Metalheads, punks, rockers, hippies — every movement tied to a specific genre of music has always brought forth a distinct fashion. Black metal is by no means an exception to this rule. If anything, it’s the most extreme take on the clothing style both the bands and the fans of one music genre rock.
Black metal emerged in the early ’90s, primarily as a rebellious act against the conservative Christianity in Norway and the ignorance and apathy of the country’s middle-class. Given this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that black metal took things to the extreme. Bands like Bathory and Celtic Frost spearheaded the movement and set the general “tone” of the genre.
Many new-formed bands at the time followed suit, with the “second wave” bands like Mayhem, Burzum, and Dark Funeral adding to the gruesomeness and brutality that accompanied black metal. They are the ones largely responsible for developing the black metal mythos. Simultaneously, the church burnings, murders, and a variety of crimes and violent acts created a stigma that ostracises black metal fans to date.
Today, millions of black metal fans are still showing their disgust and rebellion against the mainstream culture. However, rather than through extremely violent acts, they showcase their ideology and rejection of the social norms through a recognizable take on fashion.
Naturally, there are many sub-genres of black metal. Likewise, each individual has their own take on this specific clothing style. Still, there are a few defining characteristics that will help you spot a black metalhead from a mile away. Here’s a closer look at the grim, brutal, bloody epic black metal style.
Most assuredly, the first thing anyone will notice on a black metalhead is corpse paint. This distinct look involves applying a dense layer of white makeup on one’s face, then adding the darkest shade of black around the eyes and the mouth. These are the must-have features of the look, but you can always experiment and let your imagination run wild.
But where does this particular look originate from? Whether as a mockery from outside of black metal or an internal joke between metalheads themselves, a specific story regarding corpsepaint started emerging. Chances are you’ve probably heard it already; we’re talking about the absurd notion that both band members and black metal fans always want to look angry. Maintaining a constant “angry face” requires quite a bit of effort, however. So they simply decided to paint it on.
As amusing as this interpretation may be, it couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, Celtic Frost, Mayhem, Burzum, Venom, Darkthrone, and the likes drew the inspiration for their look from Norse mythology; more specifically, from the “Wild Hunt” folklore. The legends feature spectral riders, believed to be spirits of ancient warriors, in a never-ending wild pursuit.
The black metal bands wished to mimic the look of the mercurial riders, which makes perfect sense. The folklore of the Wild Hunts perfectly aligns with multiple black metal core motifs — past glory, epic battles, and the omnipresent brutality. In that sense, corpse paint is more than just a specific look; it’s a statement. It shows the rebellious attitude against the “softness” of the Norwegian society in the ’90s and early 2000s.
If you’re digging the music and the look, we suggest professional theater makeup. Alternatively, you can experiment with acrylic paint; just make sure it’s non-toxic first.
Every true black metal fan knows that, just like the music they love, the clothes need to come from Scandinavia. The most hardcore of black metalheads will only purchase their attire from the cradle of black metal — Norway. In our opinion, that’s a bit extreme, as well as slightly contradictory.
A full attire from Norway, Danmark, Sweden, or Finland will cost you an arm and a leg. Moreover, overpaying for clothes is in direct conflict with what black metal represents. Just look back at how the genre started — with many of the black metal artists shooting videos with their camcorders and “playing” logs with drumsticks because they couldn’t afford actual drums.
So rather than focusing on the country of origin, you should prioritize the type of clothing that black metal fans are known for. The first item are tight jeans. Naturally, the grimmer and the darker shade of black, the better.
Next, we have the t-shirt. As you can imagine, band t-shirts are always the best choice. Nothing shows your devotion to the black metal scene better than proudly wearing a shirt that features the imagery and the logo of your favorite band. The second-best is any t-shirt depicting Satan, given that anti-religion is another of the overarching motifs of the genre.
Runic designs are also a decent choice, as well as tees with Pagan symbols. Just remember to stay away from jolly Vikings and other colorful designs. Black metal is dark, ghastly, gruesome, and bloody; therefore, the only acceptable colors are black and a splash of red.
Just jeans and a t-shirt won’t do. No black metal look is complete without a bullet belt or a spiked one at the very least. Bullet belts are exactly what they sound like — belts made entirely out of bullets. There are quite a few varieties, and you can order them online at reasonable prices.
And if you want to go all out, you can make one of your own. Just keep in mind that you need to empty out the black powder first; entering a mosh pit with loaded shells could be a potential disaster.
Apart from standard bullet belts, you can go for bandoliers as well. They are pretty much the same thing, except for the fact that you wear them around your chest rather than around the waist. Fair warning — although they’re arguably more brutal, they’re definitely much more uncomfortable.
Spiked belts are also a solid choice — the spikier, the better. Gloves and wristbands are also a must, whether spiked or adorned with runes. And last but certainly not least, you need a proper necklace to complete your look. The classics include everything from an inverted cross and a pentagram to Thor’s hammer and various pagan symbols.
Finally, what you can do to further embellish your outfit is add fur and feathers to your clothes. Ravens, for instance, are considered both Odin’s messengers as well as ill omens, so they fit the theme perfectly. However, don’t go overboard; a few feathers would suffice. The last thing you want is to appear like a power metal fan rather than a black metalhead, right?
Becoming Assimilated Into the Mainstream Culture
When it first emerged, black metal fashion was definitely among the most distinct clothing styles in the world. Nowadays, things are a bit different. No matter how much any particular group rebels against the mainstream, it will eventually be sucked into it. We saw this pattern repeat itself many times in the past. Just think of punk, heavy metal, death metal, and the gothic scene.
As repulsive as all of these styles were to the mainstream wimps at first, they gradually started adopting elements from them. Needless to say, the same has happened to black metal. So you shouldn’t be surprised to see ordinary “mortals” with no relations to black metal wear bullet belts and Mjölnir necklaces.
On the other hand, black metalheads have a bit more choice when it comes to their attire than they did some 20 years ago. With plenty of e-stores selling black metal merch, you can now combine the traditional black metal attire with hoodies, dresses, shoes, and skirts that fit the black metal theme.
Taking that into consideration, you can mix and match various elements to create your own recognizable black metal look. As long as you incorporate the core elements into your getup, you’ll be a true black metalhead.