The New Romantics — A subculture that questioned gender.
Fashion and art are a reflection of society. They communicate the issues, expectations, and lifestyles of people at a particular time. Similarly, studying a short-lived or long-lived subculture allows us to compare and analyze the fabrication of society and struggles, then and now.
One of such highly visual fashion subcultures was New Romantics. Even though the subculture was short-lived, it has had a great impact on androgenous fashion, cross-dressing, and unisexual fashion. The subculture plays a very important part in the debates of feminism and gender equity to date. So to better understand the New Romantics let's go through its history, social impact, and current relevance.
History and inception
New romantics was a British youth subculture that began as a reaction to Punk rock and had musicians like David Bowie and Georgy Boy as the flag bearers. It was a short-lived subculture in Britain during the 1980s (started
in 1978) but had its fair share of sudden popularity and influence in the music and fashion industry. It was incepted in the Blitz nightclub in Soho when they started organizing “Bowie Nights”. If people wanted to enter the club then they had to dress up taking inspiration from David Bowie’s fashion and music, most uniquely and interestingly. This lead to the beginning of New Romantics. It was an androgynous subculture and a combination of the English Romantic era and Glam rock aesthetics. New Romantics started as a music subculture that was influenced by Galm Rock and electronic synth music of that time. But due to its new and rebellious aesthetics and ideologies, it soon became a well know fashion subculture.
Unlike the subcultures popular at that time, new romanticism was more of an individual-driven subculture than a community-driven subculture. New Romantics believed and focused on certain ideologies and concepts but the way they were executed and combined in fashion by people was their choice, as long as they were breaking the norms and making a change. Spandau Ballet was the 1st band that brought “New Romantics” to the mainstream. Even today the influence of New Romantics could be seen in the music and fashion industry.
Ideologies of the New Romantics
Inspiration for the New Romantics
- Influence of nightclub culture of the 80s along with new media and synth-rock music.
- Impact of Pop Art movement, Dandies, the drama of English Romantic era along with Glam Rock.
- Shifting gender norms and discussion of homosexuality in the mainstream.
- Influence of David Bowie, Elvis Presley, and Georgy Boy.
The New Romantics being an individually driven subculture does not have a uniform aesthitic. But roughly the common aesthitics of the sunculture could be divided into two types.
TYPE 1 : Clean-cut and classy
1. It had major influence from Dandies and European romantics.
2. The colors here were influenced by the pop art movement.
3. Checked tailored suits or vests worn with button-down shirts,
loose ties, oversized straight pants with suspenders, and frilly
high neck shirts were common.
5. Some common fabrics used were leather, lace along with
velvet, and even silks.
6. Light makeup with winged eyeliner was common.
7. Hairstyle and hair accessories included mullet, clean-sleeked
back hair, a fedora, or a sailor hat.
8. The use of vibrant nail polishes could also be seen.
9. Nipped waists, tailored suits with big shoulders were common.
TYPE 2 : Avangard and over the top
1 It was more eccentric, Avangard, and over the top.
2. Heavy influence was taken from Glam Rock and theatrical
dramatic looks from the English Romantic art movement.
3. The colors and patterns seen here were inspired by the pop art movement.
4. Layering garments that stereotypically don’t go together using different colors and patterns was common.
5. Luxurious fabrics of all colors were layered together to create a
6. Hairstyles and accessories included colorful deadlocks (made popular by Georgy Boy), elaborated hats, and feathers.
7. Flamboyant makeup was common.
Impact of the New Romantics on recent trends
Today the impact of New Romantics has given way to the soft boy trend in menswear. With brands like Gucci and LV jumping on trend we see influential pop stars and celebrities like Harry Styles, Timothee Chalamet, Dennis Rodman, Jared Leto, and Jaden Smith taking part in this and creating their style and identity.