The heavy metal cowboy get-ups sported by Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider and Mel Gibson in Mad Max are probably best left somewhere in the 1980s. But in Sub-Saharan Africa, the art of dressing like you’ve just stepped out of a Metallica concert is still very much alive.
South African photographer Franck Marshall found the unlikely subculture in the Republic of Botswana, taking their heavy metal style of dress very seriously.
“There’s a competition between them to see who can look the most brutal,” says Marshall, who calls his subjects the renegades– ‘an underground minority rebelling against the status quo, redrawing the borders of both Heavy Metal and orthodox culture in Botswana’.
In post colonial Botswana, whenever the African Deathmetal bands (they exist too) go on tour, the renegades will spend weeks preparing their leather, shining their belt buckles and boots. The subculture actually grew from a classic rock band that was formed in Botswana in the 70s and evolved through the decades.
And the women are in on it too…!
This young renegade goes by the alias of ‘white devil’.
If a guy walked into a bar dressed up like this, in most cities, it would probably raise an eyebrow. But in Botswana, it earns you serious ‘cool points’ (and great respect).
While the renegades incorporate that aggressive side of metal into their look, “there’s a strong sense of camaraderie amongst them,” says Marshall, “They’ve got a very strong bond and friendship with each other.” Seen as role models in society and often followed by a trail of young children in awe, they’re seen as protectors of the community with a strong awareness of social responsibility.
Don’t be surprised if this unusual subculture sparks a fashion comeback for heavy metal cowboys … I’m personally rooting for it.
More info via the Rooke Gallery.