Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Military Style for Goths: Insensitive or in style?

Goths generally like to think of ourselves as an accepting group of people. Freaks from all walks of life can usually come together to enjoy the music of their choice while wearing the clothes of their choice. It typically doesn't matter what your political or religious views you have, as long as you aren't being repressive of other people. Overall, Goths seem to be some of the least prejudiced people that I know (generally speaking, of course, as there are some topics that get Goths riled up like no one's business.) So, why are we all wearing Nazi hats? What's our deal?

Source: Tumblr

Perhaps I shouldn't make attempts at amusement in this introduction. The Nazis are not a topic that should be laughed about, what they did was horrendous and we are much better off for their absence (well, they're absent for the most part. Don't get me started on Neo-Nazis.) However, the subject still stands that it is not uncommon for Goths to be spotted wearing hats and other uniform-esque clothing that have a silhouette commonly associated with those worn by the Nazis. However, as implied in the above paragraph, most Goths aren't exactly the Nazi-sympathizing types, and those that are aren't generally thought highly of in the community. So, if Goths are generally against the Nazi-mindset, then why would they wear Nazi-esque uniform pieces? Is it insensitive, is it cruel? Does it send a false message out of one's political leanings? Or is it simply a misunderstood wardrobe choice much like our almost subculture-wide admiration of the corset?

Source: Bytwerk

I think, first, it would help to make a point of what I am saying when I say "Nazi-esque uniform pieces." Afterall, a misconception about Nazi uniforms is that they all look the same, but this isn't true at all. Above you see a few types of Nazi uniforms for various careers and stations which you can read up on here. However, a few similar elements can be pinpointed in both those uniforms and what one might call a "military Goth" styled outfit. Knee high combat boots, trousers that have wider thighs and slim calves called "jodhpurs", gas masks (those these are often worn from many historical periods) and the iconic peaked cap, with or without the eagle emblem. How does this translate to a Goth? Check out this image below.

While the lovely lady on the right in this picture has a pretty outfit, we're going to be focusing on the individual at the left. Note the common elements that one might associate with a Nazi uniform: the jodhpurs, the calf-high boots, the military jacket, the peaked cap, the arm band, and then topped off with a gasmask-like apparatus. Of course, for the Goth look the uniform is slightly altered. For one, it is rendered in black PVC/latex, for another there is no eagle or swastika emblem on the cap, and lastly from what I can see the arm-band does not bear a swastika. The result? Intimidating, nearly inhuman. But is this a direct homage to the Nazi mindset?

I don't think so. While the model above wore a full-on, near-Nazi outfit, it would be presumptuous to think that he (or she, or they, I'm not sure) is a Nazi-sympathizer. Goths take fashion influences from all over the historical world, and as some might say "it's just clothes!" Another influence to Goth that has capitalized on this style of dress to some degree would be various aspects of fetish and BDSM fashion. If you feel so inclined, you'll find with little effort that many fetish models have opted to wear certain elements of military fashion, and especially the peaked cap so often attributed to Nazi uniforms. Perhaps because it is unsettling and intimidating, perhaps because it is a symbol of power (I quote from the Nazi uniform source I referenced above when I say that "Uniforms demonstrated status, but also power — and the display of power was a major element in Nazi propaganda.") or perhaps because they are also of the opinion that it's just clothes.

Source: Gutterface

While certain people opt for the totally inspired look, the more popular thing for Goths to do is just wear a peaked cap, like the fetish models mentioned earlier. Above, you can see a picture of Joji Grey modeling in his peaked cap. Does that make him a Nazi sympathizer? Hardly. While it has, perhaps, Nazi-connotations, the reputation of the peaked cap is actually slightly misaligned. After all, the Nazis were not the only ones wearing them and they still today are not. If you go onto the Wikipedia page for the peaked cap (and I'll even provide a handy link for you here) you can see that the peaked cap has been worn by many different law enforcement and military groups. At the bottom of the page there is even a picture of a smiling older man wearing a peaked cap and serving his job as a Hong Kong Hawker control officer. I wouldn't presume that he was a Nazi, what about you?

