As a “90’s kid” my Friday nights were spent watching the MuchMusic countdown, and afterwards, Electric Circus. Electric Circus was a program on MuchMusic that was a live streamed electronic dance party. Every Friday night, crowds of eager dancers would line up on Queen Street West waiting to get inside, where dancers would be featured on live television, like a 1990s version of Soul Train. Growing up in Nova Scotia meant that I didn’t have access to clothing that was as unique and colourful as the styles I saw on Electric Circus. At 6 years old when the music video for “Barbie Girl” by Aqua was aired on the program, I realized that I had to make it to Toronto and dance on Electric Circus. I ended up eventually moving to Toronto in 2011, but my childhood dreams to dance on live television were never realized as Electric Circus went off the air in 2003. My love for the fashions of the 90s however, did not die with it. In the winter of 2015, I found the jacket that symbolized my love for the electronic dance party, a vintage Groggy faux fur coat.
I bought the coat after seeing it listed in a Facebook buy and sell group for vintage clothing. I met the woman selling it at the corner of Yonge and Dundas and paid $70.00 cash for the coat I had seen many years before. It was in great condition, and she was selling it because she did not have anywhere to wear it anymore. I hurriedly took it back to the fashion lab on campus at Ryerson University, where I proceeded to make an Instagram post of my amazing find. In the moment of wearing it, I felt that I finally owned a piece of fashion from an era that was now gone.
The Groggy coat I own is dated to approximately 1995 by the original owner and is in near mint condition. The coat is a 3/4 length style, with a notched shawl collar, and orange buttons that can be fastened to lap in either direction using elastic loops. The shell of the coat is made entirely of white and red-orange faux fur. The under collar and lining are made of hot pink satin. The label inside the coat denotes it was made in China, is 100% acrylic and dry clean only.
The brand label is the original Groggy logo, adjacent to a size tag reading “small” inside the garment’s collar. On the outside of the garment, a small woven tab with the “G” from the Groggy logo is displayed at the back neck. The only sign of age in the coat, is that the faux fur has turned slightly off white, and is a bit matted at the seat area. There are no holes or stains in the garment, it has all its buttons, and there are hardly any signs of wear and tear.
I am surprised at the coat’s generous sizing, as often I fit into a ladies large, but given that the lap at the opening fastens either way, the coat may be read as unisex. Despite owning the coat for 3 years now, I have only worn it a handful of times. It is incredibly bright and soft on the outside, garnering many compliments anytime it is worn out. The loftiness of the coat however, is not overly flattering to the figure of the wearer, and I feel like a giant fluffy ball when I am wearing it. It is a great statement piece to wear when I am attending a nightclub or event and is surprisingly quite warm. Despite the coat not having cost much in terms of money, the value the garment holds is rich in nostalgia. The memories of nights spent staying up past my normal bedtime watching dancers in neon clothing, dyed hair and plastic jewelry, faux fur vests and wide pants dancing atop boxes in the windows of Much Music.
The Groggy brand was based in Montreal and specialized in rave inspired clothing that folded circa 2011 (Trio Group, 2007). The brand produced faux fur coats; jackets; vests; and zip-off cargo skirts as well as printed sweaters and tees. Groggy was sold locally at alternative clothing stores, such as Numb and Noise in downtown Toronto, now both closed. An article, titled Rave Review in Vogue 1997, describes the role that rave culture played in the inspiration for the designs of Marc Jacobs and other luxury fashion designers on the runway (Greeven 114). In a street style article found in the Globe and Mail from January 22, 2000, Geneviève Blouin described her own Groggy clothing as a staple in her wardrobe, citing her favourite zip-off skirt made by Groggy (Pearce).
Knowing of Groggy’s popularity in Canada, I scoured the internet to find sources on the company, its designers and additional photos of products, but realized they had little to no online presence. In turning to social media, many friends who attended Raves in the 1990s offered photos of themselves in Groggy clothing, and their current collection of vintage pieces.
Tristan, who at the time went by “DJ MoldyLox” in Halifax, Nova Scotia, described finding many of his pieces at a local Winners when the company folded, and is seen pictured in their Groggy sweater, DJ’ing below:
Rhia, a local Toronto raver, sent pictures of her own impressive faux fur collection by Groggy. Pictured below are numerous Groggy coats she owns and photos showing how the pieces are mixed and styled with the Raver fashions of today.
Raves, as they were in the 1990s, are assumed to have mostly ended around the globe at the end of the 20th century (Van Deen 30). Raves were dance parties, advertised quietly, promoting happiness and good feelings through dance, electronic music and often the use of illicit drugs in large, open and unoccupied spaces. Attendees were encouraged to lose themselves to dance (Wilson 385). Toronto’s rave subculture began in the early 1990s, despite raves having started in the UK in the late 1980s (McCall 33). The first officially reported rave occurred in 1991 in Toronto. While clubs were known to have dress codes raves were very accessible, with an anything goes attitude (McCall 33). The raver style often borrowed from a combination of hip-hop, snowboarding and skateboarding clothing styles (McCall 120). The style of raver clothing can be broken down into four categories. The “Sporty” look, consists of baggy clothing, often by Adidas or similar sports brands, with matching shirts, pants and sneakers. The “Return to Childhood” styles which embodied youth and innocence, with bright plastic jewelry, and cartoon character prints. The “Outrageous Costume” style, consists of neon colours, platform shoes, faux fur, see-through vinyl and coloured lens glasses. This is where I feel my groggy jacket is positioned comfortably, as it would have made a loud statement. Lastly, the “Nothing Special” style, which was a direct transition from daywear to night, often just jeans and tee-shirts (Wilson 399).
