I’m writing this post pretty sure that it will not endear me to a lot of people reading, or the people within the circles I flitter about in. But if we let the views of others dictate our blog content the community would be a rather dull place, and blog opinion pieces would feel rather bereft without….well, opinion.
Today I want to talk about the hypocritical nature of the alt scene/world. Like all groups, scenes and communities that face criticism this doesn’t apply to everyone that resides within it, nor is it a generalisation. I simply wanted to highlight something I have personally experienced, as I think it warranted a mention, and may make people rethink labelling people, or even themselves.
It the Alt scene/community was viewed as a brand you may say that it’s tag-lines and selling points are that it embraces the misfits, the underdogs, the weird and the wonderful. It would probably promote the fact that it isn’t dictated by trends, it’s non conformist, it’s free-thinking. The mood board relating to it’s aesthetic may include the words edgy, dark, gothic, studded, tattoos etc.
Let’s tackle aesthetic first. Why on earth is bright/unnatural coloured hair considered alternative when the likes of Bleach London, Not Another Salon, Fudge Urban etc have made it into something that anyone and everyone can and do achieve? How many celebrities that are ‘cookie cutter’ mainstream have sported the candy coloured looks on their press junkets and red carpets. It’s so easy to buy temporary coloured hair solutions that we can pick a colour according to our mood, or if we feel it would work for given event we are attending that day. Obviously in some parts of the country, within some circles, and to some generations, it still seems wacky, ‘out-there’….ALT, but to our age bracket do we really believe it’s that ‘edgy and alt’ to have hair of a non natural hue? I love the fact that if I feel the urge I can go pink, denim blue, or violet, but I won’t be making the change in an attempt to be alt, it will be because I think it looks cool and I enjoy the temporary transformation.
I remember when I went denim blue I suddenly got an influx of new followers on Instagram….many of whom disappeared once it had washed out and I was back to my ‘mainstream’ and ‘normal’ blonde.
It bothered me. Okay, perhaps they just have an avid interest in coloured/bright hair, but when I looked at many of their profiles they were clearly immersed in what they referred to in their bios at Alt scene. This made me conclude that when they saw my blue hair they thought they’d found another member of their alt army, someone they could tune in to and relate to. Then they reaccessed that opinion when the blue was gone, and made assumption that someone who had non edgy hair wouldn’t be someone they’d like to follow because I was unlikely to be on the same wavelength as them.
Statistically within the country, but also notably within my groups of friends, I am in the minority for not having a tattoo. So if pretty much everyone you know is getting inked, surely you are more alternative if your body is a blank canvas?
When I was at school I loved that there were two cool groups you could be a part of at school. If you didn’t neatly fit into the sporty/mainstream cool group, their were the skater/band/music gang that I definitely felt more akin to (although I was someone that had friends within both). I’d hear the sporty gang rip into the fact we wore skater belts, asking us whether we were intending to fly a plane and needed to be strapped in.They’d think our baggy trousers, which were weighty with soaked up puddles, were ridiculous, and compared the guys with nose rings to farm yard animals.
Back then I thought they were the prejudice ones, that they weren’t accepting of people’s differences, creativity, and willingness to express themselves through fashion, music, body art etc. But if I really think back to the conversation had within the group I spent the most time with, which was referred to as ‘metallers’, they were being just as prejudice towards those that fitted into the mainstream/high street/commercial demographic. They’d ridicule their love of pop music or R n B, their Football inspired fashion or hooped earrings. They had this arrogance that they were better than them, that their taste in music was more mature or worthy and so on.
This stubbornness and culture based snootiness has continued into my adulthood and reared its unfortunate head frequently during my attempts to find a place within the music industry.
I’ve been very close to securing rock presenting jobs based on my experience, but apart from a few short term but great opportunities, have often missed out. Industry people trying to advise me on why I’ve not had more luck have often deduced that I didn’t look quite alt enough. I get it to a degree…As a vlogger/blogger who liaises with PR’s on a daily basis, I understand they are looking to find influencers that seem to be a good pairing for the given brand or products – that it’s better to have some obvious synergy there – but isn’t it a shame that we seem to, on the whole, base it on the superficials, the visuals, the outer shell, rather than the inner workings, tastes, persuasions and influences. Isn’t it a shame that they don’t think that my clear interest in rock music, music that they would categories as alt, and my love of tattoos(even though I don’t have any) is enough for them to accept me into the world of ALT. You don’t require Mel and Sue to prove that they’re good at baking? I’ve lost count of the amount of times that people have challenged me saying things like ‘You don’t look like someone who’d like Deftones” or similar.
Another example of this alt snobbery is when an attractive girl who doesn’t look overtly alt comes on to the scene as a photographer or journalist (or other music industry role). I often hear bitchy or snide comments (from males and females) suggesting she’s in it meet/sleep with band guys, even if she has behaved in a way that offers up no ammunition. Yes, that may be the case, but it’s the assumption again that bothers me. How is that any better than when one of the cool sporty kids at school mocked my ‘alt ‘kid with the long leather coat? Don’t get me started on the double standards and sexism because that deserves a post all of it’s own.