Source: GeekMenina

On the other side of the coin, Goths are not the only ones who have been split on the issue of the "military inspired" outfit that, perhaps, edges "too close" to the Nazi uniform for our liking. Lolitas faced the same dilemma when popular Lolita brand Metamorphose released a military-inspired line in the fall of 2010. Above are two of the main outfits in the brand photos. Note the eagle logo on the peaked caps, olive coloring, jodhpurs, and military-styling of the coat. Lolitas, who represent a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds just like Goths, took their turns debating about the outfits. Some called them offensive and too-Nazi, others defended them by saying that they were just military-esque and the only thing that was even the least bit distasteful was the eagle on the cap. I won't post too many quotes here, but there is a whole long forum thread on the main Lolita Livejournal community EGL here if you happen to be interested.

Personally, I think that the bias against military inspired fashion because it is too reminiscent of Nazi uniforms is a bit over the top. Not only is it an unsafe and unfair assessment to make that those who wear the "Nazi-like" pieces are Nazi sympathizers, but those elements that are considered to be similar to the Nazi uniform actually have a much more detailed history. Gas masks were worn by all parties during the war, Goths are no strangers to combat boots, jodhpurs were once worn by many as riding pants, and even the swastika has a rich history beyond the Nazi party. Still, the associations are strong, and it's not wrong for people to calmly state that they cannot move beyond the Nazi-association in their mind so they would rather not get in on the trend. What do you think, dear readers? Are these types of military fashions offensive?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: WackyButtons

One of my blogging resolutions was to include fewer review posts, but I can't help this one! I am extraordinarily excited at the purchase I just made and I thought that it would be extremely relevant to any Goths that are DIY fans. I included a little link to it in a previous post and in the future I plan on showing you the project that inspired me to order. What am I talking about? I got custom buttons from Wacky Buttons, and they rock!

First, a little background. In the writing program I am in at my school, during our senior year we complete "lineage" projects to show the things that have influenced us as people and writers. Part of the lineage project is to make a visual/physical display of our progress. In the past there have been projects ranging from a story-book to a decorated fort to a shopping cart filled with memorabilia. For my lineage I decided on decorating a leather jacket (a la the Old School Goths) to show the things that I love and where I came from as an artist. My design was simple, but required a lot of buttons. Enough to at least semi-cover one arm of the jacket. As I poked around for buttons for sale, I discovered that, damn, buttons are expensive. 2 dollars per button? That would cost me a fortune for a school project! So, I began looking for cheap alternatives. That's how I found Wacky Button.

Wacky Button is a website that allows you to either use a template or free-design to create a button using images and text of your choice. It's simple to use online designer allows you to import images from your computer, arrange them on the button, and then save the button for later purchase. They have features that allow your text to wrap around the button in a circle as well as some pre-made image choices (including a Halloween section that has many Goth-appropriate images.) Your possibilities are endless for combining their features with your own images and text. At the end of my button-creating spree, I ended up with well over 100 design options for buttons for my jacket.

Unfortunately, Wacky Button has a set number of buttons that they will allow you to buy at a time: 72. Of course, you can place more than one order, but it is inconvenient. I chose my 72 buttons and then placed my order. For 72 one-inch buttons it cost me just $37 (including shipping!) as opposed to other websites where it might have cost me up to $144 for 72 buttons (plus whatever shipping might have been!) Of course, I also chose to buy one-inch buttons. They have options for other sizes (and even options to have magnet-backs instead of pin-backs) which cost more, but that's to be expected.

I ordered the buttons on Monday, January 16th and they arrived on Thursday, January 19th. I didn't even chose the fastest shipping option! I'm so surprised at the turn-around and shipping time on the buttons and I couldn't be more pleased. They arrived in a padded envelope containing a plastic bag with the buttons. The buttons themselves have a nice, sharp shank in the back that goes through leather with pretty minimal fuss. I will say, however, that don't plan on putting a lot of text on the 1 inch buttons like I did, it turned out tiny! But that was my mistake, not theirs. Overall, I say go buy from Wacky Button! If you have a blog, go look up their coupon options because if you put a link to them on your blog you can get a 10% off coupon.

Design preview and the finished button. I thought about creating several of these buttons to hand out at the Mutter Museum meet up in June. Thoughts?

Reminder: Please do not use images that do not belong to you if you plan on selling the buttons, unless you have the artist's express permission and plan on paying them. It's absolutely rude. For the interested, I will show you the jacket's progress in a future post. I'm so excited about how it's coming together!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Would you take this course?

