Zentai (short for "zenshintaitsu," Japanese for "full body suit") is a largely obscure Japanese subculture whose adherents go out wearing full-body patterned spandex suits that cover their faces. In a relatively unsensational article in the Japan Times, Harumi Ozawa talks to a few zentais about their hobby, and learns that for some proponents, being completely covered is a liberating experience. The zentais in the article describe the suit as an anonymizer that frees them from the judging gaze of society, which is a fascinating study in contradictions, since the suits undoubtably attract lots of judgmental looks, but these seem to adhere to the suit without penetrating to the wearer within.
Some zentais wear their suits in superhero fashion, and do good deeds in public, while others wear the suits for sexual kicks. They are often mocked in Japanese pop culture. One academic cited in the article believes that the wearers use the suits to hide their appearance in order to force others to deal with their "true" underlying identity.
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Middle-class Kenyan teens are inventing a local version of goth subculture, and are at the center of a moral panic about kids-gone-wild -- according to an article in Think Africa Press. The article is shy on details or photographic evidence, but I hope its true about the subculture (and not about the moral panic). Anyone have more evidence of this?
The negative public image of the goth scene also extends beyond the general public and is apparent in the attitudes of local authorities, at times with dramatic consequences. David used to have long hair, another way to stand out in a country where men tend to wear it very short. A couple of weeks before I met him, he was walking in town at dusk, waiting for the bus back to Nakuru, when a police car pulled over in front of him. The police approached him and asked to see his passport, which he was not carrying, before they accused him of looking like ‘an al-Shabaab’ – a Somali militant Islamist group responsible for several terrorist attacks in the region.
David denied this, stating that he was a Kenyan. The police then challenged him as to why he had untidy hair and facial piercings, preposterously claiming that these are hallmarks of Somali terrorists. They put him in their car and drove him to a nearby barber where they forced him to shave his head. They said that this would "stop confusing them", and they told him to "dress like a decent person" in future.
When I first met David one of the first things I asked was whether he wore his preferred clothes all the time. I asked most of the goths this question and generally they admitted to travelling incognito, blending into the crowd. David, however, looked vaguely insulted at my question before replying, simply, “Me, I even wear this in Church”.
A Day in the Life of a Kenyan Goth [Rowan Emslie/Think Africa Press]
(via Christian Science Monitor)
Manchester, England has expanded its hate-crime laws to include attacks on the basis of dress or an "alternative sub-culture identity." The expansion follows on the fatal 2007 attack on Sophie Lancaster, whose attackers chose her because of her goth identity.
"People who wish to express their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime," Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said.
Manchester police said the change would enable officers to give more support to victims of anti-punk or anti-Goth crime. But it won't necessarily mean tougher sentences.
Although British judicial guidelines call for people convicted of hate crimes to receive tougher sentences, the Manchester decision has not been recognised nationally.
Manchester police to record attacks on goths and punks as hate crimes [Guardian/AP]
(Image: Lancashire Police)
At Coilhouse online, a feature exploring racism and goth culture in the age of Tumblr: "Is the goth scene unfriendly to people with dark skin? What do non-white goths think about the fetishization of paleness in the gothic subculture?" [warning: linked-to site contains boobage]
Above, Alin Nava (C) stands in a checkout line at a supermarket in Monterrey April 5, 2012. Nava, 25, is dressed in the so-called "Lolita" fashion style (ロリータ・ファッション Rorīta fasshon), a fashion subculture from Japan influenced by clothing from the Victorian or Rococo eras. The basic style consists of a blouse, petticoat, bloomers, bell-shaped skirt and knee-high socks. Nava is the co-founder of the "Lolitas Paradise" club in Monterrey and for members of the club, the Lolita style is not only a fashion statement but also a way to express their loyalty, friendship, tolerance and unity.
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On Buzzfeed, a gallery of "punk" (more generic goth/emo/punk/industrial subculture) Disney princesses, ganked from an unspecified Tumblr (anyone know which?).
Update: It's from Princesses Gone Wild -- thanks Veronica Beaty!
Punk Disney Princesses
Surrey University sociologist Dr Paul Hodkinson conducted a series of follow-up interviews with goths he'd studied as teenagers in the 90s and found that the cohort has made a pretty graceful transition into middle age and parenthood:
"It's a relatively middle-class subculture, so despite … all the going out and being into the music, goths have always had a fairly positive view of people who are also achieving academically."
It means goths may have better career options than an outsider might expect. Succeeding in their chosen career had, Hodkinson observes, become increasingly important to those he interviewed as they moved into their late 20s and 30s, and he was surprised by how much participants in his study were willing to adapt their look to fit in at work. "I even gave people scenarios where they couldn't wear certain things. I expected them to say that they'd have to leave [their job], but they said they'd have to seriously consider it."
Most of his sample said they still were recognised as goths at work, but had toned down their look. "They retained a residual element of the appearance, but felt, for example, that colourful dyed hair wasn't going to work, and they'd stopped painting their nails black."
Growing-up for goths
(Image: Faust, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from fumtu's photostream)