Underdressed to Kill... Fashion!

Acid techno fan models his new ensemble
The other day, I had a yearning for some new acid techno and started checking out various sites that have those kinds of tunes.  On one of them, I came across this line:  “Acid techno: a way of life, not a fashion statement!”
For a horrible moment I imagined this meant that, somewhere in this world, legions of hipsters were actually donning acid techno costumes they'd bought at Primark and posting pics of themselves in Facebook groups, without ever having set foot in a squat party.   And maybe there are, but the above statement wasn't referring to them.  What it was referring to was the fact that the U.K. acid techno scene has always been style-free, and has stayed that way, despite the neverending growth of the fashion industry and its commodification of every other aspect of mainstream life.  (Admittedly, "it's not a fashion statement it's a lifestyle" rolls off the tongue much more easily than all that).

And indeed, if I were to list all of the reasons why I've gone to the crusty-ass types of venues where acid techno is played, fashion would be somewhere around #99.  'Is it even possible to say that “acid techno fashion” actually exists?'  I mused.  If anything, a lack of fashion defines nearly everything about the U.K.-based acid techno scene.  They wear skirts and trousers that either repel stains, or are already stained; they wear hoodies and T-shirts that look like every other hoody and T-shirt in the world, making them easier to part with when ruined; they wear tough shoes and boots with thick soles that can repel the rain, mud, beer and all the other fluids that they're bound to end up dancing in, wherever acid techno is being played.  

That's not to say that the people in the acid techno scene can't accessorize or be fashionable, just that the accessories and fashions have to be as undemanding and uncomplicated as possible, so as not to trip up their anything-goes philosophy.  Playful and unique is in, expensive or sentimental is out.  Why bother when it's probably going to get lost and caked in mud?  The stuff that people wear to squat parties (the primary venue of acid techno music) is basically treated as if it's on loan to them. 

Other words that I'd use to describe the acid techno scene's fashion sense (aside from "nonexistent"), would be "functional", "fun" (no point in making the drab surroundings drabber by being all serious), "thrifty" or "resourceful".  Which is interesting, because I'd describe acid techno, the music, in pretty much the same terms.  It gets you dancing and blows your mind efficiently, effectively and without resorting to frills.  It's playful and creative, expanding sounds beyond their limits and uncovering new potential in them.  Even though it's often played for cheap or for free, the energy and excitement of acid techno is priceless to its listeners.

Flyer for Alter Ego, underground costume party
Great example is this relatively new  mix by DAVE the drummer.  It seems to have bits of almost every style in it; in addition to the usual acid and techno it has psytrance basslines, housey vocals, metallic industrial beats and electro effects.  Whichever style acid techno adopts seems to lose its old definition and gain a new one. The common sound in every track may be the 'acid' but the rhythms and resonances that swirl around it are as mercurial as the 303 itself.       

At the end of the day, the freedom from style that defines the acid techno scene is an expression of literal freedom.  If 'the things we own end up owning us', then this scene has fewer owners than any other that I can think of.  Right now, Berlin's party scene could really use some of that same freedom.
There are basically two halves to Berlin's party scene: there is is the big, allegedly-underground party scene that exists at places like Kater Holzig and caters to shiny-happy-glitter-hipsters.  And then there is the other half, an undercurrent of electronic dance fans that hangs out at more authentically underground clubs, listens to harder music, wears aggressive fashions and generally wants to disrupt the over-stylized ideals of the majority.  I'm thinking of parties like Alter Ego, Gegen, Drone and Love Techno, Hate Germany.  At the trippier end of the spectrum, there is also the psytrance scene.  Good for them for pushing the envelope - they're the reason why I created this blog.

But now seems like it would be a good time to reintroduce the idea of style-free parties to Berlin, pay attention to what's inside the party scene and its people, and ask whether that matches the radical appearance of the surface.

Plenty of people here are already 'so over' the posturing and primping of the Kater Holzig set.  They're starting to search for something that's as accessible as the current hipster scene... but deeper, and that puts Talent vor Stil (talent before style) for a change.  There is plenty of talent here in Berlin that just isn't pretty and fashionable enough to make it past the city's style guardians and take center stage in its underground venues.  In the UK, people like that can take refuge in the acid techno scene.  It would be great if there was something like that in Berlin now. 

Well, there could be soon. Watch this space!

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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.