London is full of guys dressing in monochrome sportswear, mixing basic Slazenger pieces off the racks at SportsDirect, with D.TT.K sweats, clear shell Cottweiler track pants, all black Nike Air Max Plus, and an addiction to 3M™ reflective. A lot of these guys are followers of the Health Goth Facebook page, established back in April 2013 by Mike Grabarek and Jeremy Scott of the Portland based, alternative R’n’B duo, Magic Fades. Browsing their page, it's obvious there is more to this style than a shared taste in murdered out, or alternatively Colgate white sportswear. As an aesthetic it clearly owes a debt to street goth, but focuses on performance sportswear, bionic body parts, the hyperreal digital imagery seen in adverts and Net art, combat gear, and because being out of shape isn't futuristic, a dedication to athleticism. Today the Health Goth page is followed by more than 3,600 people. We caught up with the guys—they want the interview credited to Health Goth—to try and make sense of an internet meme that's become a bona fide London streetwear trend.
Interview by Tim Neugebauer
What does health goth mean to you, and who is the dedicated health goth?
It may be impossible to be a true HG individual, because so much of the style is based on the combination of the setting and the subject, which a lot of times is in a hyperreality that only exists in ads, art installations, and rendered environments.
When I’m searching for images and ideas, a few keywords I might use are mesh, moisture-wicking fabrics, BioWare, body enhancement tech, prosthetics, shoe dipping, various fashion and performance wear brands, transparent clothing, chains and light weaponry, tactical gear, elemental aesthetics, corporal mortification, and rendered environments. There are now five of us posting on the page and deliberating over images, so the idea has broadened out quite a bit, but the main thing was attributing a name to describe a feeling that already existed.
Would you consider yourself part of this community or fans of it?
Both. We definitely subscribe to the style in certain ways, and we are huge fans of certain artists and designers. We've definitely made friends with fans as a result. As for the community aspect, there have been times that health goth has been wildly misconstrued, or deliberately misrepresented. Not that we're control freaks about the way people interpret it, but we will at times point people in the "right" direction, even if it is constantly evolving. We love when people send us images, but we don’t just post anything, or automatically sanction media that is tagged “health goth.”
We’re going to keep trying to add to the world that we’re creating, and not let things stagnate, we have a shitload of images in our queue, but we only post a fraction of what we find. We love the fans pointing us at images they think are health goth, and if we agree, we will then post.
Is the goth part of health goth a colour thing or a mindset thing?
When I thought of the name, I was sort of making fun of the whole street goth thing. The more I thought and talked with friends about it, the more I realized that joking about dipping a perfectly fresh pair of Nike TNs in a swimming pool and being draped in black mesh was actually cool.
It’s not just the colour scheme, a lot of the stuff we post are just futuristic or healthy takes on goth style. For instance, instead of military boots, we post Nike ACG boots that are all black and really advanced looking.
Does Health Goth exist outside of fashion?
No, fashion is a huge part of it. A lot of our influence comes from Cottweiler, Whatever 21, and A D Y N, but we find equal inspiration in our Tumblr feed, where you see a lot of 3D rendered images, which have no people or clothing shown. Images of mesh, or a blade with a tribal pattern and a fern or something. It might not be evident upon looking at our page but a lot of our imagery is very Net art inspired.
When and how did you first encounter health goth? Online or on the streets?
It was online at first, but I remember over a year ago being at various clubs in downtown Portland, notably at the Club Chemtrail parties, and seeing people dressed extremely health goth. So, there is actually a scene of people here who dress like this, and that has inspired us a lot.
You say you're fans of Gravity Boys crew member, Bladee. Does health goth have a soundtrack?
Way more important than the music are the images. When subcultures were birthed before, like emo, for instance, networks for people to share images like Tumblr didn't exist, the scenes came together through burning mp3’s from Limewire or wherever. Now, for the first time, you can spawn a subculture overnight based entirely on visual aesthetics, you don’t need music to define a subculture anymore. Still, there is a type of music that can be associated with health goth. I have this idea that the sound is a combination of epic collage and industrial cinematic sound design. We’ve talked about trying to make a health goth mixtape, that represents the types of sounds we associate with the style. We’ve posted tracks from M.E.S.H., Drippin’, DJ New Jersey Drone, Egytrixx, Total Freedom, and gotten a positive reaction. But we aren’t trying to curate a new subculture, we just want to post the content we feel.
Is health goth angsty?
One of our most popular pics was an image of a pair of adidas sandals floating in clean tropical looking water. I think if anything, instead of being all about teenage angst, we are trying to exude a feeling of being suspended in an ever changing internet environment, just trying to remain chill and comfortable at a time when a lot of horrible shit is happening on and offline.
Images from the Health Goth Facebook page