I must have been about 15 years old when I first set foot in London. The zip on my backpack, plastered with Korn, Slipknot and Slayer patches, was ready to break under the pressure from the entire neo-metal section from Oxford Street’s HMV I’d managed to stuff inside of it. At that time, Jonathan Davis had my undivided attention. To my eyes, the singer from the Californian band was as complete as those assortment platters served to you in the restaurants at the Franco-Spanish border: filling, but exhilarating. He was a four-eyed, pale-skinned man, whiter than the baking soda found under Madonna’s nose. On stage, he liked to wear typically Scottish kilts and sponge wristbands. He displayed scrawny dreadlocks, wore a goatee terribly badly, and his right arm was covered in ungainly tattoos. A clown-faced bishop, apparently quite angry, covered the top of his shoulder. Just like an ‘Egg, Basque sausages, burger, chips, pimientos, salad, cheese and cherry jam’, the leader of the band apparently never felt the need to address the incoherence of his style.
And I think that’s what always intrigued me. Being allowed to showcase such bad taste was at once disconcerting and fascinating. But more was yet to come! Jonathan Davis was first on my list. My adolescent appetite in search of an identity was impatiently waiting to be influenced and corrupted. Camden Town, North London, was to be the cradle of my depravity. No rules, no colour harmony, the juxtaposition of all kinds of patterns and textiles, that’s what the area, a hotspot for punk, gothic, rock ‘n’ roll and disco cultures, was going to teach me in terms of style.
For the first time in my life, I had that feeling of having access to a form of freedom. I stared at people the same way you stare at your television in times of war, relentlessly and without blinking so as not to miss a thing. I absorbed every single detail, extravagance and curiosity. I took in every single look, and gobbled up their postures like you swallow a glass of Bailey’s at the end of a meal, in order to reproduce them once back home. It made me think of an extract from Frédéric Beigbeder’s Un Roman Français: “For me, life began when you left your family. Only then could you decide to be born. I saw life divided in two parts: the first was a form of slavery, and you used the second to try to forget the first.”
I was slowly but surely getting rid of my shackles. Without restriction, without judgement or fear of upsetting, without the apprehension of offending, I was becoming myself. During the following years, my wardrobes saw dozens of different styles pass through them. A metalhead first, then hippy, grunge with purple hair, then a Rastafari-leaning Buddhist with crushed banana in my hair, I ended up being a tracksuit-wearing rock star, imposing a whole load of ephemeral beliefs on my poor mum. And yet, all that, it was me. Every single one of those people, they were all me for a time being, for a month, or even a year. Believe it or not! I became myself thanks to others.
– Elisa Routa –