On first arriving in Australia last July, I remember remarking to a friend back in England, with a patronising snort of derision, that being at Sydney Uni felt “a bit like how I imagine American College would have done in the mid-to-late nineties.” Amongst the swarming mass of tie-dye students and chalked-up pavements, I experienced a feeling akin to that of a Doctor Who apprentice landing in a bygone era for the first time. It was remarkable. I hadn’t seen so many bright colours in my entire life. Circular sunglasses, stompy boots, bug-print leggings and back-packs bobbed around me like chunks of neon goo in a lava lamp. Backwards caps seemed not only acceptable, but the norm. It was extremely disorientating, as though I’d been drop-kicked (by a Heelys platform rollershoe) onto the set of Malcolm In The Middle. Why, I pondered, were people skateboarding in 2012?! In the face of such madness, I yearned for the normality of my native Britannia –its browns, its navies, its glorious grey, grey rain – and actively looked forward to the day when I could walk down the street without being accosted by a grinning human highlighter yelling “G’DAY”.
Having now been back to England over Christmas, I am forced to retract my assumption that this 90s look is an exclusively Australian one. The rain remains, but England’s youth look frankly bizarre. Dressing like Screech from Saved by the Bell is, as it turns out, a global sensation. All the cool kids are doing it. Even some of my friends are doing it, and none of them are cool. The world has gone mad. Everything is out-of-proportion. Dali is smirking in his grave.
Naturally, I seem to be the last person on Earth to have hit upon this realization – and it’s perhaps only now that it comes to me because, more disconcertingly, this is no longer just an alternative look. It’s swiftly becoming the norm.
The full impact of this dawned on me last weekend, during a dubstep/trap/electro night organized by one of the posh clubs on Darling Harbour. As anyone who knows me will confirm, I am a boring and unimaginative person, and I like to reflect this in my dress sense. I’m about as edgy as a melting amoeba. To me, ‘Make Luv’ by Room 5 seems a good example of house music. But at 1AM on Sunday morning, as I drunkenly gazed into the bathroom mirror, I was surprised not to be faced with my usual look: a sort of hybrid between Julia Gillard and a twelve-year-old trying to look sexy. Instead, I noticed I was wearing crucifix earrings. And glitter on my face. And tennis shoes. In a club. Evidently, alternative isn’t alternative anymore. Edgy has come full circle.
For those who consider themselves to be original hipsters, ‘mainstreamization’ of edginess poses a serious problem. How can one remain looking eccentric, when all the disingenuous conformers (like me) dress in the same manner? On the one hand, you could go to intangible extremes, such as wearing strategically sellotaped tin-cans instead of clothes. But this has been overdone – mainly by mainstreamers like Lady Gaga –and smacks of effort and desperation. Instead, consider the other end of the spectrum: if edgy is now mainstream, then mainstream is edgy.
There are several ways to begin this transformation; perhaps most significantly, and in light of my drunken revelation, the first thing to do is ditch the crucifix earrings. In fact, all crucifixes are now off-edgy limits. Try a cute pair of pink diamante studs instead, or some dangly Diva crap. Similarly, steer clear of glitter, and swap maroon/black/blue lipstick for Nivea’s ‘Pearl and Shine’ lipbalm. It might be a bit dirty because you haven’t worn it since you were 15, but it should still have the effect of making you looked like a yellow-toothed ice barbie. Hip winter statement.
In terms of advice for males, one thing I’ll say is that eyebrows are really important. A devastatingly reliable article in Cosmo Campus informed me (via Kim Kardashian) that the eyebrows shape the face, and definition is vital for emphasising that manly, manly jaw. So take out the piercing, start growing back that shaved bit, and keep them Zac Efron-esque with your “sister’s” tweezers.
Since edgy is not simply a look, but a lifestyle, you should also consider ways of applying this to all aspects of your personality. For example, the mainstreamization of Instagram means that old-looking photos are no longer remotely thought-provoking, so your Facebook page will need to be addressed. You know your profile pic, the dark-sepia one of you reading a second-edition copy of Ginsberg to some orphans in the Himalayas? Yeah. Boring. Replace this with a webcam selfie captioned “<3 Tuesday”.
Excitingly, you can also now stop going to House Nights. House has become mainstream and it’s no longer cool to be seen at them, so end that godawful pretense of “enjoying” the Nearthandal nonsense-music and opt for something actually intellectual. As an example, I’d suggest something like 2005 Jonas Brothers, or Las Ketchup’s debut album. They’re not old enough to be classified as part of a mainstream ’90s Cheese Night’, but you can be sure that nobody listens to them anymore, and it’s about time they enjoyed a revival. Basshunter is also really underrated as an artist.