I have applied to Smith college this year and, while my notification isn't until April, I am still very excited to learn more about a place that I may or may not live in for four years. So, when I went for my interview, I checked out the coursebook. Look at this class that I found that was offered to juniors and seniors in this year's spring semester. Emphasis via italics is mine.
The sack of Rome by Visigoths in CE 410 was an event recieved throughout the Roman world as the end of civilization. In subsequent centuries, the adjective “Gothic” became a “floating signifier,” a term of abuse or praise denoting everything from an exquisite style of high medieval art and architecture to the macabre novels of the 18th and 19th centuries to a contemporary form of youth culture adopting dark, satanic or apocalyptic themes. We will explore Goth’s cultural identity as it was formed in reaction to and emulation of roman values and ideals, and how that identity was transformed through time.
I don't quite know how I feel about this class being offered. Of course, if I had thought to take a picture of the coursebook your worries and mine might be assuaged a little. Why? That damn book was thick enough to beat gophers to death with (if you were planning on beating gophers to death and didn't feel like dirtying your spade, that is!) Why does that matter? Well, it means that the school can afford to offer a vast wealth of classes and, chances are, fewer students would take a class just to fill the credit, especially for one as specific as this. Then, perhaps, you could meet some people actually interested in the subject.

Of course, the implication of the course is that someone, somewhere (meaning the professor of this course) is teaching their students that modern Goth culture is related to Satanism. Now, while there is nothing wrong with Satanism, most Goths and Satanists would agree that the two groups of people are not related, though some individuals might belong to both circles. If the professor were open for discussion and allowed the students a chance to participate and dispel some rumors, that would probably be very excellent. After all, first hand testimony can have a big impact on some people's feelings about certain groups. Not that it will necessarily, but it certainly can.

Personally, I would find the information fascinating and I might not mind playing the class's pet Goth to prod with questions for a little while. However, I might tire of it eventually simply because I want to learn in a college class, not spread my own knowledge. Maybe I'll feel differently when I have a bit of credibility to me (which hopefully becoming a college junior will give me) but I wouldn't hold my breath.

So, gentle reader, would you take this class?

  • Yes, I would.
  • No, I would not.
  • I'd have to think about it

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rosemary Butter Cookie Recipe

What makes the perfect tea cookie? If you ask me, the perfect tea cookie has a light flavor, a little crispness, and you can make them in big batches. A recipe that my mother and I found in an old family recipe book for Rosemary Butter Cookies does just the trick, and I thought I'd share the recipe with you all.

You will need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flower

1 tblsp chopped fresh rosemary (not dried!)

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup coarse or sanding sugar (large granules)

1 champagne class (with rim about 2 inches wide) or something of comparable size


1. Using electric mixer, mix butter and granulated sugar on medium until light and fluffy; about two minutes.
2. Mix in egg and vanilla, then add flour, rosemary and salt; mix on low speed. Your dough might be dry at this point and refuse to stick together, so feel free to sprinkle water on it little by little until it sticks better. Refrigerate one hour.
3. Take out a quarter of your dough, keeping the rest refrigerated, and roll out until it is about 1/8th inch thick.
4. Cut dough into circles with a small champagne class.
5. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and then bake for 6-8 minutes at 375F. When you pull them out they should be a little brown on the bottom (see my picture) but cream colored on top.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies so you can have them with your tea for a while. Enjoy!

Also, look forward to my review of Wackybuttons. They're for a cool project I'm working on!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How Important is Living Near Other Goths to you?

Earlier this week I went off to go visit Smith College and Mt. Holyoke college in order to interview for my application. When I went there, I found myself reflecting on the fact that because these colleges were ninety minutes away from the city of Boston, I migha not be enjoying a cosmopolitan life during my college years. As I continued to think about it, I realized that my contact with other Goths might be extremely limited. And, I thought to myself, I don't really care.

My picture of a street sign in North Hampton, MA.

As you all are probably sick of hearing, I don't have Goth friends in the real world outside of my computer. Being the only Goth in your town can get lonely, can get frustrating, but I'm mostly used to it by now. I have my computer and I have friends that I have made bonds with on grounds other than our mutual spookiness. I don't mean to sound full of contempt of Goths who are friends with other Goths, I'd love a friendship like that, but I don't begrudge the friends that I have for not liking Bauhaus or Siouxsie. Still, I realized, I'm used to not being in the midst of other goths. Why should it concern me during college?

