ter­in­tu­itive places and more zip­pers than hu­manly nec­es­sary, and they jan­gled when I walked, an­nounc­ing my pres­ence with a sound that was de­cid­edly more polka than punk rock. I was, in essence, a mall goth.

For those of you who aren’t fa­mil­iar with the term, “mall goth” was a style of dress that com­bined the hall­marks of punk, goth and metal sub­cul­tures and thrived like bac­te­ria in the petri dish of the early 2000s. Though it tends to be slung as pe­jo­ra­tive—Ur­ban Dictionary de­scribes “mall goth” as “a pa­thetic ex­cuse for real gothic”—it’s a term I find deeply nos­tal­gic be­cause it con­jures the hey­day of Hot Topic: the premier pur­veyor of The Night­mare Be­fore

Christ­mas T-shirts, stud­ded wrist cuffs and those jelly bracelets that sparked a brief furor when a news story cir­cu­lated link­ing the colour of each bracelet to a dif­fer­ent sex act. Plus, it’s the most ac­cu­rate term I can come up with to de­scribe the defini­tively angsty clothes cur­rently en­joy­ing a resur­gence in fash­ion.

Ear­lier this year, while in­no­cently scrolling through In­sta­gram, I nearly had a con­nip­tion when I no­ticed that Open­ing Cer­e­mony is now hawk­ing lug-soled plat­form New Rock shoes, the kind once favoured by cy­ber­goths who knit­ted their own syn­thetic neon dread­locks, as well as bondage pants by the Tokyo-based Hara­juku brand M.Y.O.B NYC. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for M.Y.O.B NYC told me, “Re­ceiv­ing an email alone from OC took us by sur­prise, so we were ut­terly shocked when they came to the store and told us on the spot that they wanted to stock our clothes at OC.” They’re not the only ones.

Beyond Open­ing Cer­e­mony, there’s Di­lara Findikoglu, the Lon­don-based de­signer whose Spring 2018 col­lec­tion ex­ploded with goth­iclite ref­er­ences, in­clud­ing pin­striped trench coats and knee-high socks paired with Con­verse-like sneak­ers. Coach’s Pre-Fall 2018 col­lec­tion chan­nelled a sim­i­lar strain of moody dark­ness, de­scrib­ing it­self as a “goth/ rock fairy tale,” and rene­gade la­bel Gypsy Sport’s Fall 2018 col­lec­tion fea­tured a patch­work skirt that looked cob­bled to­gether with neck­ties from Avril Lav­i­gne’s closet.

Per­haps the most vis­i­ble mo­ment of the mall goth re­vival was when rap­per Lil Uzi Vert ce­mented his sad­boi per­sona by ap­pear­ing at the 2018 Grammy Awards wear­ing a pair of Tripp NYC bondage pants be­decked with mul­ti­ple rat­tling wal­let chains—my heart swelled with

an al­most moth­erly sense of pride. Dur­ing my own bondage-pants years, I was des­per­ately un­pop­u­lar and adopted a freak­ish style of dress as my ar­mour against the world. Now, I felt tri­umphant that the self-im­posed uni­form of freaks and mis­fits is be­ing em­braced as just an­other way to ex­press your­self.

If the reign­ing mes­sage of mall goth is to let one’s freak flag fly, then its re­vival sug­gests that for­mer out­casts are band­ing to­gether to re­claim their own dis­en­fran­chise­ment. We’re liv­ing in a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for in­clu­siv­ity and di­ver­sity, and more peo­ple have a seat at the de­ci­sion-mak­ing table thanks to ac­tivist move­ments like #MeToo and Black Lives Mat­ter. As the cul­tural gate­keep­ers be­gin to let dif­fer­ence fil­ter through, it ap­pears that more peo­ple are will­ing to send the sar­to­rial mes­sage that, deep down, we’re all a lit­tle bit freaky. Li­isa Ladouceur, au­thor of

En­cy­clo­pe­dia Goth­ica and a bona fide goth ex­pert, notes that “more than some of the other types of goth, [mall goth] is very gen­der neu­tral. It was an over­sized shirt and it was baggy pants, and ev­ery­one was wear­ing it.” The an­drog­yny of mall goth meshes well with Gen Z’s open­ness to gen­der iden­ti­ties out­side the bi­nary. A 2015 study by trend fore­cast­ing agency J. Wal­ter Thomp­son In­tel­li­gence’s In­no­va­tion Group found that over a third of sur­vey re­spon­dents aged 13 to 20 strongly agreed that gen­der did not de­fine them as a per­son.

One such non-bi­nary teen is Aaron Philip, a 17-year-old trans model with 12K In­sta­gram fol­low­ers who face­tiously refers to her­self as an “elf cy­borg baby­girl.” Philip, who uses a wheel­chair, of­ten dons spiky dog col­lars and camo-print shirts and cites Lind­say Lo­han in Freaky Fri­day as a style in­spi­ra­tion. Philip doesn’t iden­tify as a mall goth but says her style is “very In­ter­net,” sug­gest­ing that peo­ple who grav­i­tate to this kind of dress do so out of an affin­ity for on­line cul­ture rather than mu­sic. As a black trans femme, Philip speaks to why the re­vival of mall goth is do­ing so much bet­ter with racial di­ver­sity com­pared to the early 2000s, when the sub­cul­ture’s largest de­mo­graphic con­sisted of an­gry sub­ur­ban white teens: “That edgy kind of feel res­onates, [but] a lot of peo­ple thought they weren’t al­lowed to be goth be­cause they only knew it as a white thing,” she says. “I think it just needed a push from some­one with a plat­form, like Lil Uzi, to show these kids that you’re al­lowed to do it.”

My own in­ter­est in mall goth was short-lived: It faded when I re­al­ized it wasn’t my des­tiny to marry Joel Mad­den of Good Char­lotte. But my love for stud­ded wrist cuffs never dis­ap­peared; it sim­ply blos­somed into a life­long in­ter­est in al­ter­na­tive cul­ture. Mall goth was my gate­way drug from ac­ces­si­ble pop punk like Sum 41 to the slightly more chal­leng­ing strains of Fugazi and Bikini Kill.

To have the styles of your youth come back in fash­ion is a rite of pas­sage of ag­ing; I knew it would come, but I had no idea how hard it would hit me when it did. Since I be­gan writ­ing this piece a month ago, I’ve spent more time stalk­ing the cur­rent of­fer­ings on the Hot Topic web­site and listening to a Spo­tify playlist called “Pop Punk Per­fec­tion” than should legally be al­lowed for some­one push­ing 30. While I’m not about to shell out for an­other pair of bondage pants, this tem­po­rary re­gres­sion is nostal­gia at its best: briefly es­cap­ing the bur­dens of adult­hood by wallowing in a time of heady in­no­cence.

17-year-old trans model Aaron Philip Rap­per Lil Uzi Vert in bondage pants at the 2018 Grammy Awards

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