|Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace, by A Harriman & M Bontje (Intellect Books, 2014)|
author of the text’s first language doesn’t seem to be English, which leads to
some very unusual syntax and vocabulary, but once you get through that, this is
a fantastic and strangely moving book. The early years of postpunk and Goth –
largely before the movement was even given that label – did clearly have a
different timbre from Goth as it is now, still then constrained (or, arguably,
liberated) by the do-it-yourself ethic of punk, and this book tells that story.
Or rather, because the text is so subordinate to the photographs, lays the
story out before you. Some Wear Leather … has a very impressive worldwide
focus when the temptation would have been to concentrate on the UK. Interviews
illuminate the visual content rather than the other way around, and you have
the impression of a group of people very keen to make sure that a profound
moment in their lives is recorded and captured. There are some musicians posing
on or off stage, but mostly the photographs show young people struggling to be
different and hanging out in clubs, on street corners, or in their bedrooms,
and, considering the dramatic nature of the subculture, looking curiously
unselfconscious while doing it. This is a missive from a different and less
narcissistic age to the era of the selfie, a time in which to take a snap of
yourself you either had to have a friend with a camera (which not everyone did)
or dip into a passport-photo booth; and that gives the book a haunting quality.
‘Heroic’, the author says of the youngsters in the pictures, and you can only
agree – all the more so because they didn’t seem to know it.