Perhaps because any move leaves people grappling for a sense of security and normalcy, but I don't seem to be the only person that wants to connect with their scene at their arrival. For all the new places, people, and experiences you're sure to meet, having a semi-familiar base to go off of would seem nice to some. I tend to think that the Goth scene, while it certainly varies from location to location, has the same roots not too far back to have been lost, tends to be more welcoming to new comers than some groups, though it depends on the people involved in the scene of course.

Of course, some Goths don't like to be involved with the Goth scene in their area. They might have had an experience with drama, they might not be interested in the club scene where they are most likely to find other Goths, they might just be private people. For whatever reason, it's enough to keep some Goths confined at home. They might not care about whether the place they are moving to has any Goths at all and there's nothing wrong with that. Tastes can mean the difference between a lot of things.

Goths and many other Alt-types have a special kind of bond. Because we often face opposition to our music and appearance, it's natural to want a kind of support network. From opening our own clubs to instituting the mutual "freak nod" when you see another spooky, we as Goths do a lot of networking to make that network of friends to fall back on. To find the community in the real world is almost a dream come true to small-town Goths whose only connection to the scene has been the internet where we are often showered with stories about the busier Goths spots.

What do you think about living near other Goths? Answer the poll below, I'm curious to see what you think?

  • I consider it very important, almost a necessity.
  • I think they would be nice to have, but not necessary.
  • I would rather not live near other Goths.
  • I have no preference.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Goth Challenge, 11-15

You know how it is.

Source: Evil Style

11. Is Goth a lifestyle for you?

Yes, I would consider Goth a lifestyle for me. It has influenced my music tastes, my aesthetic sense, my writing (oh, very much so), my sense of humor, and so many other parts of my life. I don’t have many Goth friends, so it’s important to me to find other places to express my Gothy tendencies. Of course, I do things that aren’t Goth, but generally there is something Goth to my daily activities. If I’m reading, it’s probably Gothic literature, horror, supernatural, fantasy, etc. If I’m exercising, I’m listening to a playlist of Sisters of Mercy (Dominion is an awesome running song) and The Cramps. If I’m trying to find a costume for some event, it’ll probably be a vampire. Hey, I’ve already got the fangs. :P

12. What's your gothic inspiration?

My mother, Jillian Venters, Robert Smith, Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Barber, Kambriel, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, and Anne Rice. Not all of these people are goths but they all relate to the Goth subculture and they’re people that I look to when I’m in need of dark whimsy when I can’t seem to show any myself.

Source: Mosh-Pitt

13. What was your first band t-shirt?

I have never owned a band t-shirt, unfortunately. I generally like to keep my t-shirts with lower necklines, but band t-shirts have them up high and the image is so high up on the chest that if I cut the t-shirt into a scoop neck I would be cutting into the image. However, I would like to get a simple one with the Bauhaus logo on it or The Cure's "Boy's Don't Cry" cover on it if I can find one.

14. What was your best and worst DIY disaster.

I don’t think I understand having a “best DIY disaster,” maybe you mean experience? Anyway, some alterations I did to my velvet jacket with mandarin collar and frog clasps on the front would definitely be my best DIY attempt. I shortened the jacket (from mid-calf length to just at my waist), took in the sides and adjusted the shoulder pads to make them less exaggerated.

My worst DIY experience was trying to make a skirt out of velvet. Have I mentioned that I have a really tough time cutting straight lines? I think I need to sharpen my scissors or something. Anyway, it was a pretty big disaster, so now I’m using the velvet to make little things like wrist cuffs and hair bands.

Source: Fanplusfriend

15. Your favourite or most expensive item in your wardrobe.

Both of these items, funnily enough, are from Fanplusfriend. My prom dress was about $120 plus shipping, and I still have that kicking about in the back of my closet. I really do love it, especially since the brocade bodice part is separate from the ruffled underskirt so I can wear those separately. I removed the lace on the sleeves and the hem though, to make it more wearable. I had plans to cut the dress into a knee length version so I could wear it more often, but I’m not sure if I will do that now. I’m saving it for extra special dress up days. And maybe my future wedding. :P

My favorite item though is this mini bustle skirt from Fanplusfriend, I wear it with everything. It can look fancy with a petticoat or casual without, and it’s extremely flattering. I want to buy it in more colors and maybe draft a pattern to make it myself in fabrics that F+F doesn’t offer (like a 1-2 inch black/white stripe!), but I don’t know if I have the sewing skills to do that. I never wear it with the bustle up, but it’s cool that that is an option.