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?

14 comments:

  1. you know, I don't think most people would find them offensive, but of course, it depends on the opinion/experiences of the viewer. I happen to like the look myself. I like the strong lines, the clean design, and in my opinion, they just look nice. Authoritative, sure, but that was their purpose. All uniforms are authoritative in some way, shape or form.
    Uniforms, just as most everything else is an inspired product. Someone saw it, liked it, and chose to incorporate it into whatever their particular *thing* is/was. To the best of my knowledge, the S.S. uniforms were inspired by the Italians, and all of this has something to do with Prussian lineage. People are going to associate the style with the Nazis because of the magnitude of the situations in which they were involved. Just as the swastika brings to mind the SS, it originated as a symbol of peace, so nothing is purely what it seems on the surface.

    Great article!

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  2. I very much love the look.

    Fantastic article.

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  3. Borrowing things from militaria is a punk/goth thing that goes all the way back. Instead of asking "why are we all wearing Nazi hats" we could just as easily be talking about tall black shitkickers, bullet belts, trench coats, soviet caps, or swastka arm bands [the attention of which at one time compelled Souxsie to publicly proclaim she isn't a nazi].

    I can understand the reason for all the attention, it seems as if the white supremacists hijacked the skinhead/oi movement to the point where "skinhead" entered into the world's lexicon as another name for neonazis [even if that isn't fair to the skinheads who were not in any way white supremacists]. I think the reason why the general public hadn't done the same thing to goth [even after the label was falsely applied to idiots like Harris & Klebold] is because the militaria, while visibly present, was so diluted in a grab bag of neovictorianism, apolitical horrorcana [whether we're talking about zombies, vampires, or mortica], renaissance symbolism, neo-classical influences, and sci-fi imagery that it hasn't come off to them as overpowering. Additionally whether the general public was conscious of it or not, I also think that on some subliminal level they never perceived the same hate & anger from goths that's normally associated with those "angry" oi punks. The mainstream image of goths was more, I hate to use the word "mopey" but that's the best I can think of at the moment. All these jokes we see today aimed at emos writing depressing poetry or cutting themselves was aimed at goths in the 80s & 90s. So a goth with some borrowed militaria presents in their eyes a very different image to them than that of a skinhead.

    And while there is all this borrowed militaria elements in goth fashion how often do we REALLY see someone wearing a swastika? I think most people had learned from Siouxsie's mistake, and are smart enough to realize that [regardless the true origin & meaning of the symbol] it is not going to successfully be reclaimed from its nazi affiliations. As long as there are those kinds of hate filled angry people out there, the general public is going to be worried when they see someone using the symbol in public.

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  4. I always thought jodhpurs was just a horse riding thing, LOL. I suppose wearing clothes inspired by nazi wear takes the scare factor out? That's always a good thing.

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  5. love the style for sure (ok, sometimes it is too much but still, love the look)

    sadly when you are in germany it can cause major problems. i was wearing some 'bit nachtmahr inspired' uniform outfit (definitely not looking nazi-like at all... i think) at mera luna and a drunk guy spit at me and called me nazi. yes for sure, how much of a nazi can i be when i did my apprenticeship in a jewish geriatric home?!

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  6. I actually quite like the style, and don't typically associate militia-themed clothing with the Nazi party. I suppose it's entirely possible to go a bit overboard (wearing a swastika, regardless of its origins, is bound to end badly); however, to assume someone is a Nazi-sympather solely because their outfit somewhat resembles that of one worn by a Nazi, is fairly ridiculous. Clothing doesn't speak for morals.

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  7. I don't think it's right to wear actual Nazi symbols, like a swastika or the SS symbol, as if you wear the symbol of something you're inferring that you support it, and those ideologies were sick. I think the same goes for wearing Stalinist stuff too. People forget that Stalin killed more than Hitler. Other wise I see it as "military Goth" rather than Nazi - I think the WW2 detailing borrows from both sides of that war, and there's often Soviet inspired bits in there and really, as Goth is something that sees beauty in a dark aesthetic, I'm not surprised. Some of those uniform designers were pretty good at their jobs.

