Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The debate: Military inspired fashion

Inspired by reading this post from The Alternative Fashion Blog, is military inspiration in fashion ok, and if so are there any limits to the bounds of acceptability?

Being someone who flits around the goth/metal scene, I see a lot of military inspired clothing. I personally rather love it myself, but for me personally, inspired is the operative word. Think coats with military detailing such as epaulettes and brass buttons, or heavy khaki or grey fabrics used to create amazing sillhouettes, either pencil skirted and trussed up or freer and fuller. I think it is difficult with men's clothing to move further away from military copy to military inspired, but that doesn't mean that it cannot be done - the devil is in the details as they say!!

Image found here

Image found here
Military inspired. Lovely. I'm a bit obsessed with military inspired things, I have a few pieces both designed and made by me, and bought from the shops.
But for some reason, the thought of military fashion, as in actual military uniforms (or replicas) worn as items of fashion, turns my blood cold.

Last spring some friends and I decided to spend an evening at Slimelight, which is a well known alternative club in London. We spent ages deciding on our outfits. I visited the club's forums to try to get a feel from the regular clientele about the dress code and what everyone normally wears to such a place. During my explorations, I read a thread about military gear, which had people posting about the awesome SS uniform they'd picked up or the Nazi outfit they'd got. I felt repulsed. Even those discussing the British or Allied uniforms they were wearing made me feel a bit odd.

Around this time I went to see Rammstein in Birmingham at the NEC. A lot of people mistakenly associate Rammstein with the right and fascism. So much so that they actually wrote a song about how they are lefties through and through (Links 2-3-4). So you do get people turning up to their gigs in military dress. At this particular gig I was hanging about the merch stand afterwards while my friend made her purchases and ended up stood next to a tall Scottish sounding chap (he was yelling at his mates) who was wearing a military hat. On closer inspection, I realised that my fears were correct and it was in fact an SS cap. I moved before my feelings got the better of me. I suppose the fact that he was dressed in the style of a 1980s skinhead didn't help the opinion of him that I formed either.

The Alternative Fashion Blogger asks:
"Are military uniforms sinister, or just historical influence on fashion though? How far back do we have to go before something is benign. Are WW1 uniforms ok, but not WW2 uniforms? Are 19th Century British redcoat uniforms Ok?. Are the German Uniforms from WW2 not ok, but the Russians ones fine? Are the Wehrmacht uniforms ok, but Waffen SS no good?"

I suppose I feel that Nazi uniforms are a big no no whatever the occasion. Prince Harry found that out to his cost. I suppose my reasoning for it is that Hitler was the biggest mass murderer the world has ever seen, and the Third Reich was an organisation whose members were party to that murder. The methods were cruel and targeted at a specific group. I think that is the difference. That is not to say that no other country has never been responsible for the obliteration of a group of people, but the telling of those war stories portrays them as less calculated, less cruel. Whether or not that is true we will perhaps never know - but certainly the ability to provide wider coverage of the effects of the Nazi regime (and subsequent regimes) has changed the judgement of some people.

The Alternative Fashion Blogger started by looking at the different reactions of the older generations to the younger ones. Have they really forgotten, or are they really ignorant to the symbology of those uniforms?

My perspective on it is difficult to quantify, as it is my own personal reaction to something. All I can tell you is that anything overtly military in styling turns me off clothes. I wouldn't ever wear an army shirt or jacket, or even army boots. I am a pacifist at heart and don't believe children should be given toy guns. My response to people wearing military uniforms for fun is visceral and negative. Military uniforms represent something to me that is unnecessary and unpleasant.

Maybe I overreact. I do just want to shout at people I see wearing Nazi paraphernalia and ask them why they don't understand. I've never done that, but maybe one day I will.

What are your thoughts on military fashion? Do you think there is a generation difference in response?
Interesting article about Nazi fashion here

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