Halftime Leisure

Depeche Mode and Slow Style

April 28, 2014

Depeche Mode is a collection of the most swagged out and awe-inspiring men of our time. “101” is one of the greatest concerts of all time. Dave Gahan literally rose from the grave. Martin Gore wrote “Personal Jesus.” They even singlehandedly shut down West Los Angeles:

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One Direction ain’t got nothing on them.

But it’s “Personal Jesus” that, to me, is their crowning achievement. The song itself is awesome–a New Order influenced rock-pop club song off of 1990’s “Violator.” The song speaks for itself, but the music video looks exactly like something you might see in Rodeo Drive shop windows.

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Fringe, spurred boots and leather jackets in a remote hacienda setting? “Did Hedi Slimane style this?” You’d be correct in that assumption. Depeche Mode did more than create danceable tracks. These four men defined our contemporary definition of rebellious iconography.

When you think of the conventional rebel, James Dean’s motorcycle jacket, Marlon Brando in “The Wild One,” or S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” might come to mind. It’s easy to call these the originators of rebel style, but even Brando’s role in that film was based off of a completely misrepresented portrayal of the Hollister motorcycle gang “riots” in 1947.

If our entire cultural construction of rebelliousness and alternative cultures is based on a factual falsehood, the commercial commoditization of rebellion–and with it, how we understand “cool”–would be null and void.

Luckily, Depeche Mode personifies this mainstream rebellious culture in a way that is authentic and accidental. From simple punk looks to challenging heteronormative gender stereotypes, though, the men of Depeche Mode have dabbled in every alternative style possible. They’ve layered skirts over leather pants, worn cowboy hats, and dabbled with studs and chains way before it was popping up in Milan or Paris. Kanye’s leather skirt is just copycatting in comparison.

Yet, like the Hollister “riots,” I find it immensely frustrating that the true story of modern rebellion hasn’t remained at the forefront of our cultural memory. Marilyn Manson, who re-covered “Personal Jesus” in 2004, was cultivated by Saint Laurent Paris in a recent campaign. Where’s the love for the original gangsters of rock’n’roll radness?

Photo: Cyril via Flickr

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