    What I consider when wearing military-inspired stuff has nothing to do with the Nazi issue - it is to not to go too close to any extant military or law enforcement look. I don't like it when I see people wearing old medals they didn't earn but bought secondhand on eBay or whatever and stuck on their Steampunk/Military Goth/whatever outfit, or borrow the insignia of any regiment or group - those are badges that are EARNT and wearing them if you didn't earn them is disrespectful to those who did. I come from a family where both my uncles served in the navy, as did my uncle, my partner's father was a fighter pilot and his grandfather was a a pretty high rank in the navy and my partner's thinking of signing up with the air force himself, and several of my close friends are serving in the militaries of their respective countries, so to me that sort of stuff is particularly galling as I know people who HAVE served for their country and are currently serving for their country and I don't like it when people from the community I consider myself part of disrespect those people.

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  8. Some of this "military influences" to goth comes from Neofolk music. Neofolk Music mix sounds of old Europe and his history like, pagan gods, military songs, Rome (more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neofolk) In other way I think is just "fetishist" the power, goos style etc. And a lot of people said me "Wear military style it's not right...you seems like a nazi.. (I don't were nothing like a nazi but some people are short). And I ask to them "Do you like serial killer, murder and terror films right? But murder it's a crime and it's not right. It's just a fiction. As you enjoy murder films, but you know muder it's bad I do the same with military style.

    Sorry for my english.

    If you enjoy military style and neofolk music join to my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/DarkMilitaria

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  9. There is nothing wrong with a military uniform, but things like Nazi symbols can be offensive to, say, those whose families were killed in concentration camps. I have been thinking about the reasons these are popular in the subculture and come up with the following although they may not be true to all goths.

    1. Some goths like to shock. Or scare. both Siouxsie Sioux and Motley Crue (who are not goth, but just in the way of example) have at times used nazi imagery. Siouxsie wore a nazi armband and a bra without cups to one of her concerts, the story goes, and was punched in the face by a man.

    2. Cabaret. The cabaret scene was wonderful in Germany before the second world war. There were so many wonderful performers and a lot of diversity, including a lot of gay people. When the Nazis started coming to power a lot of cabarets showed resistance by operating illegally and doing acts that mocked the nazis. As cabaret/ dark cabaret/ burlesque is known to be an influence in some gothic culture (especially around where I live) this kind of iconography could actually be seen as a kind of homage.

    The imagery of Manson's album The Golden Age of Grotesque uses cabaret style that may in part have been inspired by a Mel Brooks spoof movie about Hitler with cabaret girls.

    I would love to hear if anyone has other thoughts on this.

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  10. There's also an article in this pdf mag about Nazi aesthetics in dieselpunk

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  11. I have this style, and I have no Nazi mentality is a fetish with elegance, but also influenced the dieselpunk, maybe if you want a little brother this literary genre of steampunk, you could have more idea of ​​the article

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  12. Getting offended by most of those Nazi symbols just shows people who are not intelligent. Hitler stole most of those from other countries. This includes the swastika, and the iron cross. Google it and read up on it. Anyway, Rivethead anyone?

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  13. I enjoyed the story. I let my dark side out at age 49. I like all styles of Goth clothing. My favorite is the military. I have German, East German, and two Russian Visor Caps. I try never to offend anyone. I certainly don't agree with Hitlers views. I own 1 cap that was ordered without the Empire Eagle, and Skull. The seller made a mistake and I got a cap with the works. Of course they would not allow a return. I looked at the cap thinking I would remove the two items. Not so simple. It would have involved cutting the lining and leaving two holes where the symbols went. I was not about to destroy an item I paid nearly 100 Dollars for. So I wear it like it is. No one has made any remarks yet. If they do, I am prepared.

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  14. I think it depends. Like, if it's just looking military, there's absolutely no problem. There's many military branches and styles from all sorts of countries and eras. It's when one is looking like a Nazi that it can be a problem. By looking like a Nazi I mean wearing a Nazi uniform. Basically. It's not that hard to look kind of like a Nazi if you're wearing old military apparel.

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