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Cosmetic Culture

If art imitates life, then so does fashion. Here in SoCal, a lot of kids go Gothic. eyeshadow-1.jpgFor some, it’s more than a trend, it’s a way of life. The dark, morbid, sometimes eroticized, sometimes campy style of Gothic dress often reflects deeper views of life, self and society.

Wikipedia describes the ideology behind Gothic Subculture in this way:

Unlike the hippie or punk movements, the goth subculture has no pronounced political messages or cries for social activism. The subculture is marked by its emphasis on individualism, tolerance for diversity, a strong emphasis on creativity, 200px-Létain.pngtendency toward intellectualism, a dislike of social conservatism and a strong tendency towards cynicism, but even these ideas are not common to all goths. Goth ideology is based far more on aesthetics than ethics or politics.

Of course, these “aesthetics” produce oodles of fun fashion statements, such as dark eyeliner, black fingernails, multi-buckles, faux zippers and flesh tunnels.

But it’s not just Goths. What one believes inevitably bleeds into their fashion choices, whether it’s chabby chic or geek garb. Even the nihilist can find attire to suit his (un)belief. (Typically something black or frumpy.)

Not long ago, Chanel developed a line of cosmetics with a certain ideology in mind. Urban Decay Cosmetics is a line of alternative colors, which began with 10 shades of lipstick and 12 shades of nail enamel. It’s first advertisement started with the memorable tagline, “Does Pink Make You Puke?” Their 250314_hi.jpgstated purpose: To capture “the beautiful hues of America’s urban landscape.” And there are some beauties.

Among the line of nail and lip colors you will find: Oil Slick, Smog, Uzi, Frostbite, Asphyxia, Mildew, Roach, Plague, Pallor, Bruise, Ozone and Radium. Other colors include Acid Rain yellow, Pigeon teal and Shattered, which looks like broken glass. One of the most popular colors in the line is a deep red called Gash. According to their Brand Statement:

It’s pretty. Maybe a little twisted. But never prissy. . . Urban Decay is beauty with an edge.

Can you mistake a gal wearing Pallor or Bruise as prissy?

skulla.jpgThankfully, their Hard Candy division has developed a line of “men’s nail enamel” named Candy Man, sporting names like Super Man (sparkly midnight blue), Testosterone, Gigolo (black with silver accents), Libido (metallic teal), and Dog. I’m suddenly feeling metrosexual.

Perhaps I’m out of step. Cargo shorts, sandals and print T’s — now that’s my style. I’m afraid nail enamel and a flesh tunnel would say less about my philosophy of life than my aesthetic tastelessness. Okay, I admit it — it’s tempting. A night on the town, flashing tongue studs and subdermal implants, my wife in Oil Slick and me in Libido? Hmm. What are we missing?

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • dayle March 7, 2007, 2:38 PM

    I believe, in many cases, it goes beyond aesthetics into some deep psychological issues. Sure, clothes are an extension of personality, but personality can be altered by circumstances.

    My theory is that the Goth crowd (or any other crowd wearing an over the top caricature outfit.) is wearing a costume. They want to run from who they really are. My heart longs to reach out to them, but they have built a formidable barrier around their soul. Of course, I should try anyway.

    Or, maybe I’m wrong and it’s part of our nature. That would explain Native American and other tribal dress customs. ( such as face painting and piercings )


  • Mir March 7, 2007, 5:19 PM

    Some of us just like black and silver. ; )

    I spent four years wearing nothing but black. It jus was EASIER. I think this is Neil Gaiman’s reason. You just reach in the closet, put something on, and v oila, everything else matches, if you only buy black. And black never goes out of color style.

    I think when it’s Goth lite, it’s very attractive, with tones of historical costuming and an affinity for night and pondering intellecutally and artistically. That appeals to me, the nite owl.

    But when it becomes something else, a way to rebel, a way to hide, a way to feel superior, then we’re firmly in troubled waters, spiritually, certainly, and emotionally, maybe. Psychologically, perhaps, too.

    But all Goths are not created equal. There are Christian Goths. I imagine they must really like the book of Ecclesiastes. 😉

    Hey, I have Nine Inch Nails on the cd player right now! And I think Trent looks hot in that black hair all black look. I just think that nihilist or cynical stuff or morbid fascination with looking like vampires can get really, really unhealthy.

