A Modest Proposal for Renaming the “Battle Vest”

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Good morning again dear readers!

It’s time for another fireside chat with yours truly! Last time we met we dusted off our old textbooks and adjusted our tweed thinking caps while we took thoughtful sips of flavored bubble water and pondered the social function of metal as a whole…but this time I am afraid it is a far more serious matter we must discuss.

Even if you live in a secluded cave in Tasmania you are certainly aware of the common decorum of The Modern Metalhead.

The standard attire can range from the base Beginner’s Model, the Advanced Model, the Stealth Model or the….

And while there is certainly no shortage of comments to be made on the more casual metal attire, our sharply focused telescopes will be fixated today on our most Formal Garments reserved for only the most prestigious occasions…the patch vest!

My personal recollection of the patch vest in metal goes back as far as I can remember into the 90’s, wherein a young Snooty McPup would have been seen standing in awe of the cool crust punk seniors at school covered in patches, and became so inspired that he decided to embark on his own personal death metal version. Due to the technology of the time (oil painting, sculpting) there is sadly no documentation of any of these first incarnations, though that happy circumstance spares our author a great deal of embarrassment, of which he has enough as it is.

In an earnest attempt to be ‘with it’, his mom made him one of these (left), and he also put patches on one of these (right) during his first Psychedelic Rock Phase…not many legs were humped that year.

Certainly the history of the vest as a whole goes back much further though; there are those who say it is a cultural hand-me-down from punk rockers in the 80’s, who nicked it from the Brooklyn gangs in the 70’s, who themselves stole the idea from motorized bicycle gangs such as the Hells Angels in the 60’s and earlier.

Even the Hells Angels are rumored to have stolen the idea from the Armless Knights Templar in the hidden Celtic Temple of Frost guarded by the Heroes of Ungh.

In spite of this lengthy and storied history, it’s only been the last few years that I’ve encountered the apparently common term ‘Battle Jacket’ with any real consistency. While it is entirely possible that it’s been in use for 20 years and I should simply leave my smoky study with more regularity, it still strikes me as a somewhat odd term.

Metal is certainly a genre of extreme and generally unpopular topics, including the conceptual explorations of violence such as battle and other aspects of human ugliness, though it’s generally more of a place to put those topics into both a personal and a social perspective rather than literal practice. That is to say, all previous attempts to factually link metal music and its fans to statistically relevant levels of actual violence, satanism, suicide or other misbehaviors have failed. To take the point one step further, I believe that if we were able to poll all members of active ‘war metal’ bands, we would find that they were statistically no more or less likely to be in the military as the surrounding general populace, and I would even go so far as to hypothesize that war metal performers would actually have a lower rate of military membership than the surrounding ‘non-metal’ populace.

But I digress!

So what purpose does referring to our beloved attire as a ‘Battle Jacket’ serve?

If the term had been used in the 80’s and 90’s it would have helped cement the metalhead as a ‘purveyor of the extreme underground’, but in the 00’s and beyond, where video games, movies and streaming TV shows are regularly consumed by everyone between the ages of 8 and 80 and all contain depictions of humanity and violence far more graphic than even Cannibal Corpse albums have achieved, the surrounding social context would seem to have changed somewhat. Where the ‘Battle Jacket’ could have once signified the level of extreme ‘anti-popularity’ unique to the metal scene, the term begins to show its age when placed in the context of a civilization obsessed with the trivial entertainment value of extreme violence and near non-stop celebration of wretched human ugliness and now sounds like a tastelessly overused ironic joke at best, or a thoughtless attempt at cool-guy try-hardism at worst.

So my delightful friends, I’m afraid I have some bad news: it’s time to retire the term ‘Battle Jacket’.1

But fear not you brave Toileteers! As it is with any change there is also an opportunity to renew the topic with vigor and modern relevance!

And so, my alarmingly handsome readers, I suggest that we embrace the underlying and even discomforting truth that underpins both our fashionable adornment and our musical allegiance: our total lack of coolness!

Perhaps this comes as a shock as well and I should have first offered a plush recliner upon which to sit, but either way it is my solemn duty to inform you that, as the charming author of this article clearly stated, it is true that the ability to discern the difference between deathcore and slam does not make you cool. In fact, the ability to tell the seemingly obvious differences between the genres of black and death metal is entirely irrelevant to human civilization and 99.9999% of its citizens, and truly only a matter of minor luxury. Even among the very few of us to whom it could ever hold anything resembling significance, these preferences in artistic taste frequently fall somewhere between pedantic and totally irrelevant.

Whether we like it or not, our carefully curated selection of elite patches will only ever say one thing about us, which is, simply put: that we are enormous dorks.

And as dorks, we must embrace our destiny! For I believe the boldest and most Metal course of action would be to reclaim our rightful place at the Throne of Dorkdom; the seat upon which rests the Crown of Nerds in the Domain of Uncool, bounded by the River of Dead-Arms, the Chasm of Stolen Milk Money and the Impassable Mount Wedgie.

With this in mind, I hereby recommend that the ‘Battle Jacket’ shall henceforth be termed the ‘Dork Suit’.

My current Dork Suit is my 3rd and was created around 2012. The creation of its replacement began in earnest about 4 weeks ago and is still ongoing.

Let us awkwardly attempt to strut with pride and questionable posture in our Dork Suits, impervious to the bewildered horn-rimmed gaze of the Trendy, unaffected by poisonous Clouds of Rolled Coal, invincible before the Swarms of Snapback Hats, and unapproachable by the Corporate Armani Stooge!

With our Dork Suits freshly be-patched and suitably stocked with snacks, spare earplugs and crumpled festival flyers, we can proudly say to the world that we have been soundly defeated in the global Competition to Be Cool and have suffered sufficiently lethal self-inflicted blows to our collective Ego that no Easter miracle could again raise it from the cold oblivion of death!

So rouse yourselves dear readers! Submit enchanting pictures of your glorious handicraft in the comments! Raise the banner of dorkdom high!

Or better yet, is there a better term out there for us to use that suitably captures our uniquely extreme tastes and the love with which we have begged our moms to sew sewn these patches on?

Or perhaps, as is always the case with the great questions in life, my plea has already been answered by the German rapper Romano.

Photo via, via, via, via, via, via, via, via, via, via, via, via, via

1 During the course of writing this article, I made a pointed academic inquiry of my Lady Snoot, who is not a metalhead herself but has been in their company fairly consistently for over 20 years. When I mentioned the term ‘Battle Jacket’ her face contorted into a horrified grimace, not entirely unlike the one she uses when I wake up next to her and accidentally unleash an apocalyptic cloud of Garlic and Onion Morning Breath. She then made an incredulous and profane declaration about the dwindling mating opportunities for anyone foolish enough to use such a term. I cannot in good faith print what was said in this wholesome family blog but, suffice to say, it was a warning that would be foolish for us to ignore.
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