Laibach, Anti-fashion and Subversion: Over-identification and Universality of a Uniform

Tajda Hlacar

Original scientific article
2020 / Volume 3 / Issue 2 / Pages 78-91
Received 4 May 2020; Accepted 18 May 2020; Published 16 June 2020

The worldwide renowned Slovenian industrial alternative music group Laibach, which was also a member of the multimedia artists’ collective called NSK, has been a subject of many professional discussions. This article attempts to analyse Laibach’s conception of a uniform according to the theory of anti-fashion. As one of the most recognizable elements expressing a mythical, totalitarian aura, inseparably linked with the performers’ distant and constrained attitude, Laibach’s uniform can be erroneously comprehended as anti-fashion clothing, expressing fixed and rigid social environments. The analysis of Laibach’s television interview from 1983, in which the band is directly imitating the ruling ideological language, shows that the strategy of over-identification and subversion represent dominant principles of Laibach’s actions, combining them with the retro-method of using symbols and images of various cultural traditions and periods, as seen in their diversity of clothing worn, including the Yugoslav military uniform, miner and hunting uniforms, jeans and shirts, and even fashionable items.
With the performative dimension in the ideological ritual and by emphasizing totalitarian tendencies in contemporary society, Laibach endeavours to show that all changeable multiform clothes are uniforms – timeless, universal and deprived of semiological meaning and thus surpasses the distinction of fashion and anti-fashion or fixed and modish costume. Nearly forty years after the establishment of the group, Laibach is conventionally dressed in regular clothes, nevertheless providing a sentiment of wearing a collective’s uniform.

Anti-fashion, Military uniform, Band Laibach, Retro-avant-garde, Alternative culture