    But then, so can uberpink-loving consumerism and PollyAnna sparkles. That can hide all sorts of wormy stuff, too.


  • Mir March 7, 2007, 5:22 PM

    Oh, and Spike from Buffy was able to carry off black nail polish with pizzazz.

    Not every guy can. It’s gotta be part of the total look.

    But as a gal who spent decades doing weekly manicures at home and agonized over chipped nail polish, I haven’t done my fingernails (except for special occasions) in something like 6 or 7 years. It’s liberating. Guys, nail polish is a pain. Skip it. 🙂 Even if it’s chic Urban Decay. (And I’m old enough to remember when the first bottles of those babies came out and girls were suddenly out there in hideous shades of fingernail varnish.)

  • J. Mark Bertrand March 7, 2007, 5:27 PM

    I don’t know, Mike. You seem more like a Radium guy to me. There are more tips I could give, but I’ve got to go moisturize.

  • Melody March 7, 2007, 8:08 PM

    It’s kind of weird that you know so much about this?

  • Ame March 8, 2007, 1:32 AM

    i think i like melody’s comment best 😉

    amazing how parents know things, isn’t it!

    hummm … what ARE you missing?

  • janet March 8, 2007, 2:52 PM

    I’m a writer. my look is flannel pajamas 90% of the time. Now, my 16 year old, she hates pink. She has skull earrings, LOTS of black and gets a kick out of dying her hair different colors- blue, green, blond, black, red. Right now it’s brown, but gelled into a scary-looking mohawk thing. I think she looks ridiculous. However, she gets straight A’s, wears blatantly Christian t-shirts to school, and is currently raising money to go with her grandma on a missions trip to Ukraine. Praise God she thinks body piercing is gross (four holes in each each keeps her happy). It’s hard to guess what’s inside based on a look. But I do think Chelsey is an exception. Lots of those kids are depressed, suicidal, cutting themselves, eating up Satan’s lies.
    Sorry, Mike, I know this was supposed to be an amusing piece. Here’s and idea. Why don’t we start something like the Yankee Candle line for goth people. Some of the scents could be: wet dog, gym locker, skunk, road kill, burning flesh…

  • Kelly Klepfer March 8, 2007, 7:04 PM

    Oh my. I have to admit that your opening picture is a look I’ve not seen before. Would it be Glitter Goth, or Rainbow Goth for girls who can’t choose between the early Barbie influence and the traditional tones of original goth?

  • Miriam April 1, 2008, 2:34 AM

    I think the guy in the picture looks really amazing. I do my hair but i spike it up, and I wear eyeliner but really dark. People tell me to put it in a different way but i wanted to know if you can help me.

  • Mike Duran April 22, 2008, 12:20 AM

    Sure, Miriam. My advice is, Don’t wear a chain in your nostril. If you happen to catch that thing in a sleeve or something, you’re liable to lose your nose.

  • Raye October 16, 2008, 8:34 AM

    No offense, Janet, but what color is the sky in your universe?

    I’m assuming –and correct me if I’m wrong from my upbringing as a pastor’s child– that you are another one of these high and mighty types that sees anything beyond your Steven-Curtis-Chapmen-Sunshine visual of a child, that anything “Strange” must be “evil”.

    Honestly. Christ came for all, and God is NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS. I was pondering your statements until the crass ‘wet dog, gym locker’ remarks. I have news for you, dearie….a large majority of cutters, suicides, and depressed individuals are NOT from the sub-gothed community. The “perfect kids” succumbimg to meet standards and pressure of their high and mighty parents and surroundings lead to suicide.

    With any culture or line–from those dwelling in GAP to the unshaven hippies–there will be extremes, and faux personafied. Is the modernized “goth” culture being glamoured into the pop culture? Afraid so. I was around for the first movement in the early 1980’s and having ceased since. Since I am not a frequent buyer at Hot Topic, I guess that knocks me off the ‘real gAWth’ scene. My spiked hair and DJ’ing must make me EEEEVIL….never mind the active role I’ve taken in my church, in my own son’s life, and so on.

    Nail polish and lipstick need no brand name….the colors are nice to have other than the pansy pinks, but still.

  • stephy steph April 12, 2013, 8:10 AM


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