Do I need to be a carpenter to wear carpenter pants?
A fisherman to wear fisherman vests?
A mountaineer to wear White Mountaineering?
An old man to wear Kith?
The obvious answer to these questions is no. But some questions have been raised recently in fashion circles around clothing appropriation And whether it’s okay to wear an item from a specific sub-culture without knowing everything about the chosen niche. Your good friends at LIIVE DELICIOUSLY take a look at the latest attempt to gate-keep clothing and whether is may be justified.
In the late 00’s as a young impressionable dimwit, I was introduced to hardcore music by a couple of much cooler and worldly school friends. As a slightly outcast young loser with serious daddy issues I obviously leaned heavily into the scene.
The emotionally charged, angry, anti establishment atmosphere at hardcore shows resonated with me and gave me a new perspective on life. A different perspective from the mundane of rural Scotland that surrounded me throughout my first 16 years.
One aspect of the scene that is seldom discussed but hugely important to the man children involved, is the clothing being donned by angst filled teens at gigs across the globe. This is backed up by Toby Morse in H2O’s track ‘What Happened’ in which he wails with contempt
“When it began, for those who don't know it didn't matter how you looked or what you wore to a show. Dress codes, FUCK NO! we didn't care about the brand of your jeans and all that shit in your hair. But now the biggest part is all about the image and not the art. Fashion before passion!”
A reflection on posers infiltrating the scene and their culture going from underground shows in NYC to Blink 182 being plastered all over MTV. At the end of it all, cash is king and there was money to be made from punk music.
Anyway I didn’t care what Toby thought and circa 2010 my get up of choice was Vans Authentic’s, TopMan skinny black jeans and a XXL band t-shirt (I was a medium at most). Me and twenty other young men all dressed the same in a basement under a pub nodding our heads to a straight edge band from Whitby.
As I was breaking into the scene and trying to impress my new found comrades I would simply Google hardcore merch and pick up the cheapest band t-shirt I could find. Whether I knew the band or not was irrelevant as the intention of the t-shirt wasn’t to show my support for a band I liked but to simply try and fit into a world I knew little about and impress the kids with my sick second hand Jawbreaker long sleeve. I lived in perpetual fear of being asked to name three songs.
I didn’t feel great about doing this and felt as though I was faking it, but realistically who really gives a fuck. I did eventually grow out of this mindset and simply wore clothing felt comfortable in and ended up buying stuff that resonated with me in some way.
This concept can be applied to people wearing sports team merchandise. People will often be seen sporting a football shirt that has no relevance to their existence whatsoever. for example I often play 5 a-side with a group of colleagues and one dude regularly shows up wearing a replica USSR top simply because it looks cool.
With that being said football fandom and sports memorabilia can burn passionately in this part of the world. I wouldn't even contemplate wearing a rival strip to the team I was coerced into a lifelong relationship with. The image of half and half strips have taken a lot of ridicule online and rightly so! Imagine having the bollocks to wear a half Rangers half Celtic strip about Govan. You would literally be dead.
There are lots of variables among band and sports merch, clothing that have origins in a certain culture or were originally targeted to a specific audience, but as they grew became popular with your every man tryna pull off a fit. Styles such as, Redwing boots and Carhartt double knees, fisherman vests and hats, Air Jordans and Dunks, Arc’teryx shell's and Patagonia vests. Do you need to root your decision to buy a certain garment in your knowledge of that particular culture. Or is clothing meaningless fabric.
The idea of wearing a Pair of Air Jordan’s in rural Scotland having never watched a NBA game in my life feels somewhat uncomfortable despite the global reach of the trend. In my opinion when you wear a piece of clothing you want it to represent something true to you. Even if that truth is minimal or superficial, otherwise you will probably end up feeling weird and uncomfortable and looking fucking weird as well.
Let’s look at this ‘stolen valour’ idea through a political lease for a minute. Is it classist to wear workwear and hold a position that exploits the working class? I mean just exploiting the working class is classist enough but do they really need to rub it in. In the wake of Kanye sporting a pair of vintage Red Wing boots the same model has said to have sold for upwards of $3,000. A far cry from the means of the target audience the boot was originally aimed at.
The idea of privileged upper class fetishising the working class isn’t a new thing with corporate parasites capitalising on (youth/sub) culture from hip-hop in the 90’s, pop punk in the 00’s or whatever the flavour is the month is at any given time. So the fact that Eton educated trust fund baby’s are paying £200 for a Carhartt chore coat from Selfridges shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
But banning Dickies Eisenhower jackets from Chelsea wouldn't be any kind of victory for the working class. The mere fact that these posh c*nts are going for their boozy brunches in paint splattered Carhartt gear looking like idiots is enough of a victory in itself.
Despite these clear violations. We will still have the same arguments from the usual corners about “reactionary incels gate keeping fabric” which may be accurate in some cases especially in the context of what is happening in areas of actual real working family’s around the county as I type. I think it is important to think to what degree are you stealing valour. For example I don’t have an issue fitting up with a chore coat and fisherman hat but won’t be wearing a Washington Redskins jersey any time soon.
Clothing and the imagery involved with it can be a powerful vector of communicating a certain message. Don’t shirk the responsibility to be a considerate human while at the same time don’t be afraid to express yourself. It is just clothes at the end of the day, look cool, just don’t be a dick :)