I can't tell you how many dog collars I saw on young women in Brooklyn this summer. The New York City fashion person inside of me can identify dog collars as an evolution of chokers — the resurgence of which was officially normalized when Taylor Swift deftly identified chokers as "the new flower crowns" back in April at Coachella — while the prudish Midwesterner in me blushes at the sexual implications of a damn dog collar. (Let the record show: I want you to do whatever you want to do in terms of both accessorizing and expressing your sexual desires; I just had to paint the full picture here.)
Nonchalant BDSM implications aside, dog collars are part of a style "thing" going on that has fashionable people looking like they dropped a stack at Hot Topic. Vetements has us coveting what are little more than oversized graphic hoodies printed with heavy metal typography; Alexander Wang called out the retailer as his direct inspiration for fall 2016, sending knits with pot leaf and pole dancer motifs down the runway; the menswear shows were full of lip rings and ear plugs; pop star Justin Bieber is selling inexplicably gothic merch and Rihanna occasionally wears a Megadeth tee. In short, everyone cool looks like an affected teen metalhead.
Most of my high school memories of Hot Topic revolve around shooting it down as "for posers," rather than actually going inside (I definitely shopped there circa 2000, before I found out Hot Topic was, in fact, for posers). God forbid we ninth graders with stud belts and box dyed blue-black hair be inauthentically counterculture. The parallel to today's goth/metal/punk influence on the runway is amusing. There is nothing more "poser" than fashion absorbing the attributes of long-standing subcultures — and post-Beatles rock genres aren't the only groups getting this treatment at the moment.
In the spirit of full circle poser, I accepted Fashionista's challenge to shop through Mecca (in this case, Hot Topic Queens Center Mall) in pursuit of "some looks that could theoretically be high fashion/on trend." Here, three looks pulled straight from Hot Topic’s pre-fall 2016 buy (JK, just the clothes they had in this rather small mall store in late August!), presented in ascending order of shock rock.
Black pleather dog collar, Crybaby necklace, XXL Nirvana T-shirt, novelty legwear
This is my ode to the majority stake of America's daughters: Kylie, Kourtney and Kim. I expected "big tee and knee highs" to be the kind of carelessly "just fucked" look that only flatters inarguably thin women, but I think it looks quite nice on me, too. Hot Topic Queens Center Mall regretfully does not stock footwear, so I created the illusion of thigh-high boots with novelty tights and a pair of Rachel Comey ankle boots I've owned since 2012. Truthfully, I've seen variations on this look so many times on Instagram that I fear it is too pedestrian to give a street style photographer pause (recall, too, that I am not an inarguably thin woman).
Oversized denim jacket (with detachable sweatshirt hood), chain link necklace, striped mesh long-sleeve T-shirt, corset-front miniskirt
The Google Images result page for "Alexander Wang fall 2016" was open on my phone for much of the time I was in Hot Topic's commerce cave. To recap what that looks like: beanies, sheer long-sleeve shirts, mohair camisoles, jail-striped leather miniskirts, chain-link necklaces. This is my grasp at that, crystallized in a revealing look I would be horrified to wear on public transit. For a shred of modesty, I added a black denim jacket (with removable hood), which I wish came in a more exaggerated size so I could let it hang dramatically from my forearms in a style I've seen Mrs. Kardashian West execute in many recent paparazzi photos. It's the must-try complicated layering update to jacket-on-shoulders-no-armholes.
Aqua blue translucent plastic choker, XXL Korn T-shirt worn over raglan baseball shirt, pleated miniskirt, decorative chain, pajama pants
Putting this look together was the most difficult, as it is the objective worst. I had a number of Vetements runway images saved in my phone to draw inspiration from, which I had to consult innumerable times to ensure I wasn't hallucinating this whole assignment. Another hurdle came in the fact that Hot Topic only sells skinny jeans (three flavors of skinny jeans, to be exact: Skinny, Super Skinny and "Stingerette"). A pair of XL black pajama pants made a fine stand in for the wide-leg bondage pants I was hoping to find, aided by a mysterious chain accessory with a key ring on one end and a clip on the other.
The mall goth look, be it via Hot Topic or Alexander Wang, communicates the same thing to me now as it always has: low-consequence angst reserved for teenagers pledging allegiance to nihilism after the concept is briefly discussed in sophomore English.
I don't know what motivates an adult to drop $1,725 on a dress made of layered band tees or $750 on souped-up "shitkickers." I am embarrassed to wear a $20 Korn T-shirt because I have zero investment in that band and feel like, well, a poser. But this is the democracy of clothes. No matter who you are or have been, you can dress to project any array of messages. It's a powerful tool; I just won't be using it to present as a Korn fan.