An archetype born from subversive subcultures, the Rebel encompasses the rock, grunge, punk, and Goth movements in menswear. With the advent of rock and roll and its departure from “traditional” music, some harder-edged subgenres of music emerged as musicians took on more extreme forms of political dissent. In the late 1960s, heavy metal came to the fore in the world of underground music. In the 1970s, bands in America, the UK and Australia introduced anti-establishment, DIY, punk rock, which then evolved into even more angst-filled and rebellious sub-genres like hardcore, goth rock, and grunge. These genres spread throughout the world, taking on distinctive styles in societies where youth felt disenfranchised and sought an alternative lifestyle, such as Japan, Russia, and much of Western Europe.

So all-encompassing and culturally-relevant was this music that it affected all areas of a youth’s life – he tended to live amongst like-minded, disaffected individuals, rode in flashy cars and bikes the older generations deemed vulgar and impractical, attended live concerts, and dressed the way their idols dressed. Every part of his life was a statement against the establishment, tinged with a raw masculine force. This anarchistic sentiment, along with its fashion, became inseparable from the tumultuous decade of the Vietnam War and widespread disillusion. Precisely because of its iconic status and what it stood for, many designers now still draw inspiration from that era, making statements with their designs with some help from the past. Thus a Rebel archetype was created and thrives even to this day.


A Rebel usually has a rugged personality and strong views either of governance, religion or other establishments – more often than not he holds the minority stance. To the Rebel, music is incomplete without electric guitars hooked up to a pedal, and black is most certainly his favourite colour. He is either a remnant of the glorious days of punk or grunge music, and while being selective in his outfits tend to have a casual attitude to being “fashionable”. It’s making a (dissenting) statement that counts.


In line with its high-powered political dissent, the Rebel archetype is predominantly black when it comes to colour, often as a statement against Christendom and its trappings. This meant the subversive use of religious symbolism, such as crucifixes and skulls, was prevalent. Inspired by the distortion of electric guitars, a hard edge is lent to the ensembles via elaborate metallic zip and button detailing, as well as metallic accessories ranging from thick chains to spikes, rings to piercings.

Leather, sometimes patent leather, features heavily in intentionally short biker jackets, bags and boots, while black denim is the choice material for the skinny pants so popular in this archetype. Often, the look is not complete without all-black sunglasses and highly-styled disheveled hairdos. Especially with punk and heavy metal rockers, such hairdos are matched ironically with clean-shaven faces.

Within the archetype, some sub-styles have diverted to feature distinctive cues. For example, goths tend to include dramatic black and white make-up and hairstyles, and can sometimes come across androgynous and extremely formal – a nod to the romantic strain in Gothic rock and the ancient history of Gothic kingdoms. Also, since grunge music was developed over the backdrop of financial hardships, grunge fashion tends to reflect that through ill-fitting thrift pieces, ripped jeans, unkempt hairstyles and facial hair, and a general pallor to its colour scheme.


If you find yourself banging your head to rock music and crave front row seats to the next Metallica concert, you may have found your home in the Rebel archetype. With its prescribed items and ensembles, the style is easy to emulate and put together. Ironic, since this whole archetype is supposed to detest conforming.


Keep it authentic. It may be easy to create a Rebel look, but it surely isn’t easy to pull it off. While the archetype may suffer from some uniformity, there is still room for you to express yourself and make the outfit your own. Do this by mixing shades of black (yes, they exist), contrasting textures, and layers. It’s a Rebel archetype, so bend the rules here and there. With every ensemble, find a standout piece and work around it, so as to avoid looking like you’re trying too hard.


  • Vivienne Westwood
  • Saint Laurent
  • John Varvatos
  • Alexander McQueen
  • Depression
  • Balmain
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