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Clothes are a meaningful language

The idea of one’s self-identity drives one’s understanding of behaviors in society (Brewer). Identity is a product of experiences, knowledge, and lessons learned, so it keeps changing (Pals). Language is the tool that helps make this transition possible, as it is how a person interacts with society.

The changes a person goes through depend on the language he/she speaks and the society’s response and acceptability of that language. If the language is accepted the experience is positive, but if it is not, it creates problems that make it possible for others to deem him/her queer, weird, ugly, or uncultured. Anything that can be used to deliver a message is language. As the choices, one makes about how to dress, what to eat, what to say and almost every action one undertakes delivers some form of a message about the person, everything that he/she communicates through is language. Clothes are, therefore, language that delivers a person’s identity, choices, and preferences and according to the cultural norms also show one’s capability to become a part of the society (Lurie). Accepting and rejecting clothes or other such items that tend to be meaningful depends on how society views specific items (Davis).

Rock music, especially its darker sub-genres like heavy rock, heavy metal, alternative metal, and shock music, has created particular identities, starting in the late 60s and becoming prominent in the 1970s (Gracyk). The identities were complete with extremely inhuman costumes black and white makeup and dark clothing. The Persona of a “rock star” was perfected in many forms but one of the forms of that persona was heavy makeup and extreme costumes that showed the artists as inhuman as possible. The role of this form of made-up selves was to alienate the artists from the audience and create mysterious air about the artists, so their art form looks supernatural and out of the world.

The Corpse makeup has become synonymous with the metal rock stars worldwide. The Demon and the Starchild from the band KISS are mostly attributed to being the style’s originators, but there is no consensus on the matter. However, even if they did not originate in fashion, they did have many roles, perfecting it as an art form and a persona for the rock star image of a shock rock and metal musician. The picture used in this paper for analysis is one of the examples of the general persona the two rock legends carried and developed for many of the following rock artists. Even though the makeup and personal dress choices differed greatly in many artists, the idea of making an inhuman and alienated form of music remained true to too many artists.

The clothes in the image also relate to each band member’s assumed personas. The demon has shoes made of a monster’s face and prickly thorns from his pant legs. The tongue hangs out of his mouth, and his hand is made into a symbol mostly related to rock and roll, but sometimes, by conspiracy theorists, it is the symbol of Satan. The makeup of the Demon is also quite significant as the black color on the white face is made into some winged animal. The dragon-like shape on his face implies his obsession with demons. His armor indicates that he has to fight wars as he is a demon and is considered a hostile and aggressive character. The whole aura of the demon is “demonish” whereas Starchild is fairly different.

The Starchild has a sparkly outfit with all the “Girlish” qualities, showing his persona of a younger variety as his name suggests. The fact that he is wearing a tight onesie with a wide neck showing his chest also indicates his choices, which are quite easily seeable from his name and overall character. The tights are embroidered with a fancy diamond-like lining made into a flowery design that seems girlish in conventional terms but goes with his proposed persona. The face makeup is also made to look like a star, and the lipstick is an additional feature that is added to make him look more accurate as Starchild. The face pout is mostly connected to selfies that are also related to women even though many men take them and many women don’t. In general, however, the pout on the face makes Starchild look feminine, along with the ornamental ring (choker) around the neck.

The overall personas of the rockers worldwide have been the same as the darkness, demonology, and extreme topics have been what a lot of them dealt with. Kiss and Alice Cooper are mostly credited for initiating what eventually led to the corpse’s makeup as a persona. As it was one of the most dominant trends in the shock-rock music it can be said to have dominated many. The clothes, makeup, and way they carried themselves became a language that became the voice of thousands of hearts and impacted many musicians and music fans. The Shock Rock legends are attributed to being the ambassadors of post-modernism as they cracked the shackles of the norm and created originality on their terms in their language.

Work Cited

Brewer, Marilynn B. “The Social Self: On Being the Same and Different at the Same Time.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 17, no. 5, 1991, pp. 475–82.

Davis, Fred. “Do Clothes Speak? What Makes Them Fashion?” Fashion Theory: A Reader, 2007, pp. 148–58.

Gracyk, Theodore. I Wanna Be Me: Rock Music and the Politics of Identity. Vol. 12, Temple University Press, 2001.

Lurie, Alison. The Language of Clothes. Random House Inc, 1981.

Pals, Jennifer L. “Narrative Identity Processing of Difficult Life Experiences: Pathways of Personality Development and Positive Self‐transformation in Adulthood.” Journal of Personality, vol. 74, no. 4, 2006, pp. 1079–110.

Staff, Guitar World. “Guitar World: April 2014 Videos.” Guitar World,



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