What Does a Metalhead Wear to a Funeral?
Sometimes an all-black wardrobe is more of a curse than a blessing (plus new tunes from Blackrat, High Cost, Dropdead, and more).
Photo by Spencer Grant/Getty Images
To Hell And Back is a weekly column in which Noisey metal editor and lifelong hesher Kim Kelly explores the extreme metal underground and recommends her latest faves.
What does a metalhead wear to a funeral?
This is the question that’s been at the forefront of my mind since I got an unexpected text from my dad on Monday afternoon telling me that my uncle—a hale, hearty construction worker and avid outdoorsman—had been found dead that morning. They didn’t know what happened; they still don’t. We’re waiting to hear back from the coroner, and I’ve been operating in a sort of fog, waiting on the call to come home.
One of the first things that popped into my head after the initial shock was, what am I going to wear to the funeral? It sounds like a trivial concern, but it’s something that I think is a fairly universal amongst those who have committed themselves to a certain subculture and its attendant aesthetic. As someone whose sartorial endeavors have been purposefully restricted to black jeans, black hoodies, leather jackets, and black band T-shirts for the past 18 years, I panic whenever I need to “dress nice” in general. A funeral is an entirely unique beast—one for which, despite my oceans of black clothing, I feel woefully underprepared.
Despite the genre’s overarching interest in death and all things dark and gloomy, metal fashion is terrible for funerals. There’s no one way to look like a metalhead, of course, and we’ve all got our own personal interpretations of what it means to “look metal;” for some people, it means long hair, denim, band shirts; for others, black leather, boots, spikes. It varies by genre, by locale, by environment, but for everyone outside of the most fervent fans of psychedelic-leaning stoner doom, the color black is a major component.
Black as a color of mourning is a distinctly Western idea, one that dates back to the Roman Empire and gained cultural prominence during the macabre-obsessed Victorian Era when Queen Victoria donned black “widow’s weeds” following the death of her husband, Albert, and wore nothing but black until the day she died. In Western cultures, the color itself has long been associated with evil, darkness, mystery, and elegance—all qualities that explain why it’s been so firmly adopted by metalheads the world over (even those in countries like Mexico, Thailand, and China, where yellow, blue, and white hold a more morbid cultural significance).
So, wearing black to a funeral seems perfectly reasonable— and yet. Adults are expected to dress up and look respectable at a funeral, and as a woman, looking “nice” often translates into wearing a dress, and heels, and stockings, and all kinds of other things I don’t own and have little interest in acquiring. The levels of formality expected at these kinds of important events vary by family—for example, my boyfriend got to wear a tuxedo shirt and steeltoes to his brother’s wedding—and yet somehow I don’t think my Catholic Eastern European grandmother would appreciate me showing up for the service in combat boots.
So what’s a metalhead to do? If I was still a bratty teenager, I’d probably insist on at least some ripped fishnets and a Cannibal Corpse shirt, and elicit disapproving glares from every other adult there. However, as a grown ass adult, I’m going to bite the bullet, and buy a sensible black dress and all that, and feel like I’m wearing a “nice lady” costume the whole time—and then dive right back into my leather jacket and Sunrot shirt as soon as I make it back to my dad’s pickup truck. As a lifelong metal nerd, I’ve learned a lot of things—and chief among them is that, sometimes, you just have to suck it up and act “normal,” even if you know that you’re anything but.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey US.