Folk Metal Week would not be complete without an exploration of Folk Metal Fashion. So without further ado, I present you the Haute Couture of folk metal fashion.
Basically, the idea of folk metal fashion to choose a folk culture that interests you and is considered suitably “metal”, research their cultural traditions, discard everything that isn’t “grymm”, then bastardise what remains into a hustorically-inaccurate mashup of arcane symbolism and dragon t-shirts.
Now, any aspiring folk metaller – be they lad or lass – has two choices for their folk-metal persona. They can either follow the path of the folk musician, or follow the path of the re-enactor.
If you want to go for the first option, you take fashion cues from these fine fellows:
You need a black suit, a dressing gown, and some kind of weird instrument. I don’t think it’s necessary to know how to play said instrument.
Alternatively, you can go the way most metalheads go, and look like this:
Your first step is to find a folk tradition to embrace. Look to your own country’s folk traditions for inspiration. If you’re not from Europe, this is not a problem. I’ve yet to see any Mongol or Maori-inspired folk metallers, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
If you don’t have a folk tradition, or your folk tradition sucks, start researching Vikings.
(Or Celts, or Germanic tribes. Or Mongols. But Vikings are sooo “in” right now)
Go to the library and check out books with lots of pictures. Look on Wikipedia – the source of all truth and knowledge. Find websites dedicated to folk cultures and study up on their traditions and beliefs.
I can hear you all groaning from here. Research? For fashion? She’s crazy. But hear me out, if you want to dress like a folk metaller, you have to obtain at least a passing knowledge of traditional folk cultures. Lots of metalheads are extremely into this stuff and will require you to defend your choice of getup with references to archaeological finds and contemporary texts. Or challenge you to a drinking bout. Either way, it’s best to be prepared.
Once you’ve completed your preliminary research, you need to source some basic wardrobe. Choose natural fabrics – wool, leather and fur – to protect against those harsh barbarian winters. First, a pair of trousers: your staple basic black jeans or pants will suffice, or you can go even further and find a historically-accurate pair of leather or wool pantaloons that close with a drawstring rope. Layer these monstrosities with a pair of epic boots – leather, of course, and a suitably period tunic, shirt, or vest. Or just go bare-chested with tribal tattoos – it works for the dude in the photo.
The woollen cape or cloak is preferrable to any kind of jacket, and gives a certain dramatic flourish to the folk metal outfit. I must stress that this cloak should be made of thick wool and double as a blanket – a lot of shops sell these cheap polyester blend capes. Wear one of those on a windy day and tell me you don’t want to fork over the extra money for wool.
Ladies either don their own pantaloons and boots, or find themselves a barbarian dress. You can buy these at any good medieval store or market, or though any of the multitude of online shops. While a black dress is always better, folk metal welcomes to use of other dark colours, so red, green, brown or blue dresses or accents work too.
If you wish to venture out in folk metal garb during the summer months, you could chose a lighter cotton shirt. And metal men, folk metal is the only metal genre with which you can get away with wearing a skirt, as long as it looks like this:
“Ah, but Steff” I hear you ask, “How do I hold up my epic viking pants or kilt of doom?” Well, friends, you will probably need to invest in a suitably viking or folk-looking belt. Like this:
For men, hair is worn long and unkempt. Beards are thick and bushy and often plaited with wool and beads.
For women, hair is worn long and unkempt. Beards are optional (but not uncommon).
Accessories should be leather, horn, bone or metal, preferrably handmade and hand-forged by trollish re-enactors. Try to find accurate representations of actual archaological finds – one of the best places to find amulets, Thor’s hammers, replica coins and Gallic broaches is actually museum stores – I brought a gorgeous Anglo-Saxon replica coin (a cast of one found on the premises) from the Ashmolean Museum shop in Oxford for £1.50.
Hair accessories for ladies can really complete an outfit. Again – find pieces made from natural materials and utelising traditional crafts. I recently brought myself one of these:
No folk metal outfit would be complete without the requisite drinking horn. You can buy these horns online, or from any store at a metal or medieval market, like Wacken:
For the complete drinking horn experience, you will also need a leather pouch to attach your horn to your belt, and a fold-away iron stand that allows you to set down your horn on the ground (tables are far too civilised) without upsetting the liquid within.
To call forth your fellow Vikings, Mongols, Saxons or Gauls, you need a summoning horn (I made that name up). You must practise the summoning horn for many hours, because when it is played by the untrained summoner it sounds like an elephant farting.
Folk metallers – like the LARPers of which they are so often confused – often carry weaponry suitable to their specific folk tradition.
Generally this practise is frowned upon because – a. It looks too try-hard, b. Weapons and drunk metalheads do not a sensible mix make and c. 98% of people don’t know how to correctly and safely use a weapon, and the ensuring looks of disdain from the people who actually look at historical martial arts as a serious academic discipline could melt stone.
Since some people have asked, I use a two-handed German longsword, using Talhoffer’s manual, and I made my own sword belt. I don’t fight in tournaments because I believe the rules imposed to make the tournaments “safe” (no head hits, etc) altar the style of fighting to the point when you’re no longer fighting in a recognisable historical style. We take a very academic approach to european martial arts – one day a week we all sit round with the manual, translate the text and study the pictures to figure out what is actually being shown. One day a week we fight. One day a week we do wrestling – since a good sword fight will always end with a wrestle :)
If you’re not a fighter, your probably a minstrel, so be sure to carry some kind of unqiue folk instrument everywhere you go (tin whistle players, represent!). You don’t have to play this instrument – simply the threat of playing it earns you folk metal scene points.
Wulflund: My absolute favorite online shop for quality armor, swords, and pagan jewelry. It’s run by a metalhead called Milan – the coolest dude from the Czech Republic – and we brought the swords, broach pins and my Thor’s Hammer from there.
Jell Dragon: another shop for all your Viking and Saxon needs.
Winged Talon: Leather hair accessories.
Batwings and Battleaxes: “Viking” metal wrist cuffs
What do you wear when you want to look suitably “folkish?” What folk traditions particularly speak to you?
Raise your horns! \m/