Opinion: Stop Making Metal a Fashion Statement
After attending a Max and Iggor Cavalera Return to Roots show in New York City, I boarded the subway to make my way to Grand Central station. One man on the train was sporting a shirt with the Iron Maiden lettering and a bastardization of Eddie on the front and the car soon filled with sweaty metalheads. Immediately, this metal-as-a-fashion-statement dude looked uncomfortable surrounded by like-minded threads, fully aware he was now looked upon as a member of this community by other outsiders. If this trend is going to exist, we might as well enjoy the fleeting moments it works against the favor of the false ones, right?
At first, the emergence of metal in mainstream fashion seemed kind of flattering. Was it outrageous to see rappers wearing jackets decorated with thrash patches? Absolutely, but hey any recognition counts, right? How about Justin Bieber wearing a Metallica shirt on The Ellen DeGeneres Show? Hey, if it helps convert even one fan from bottom-feeder pop worshipper to shaggy-haired headbanger, we can get behind that (and at least Bieber is an apparent fan).
One of the members of the Kardashian family wearing a Slayer shirt? That’s pushing it (keep fighting the good fight, Gary Holt). Iron Maiden and KISS shirts in major fashion retailers like Forever 21 and H&M? Shirts with fictitious band names in edgy font? Everyday sayings baring some of the most recognizable metal print? Kendall and Kylie Jenner launching a new line of shirts with their famous-for-nothing faces plastered over iconic images of Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and more? Okay, now I’m pissed!
Metal as a fashion statement has to stop. Ever since its inception, heavy metal has been maligned by the mainstream who write off the music as “just noise,” using the lyrical themes to perpetuate false narratives about the metal community. It’s been treated as an afterthought by the Grammys, while metal’s supporters have been looked down upon as the dregs of society by the uninitiated.
So why has the fashion industry suddenly latched onto its imagery, scooping up shirts with names of bands who wholeheartedly defy the “I listen to everything except metal” line we’ve been fed countless times from the mainstream corner?
For a while, the “starter pack” rock shirts consisted of classic acts like AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, etc., all with their wares readily available at department stores at affordable prices. We’re talking worldwide showstoppers who had transcended their own musical realm to become perennial cultural icons. In recent years, Metallica have become the latest to breathe in the rare air of this realm.
There’s no problem there — department stores aren’t the pinnacle of fashion, setting trends for today’s youth like the retailers we’ve mentioned raking in the cash with dreams of swimming in tubs filled with gold coins like they’ve made the opening sequence of Duck Tales their own personal reality off the back of another come-and-go trend — Don’t act like you’re singing, “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll” when what’s really in your head is, “Started from the bottom, now I’m here.”
The last time an Iron Maiden crop top was on the clothing rack next to an animal print shirt (see gallery below) was in the men’s section on the West Coast in the mid-’80s, not for some regular at H&M who wants to look like a cutesie badass in 2017 and still won’t back down from duck-lip selfies (besides, that’s so 2015). Does Bruce Dickinson know about this? After all, this is the band that implemented paperless tickets and even tried to stray from venues with corporate boxes all for the sake of Iron Maiden's name not to be taken lightly by casual outsiders.
Hell, I even saw every member of Gene Simmons' family glued to their phone for the duration of a KISS concert, which throws fuel onto my fiery skepticism of Forever 21 patrons strolling through the mall humming "Cold Gin" to themselves, internally debating whether Destroyer or Love Gun is the better KISS record as they're lured into the store by the highly attractive "logo top" sign in front of a KISS shirt. Yes, Forever 21 has reduced any band shirt simply to a top baring a logo, demonstrating that the featured artist is of little value to securing a sale at the retailer and that the trend is the money-maker.
Is it a bold assumption to say anyone buying these shirts at trendy outlets is a poser? NO! Nobody escapes high school as an ardent rocker without at least making a handful of purchases off the racks of Hot Topic — not Forever 21 and H&M. Do you know where else is a good place to get a band shirt? At the show you went to because you’re an actual fan.
In an era where irony is king, this errant sense of metal fandom is to be expected, but it doesn’t make it any more tolerable. Every metalhead can attest to making instant friends in public, spotting someone with a Judas Priest or Black Sabbath shirt, giving at least a nod of approval or a flash of the horns in stride, and, other times, instantly debating the best album from whichever band they were representing.
It’s one of the many facets of the metal community that its denizens take the most pride in and now that brotherhood is in jeopardy thanks to the legions of posers falsely parading around in shirts of your favorite band. It makes a mockery of our scene altogether as trend hoppers look to others to tell them, as free-thinking young adults, how to dress. It uproots the integrity of this subculture, which operates on passionate fandom and a sense of pride in being among the ones who "get it."
Have you ever approached one of these "fans," only to discover they have no idea why you’re talking to them about riding lightning or reigning in blood? “I’m sorry, I don’t know what an Ozzy or a Dio is, but I have to get going now.” They scrunch their face as if you’ve just farted in their mouth, unable to cleanse their palate of what you ate last night until they’re back within the safe confines of their car and Top 40 pop radio, wondering what in the literal Hell just happened.
If you happen to run into one of these aforementioned people, try asking them about their favorite metal bands or about their favorite song on the album that's stamped across their shirt. It’s going to get awkward and it should be, but that’s where the fun is — I’m not saying to berate them, just test their knowledge (or lack thereof). Maybe, just maybe it’ll be the last time they bust that shirt out of the wardrobe in fear of being accosted by a denim ‘n’ leather longhair. Just try not to scream “SLAAAYEER” in their face repeatedly — you’re craftier than that and it's a little embarrassing for the rest of us unless you're outside a concert LARP-ing Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
“Heavy metal or no metal at all / Wimps and posers leave the hall.” - Manowar
Examples of "Metal" Shirts From Just One Trip to the Mall
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