How often do you hear people assume that models, or ‘stereotypically’ and ‘ traditionally commercially attractive’ have no personality. That they’ve not had to work for anything in their lives because of their looks, or never had to form great personality because their shell has always delivered everything they’ve ever needed. Just because their outside fits the ideals we’ve been brought up to think are nearer to the universal standards or beauty it doesn’t mean on the inside they don’t feel like a misfit, that they haven’t faced difficulty, that they haven’t overcome adversity….or genuinely love metal.
I often see very salty comments under interviews or features with successful and beautiful women when they open up about struggling with their image, or reveal that they suffer with anxiety and depression. In fact, in the YouTube community this has been extremely prevalent of late. People seems extremely sceptical about the big YouTubers who confess their struggles with anxiety. But if you think about it logically, its quite likely that there will be many sufferers in this line of work. These people choose to work from home, generally on their own…talking to a camera rather than really 3D people. Their channel grows and they are thrust into the world of celebrity and become aware than suddenly a lot of people care what they do/say and they now have an extra wad of pressure and events/ situations to become anxious about.
Mental health doesn’t discriminate. It can effect you whether you have a million pound house, a stable childhood with parents who have been together for 50 years, or if you are bullied teenager who listens to Marilyn Manson. It’s not about what section of the society you put yourself in, or that others put you in. It’s not about the music you listen to (although you may find great comfort in the words of Of Mice and Men…or Little Mix) or what you wear. Some people may wear black to mirror the dark turbulence whirring around inside, others might wear black because it’s flattering and makes their figure look the bomb.
An ex boyfriend of mine, who was in a band, used to give me such a hard time about depression. He’d almost say I had no right to be depressed because I was from Surrey, middle class and had a nice upbringing. He came from a poor background and had a strong underdog mentality, which often manifested itself in bitterness and a prejudice against those that appeared to have things a lot easier that he had. I told him that yes, I had financial stability growing up and a roof over my head, but I still faced more than my fair share of tragedy, and still had a natural tendency to worry and lack confidence. Yet again, someone who deemed themselves to be in a minority, an outcast, and oddity, was throwing unfair dispersions by way, purely because I didn’t fit the mould of what he believed a person with mental health should be like.
I guess my general beef is with assumptions and labels. Don’t assume something about people based of their appearance and how they choose to decorate their bodies. Not all people with tattoos who listen to rock bands are going to get on with each other and share the same values. People often comment on how different me and my friends are, and I think that’s fabulous. Why limit yourself in any aspect of your life. Be open to everyone and you will be rewarded. You will meet some people you clash with, just don’t get, or that frustrate the hell out of you, but you will also find people that challenge positively, introduce you to new things and eye opening points of view. A lot of joy can be had by enjoying each other’s difference too. Occasionally…or often you will be tickled by the surprise factor too. That person you foolishly made the assumption would be, or think, a certain way (opposed to your ways) will actually be perfectly in tune with your morals or persuasions.
I understand the need to label music via genre in record stops, because it makes it easier for people to locate what they’re looking for – although it is getting harder with more bands chopping and changing and melding and merging their musical stylings. However, us humans don’t need to fit neatly in to one box such as the ALT one. Does anyone fit perfectly and succinctly into one box? But with the meaning behind what Alt is so clouded and open to interpretation in 2016, doesn’t it truly mean what it once did anyway? From hundreds of interviews with bands I’ve learned that many if not the majority of guys in bands that have been categorised as Alt, listen to A LOT of pop music, otherwise known as mainstream/chart..very non ALT. I’ve lots count of those who have talked about their penchant for boy bands (that sounded dodgy), Taylor Swift or Ariana Grande.
Despite being forced to use the word Alt, when selling out to secure work and convince people I’m right to promote that Alt product, I really do think there’s a lot of hypocritical thoughts and double standards going on. It feels like you can only be Alt if you fit into the majority’s of that group vision of what Alt should look like. People who celebrate alt-ness say that its a positive movement because it is accepting of the unusual, weird, or different. But isn’t weird subjective? And why can’t someone who doesn’t wear the Alt uniform feel like they’re at odds with many of the people around? They say they embrace difference…but may I suggest that perhaps they don’t always embrace those that are different to them?
I guess what I really wanted to say with this post, in a predictably long winded way, is to not pigeon hole yourself, or others. I love all sorts of music, as do most people, so don’t be ashamed to express that. Don’t feel you should dress a certain way to prove a point or to convince people of anything, wear it because you like it or because it feels right. You shouldn’t have to buy and wear (or not buy and wear) particular things to confirm you allegiance to something. Make it their responsibility to catch up with logic and learn about you, what you’re into, and how you tick.
If you want tattoos because you love the art form, the process, or have something you want to mark, then do it. Don’t get them because your desperate to get accepted by a section of people you believe you fit in to or want to be a part of. If you want to dye your hair a bright or unnatural colour, do it, because it’s bloomin’ fun to experiment, and it’s awesome if you have the confidence/opportunity to play with these superficial parts of your being.
I’ve been guilty of some of things I’ve mentioned above, and I’m sure a lot of your reading have to, so it’s time to be honest and take a few moments to think before we made assumptions, and say or do things based on these assumptions.
Listen. Get to know people. Be open. Don’t expect everyone to come in the same package. Don’t judge. Don’t limit yourself. Wear whatever the heck you like.