Brian Wilson describes the rave subculture as a form of symbolic “purposeful-tactical” resistance. In subcultural groups; youth culture and counter culture, bodies offer prime sites for resistance, often through the use of clothing (Tynan 192). Resistance in fashion, as defined by French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault, is the subverting of normalized dress and the ability for bodies to transcend subordination through dress (Tynan 195). Ravers can be described as symbolically, subtly and purposefully resisting mainstream value systems and culture through their dress. This is also done so through the promotion of the PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) value system (Wilson 401). This philosophy, and doctrine of rave attendees, upholds the social values within the subculture, with the use of high-technology as a means to gain pleasure and empowerment as well as to seek and experience pleasure (Wilson 384). Rave culture embraces the liberation of coded gender and sexuality, in its creation of nonsexist spaces of encounter and unisex clothing (Alwokeel 55, Van Deen 44). This resistance also takes form through the use of illicit drugs as a subtle reaction (as drug use was not advertised or placed on public display) to the hypocritical mainstream rejection of drugs and acceptance of alcohol (Wilson 399). This form of resistance stands in contrast to subcultures like punk, where issues of class, gender and race manifest into aggression and confrontation. The PLUR philosophy stands in resistance even to other subcultures, embracing positivity through escapism, comfort and pleasure.
In comparison to punk subculture, which explicitly displays anti-capitalist symbols through dress, Rave culture was subdued. Ravers adopted looks that were cute and cuddly. The tactile nature of the materials used in rave style clothing, directly resulted as a response to the types of drugs being taken at raves. Substances like Ecstasy and MDMA, elicited a heightened sensitivity to tactile materials (McCall 169). A coat like the one I own consisting of bright coloured faux fur would elicit pleasure when touching it and harmonize with the sentiments felt when taking these types of drugs.
Rave culture, however resistant, actively supports the reproduction of dominant culture, while passively subverting it. While raves were happening, and becoming further publicized, design and music began to profit from the “rave” style (Wilson 407). Rave culture grew faster than the clothing labels trying to adopt their styles into production which resulted in many ravers making their own clothing. Like most anti-fashion, the style did not remain unique forever and brands like Groggy began to emerge selling rave style clothing to consumers. This also created a homogenous rave style, in where ravers could be identified aesthetically by their sartorial choices, promoting a form of assimilation within the subculture itself. Other similar brands included Mod Robes, JNCO, Clobbers and Snug. In the adoption of rave culture into mainstream fashion, ravers began to abandon the subcultural, realizing it had become corporatized and homogenized. This is likened to George Simmel’s critique of the adoption of fashion in his trickle-down theory, in that when a fashion becomes adopted by the majority of persons, it is no longer in fashion (Simmel 547).
Moby, a staple in electronic and techno music at raves and in the 1990s, embraced the raver style himself. His autobiography, with chapters such as “Neon Green Muppet Monster Fur”, “PVC Bodysuit” and “Orange Jacket”, gives a well-rounded idea as to how the clothing of rave subculture was visibly defined in its style (Moby 8). In his music video for “Southside” with Gwen Stefani below, Moby sports a faux fur jacket nearly identical to my own Groggy jacket.
The adoption of the raver style did not stop at the fashion industry in stores or on the runway, but even permeated the children’s toys industry. Mattel in 1999 released a “Happenin’ Hair Barbie” seen in the commercial below that rocked colour-changing hair, wide legged jeans and sparkly neon tops.
It would seem that rave subculture in the 1990s has passed, but trends from this era are still alive and well today, with new electronic music lovers seeking out vintage clothing to complete their looks. The underground all-night multi-room raves held in abandoned warehouses seem to have passed, but the subculture is still alive and well. New forms of raves are taking place all over Toronto, in the forms of festivals and themed club nights with extended last-call times. Despite never getting to dance at Electric Circus I have my Groggy coat that hanging in my closet, serves as a nostalgic artefact.
- Is anti fashion, fashion in subcultures, and other forms of fashion that disrupt mainstream fashion trends like rave culture a form of resistance if the clothing is produced by large retail chains?
- Does this follow Simmel’s trickle down theory of fashion in stating that society follows fashion to fit in, or does it disrupt this idea in that individuals are trying to stand out? Are individuals actually standing out if they fit in within a subculture?
Special thanks to Shari Schulist, the original owner of the Groggy jacket who was able to date and confirm the place of purchase of the Groggy coat. A huge thank you as well to Tristan, Rhia and Ronak, who shared personal stories with me about their own Groggy items, as well as photos.
Alwakeel, Ramzy. “The Aesthetics of Protest in UK Rave.” Dancecult, vol. 1, no. 2, 2010, pp.50–62. ProQuest, doi:10.12801/1947-5403.2010.01.02.03.
Greeven, Amely. “Vogue View: Rave Review.” Vogue , vol. 187, no. 12, 1 Dec. 1997, pp. 111– 116. Vogue Archive, ProQuest, search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/vogue/docview/904349651/EF3543A84C014993PQ/3?accountid=13631.
McCall, Tara. This is not a rave: in the shadow of a subculture. Insomniac Press, 2001.
Moby. Porcelain: a memoir. Faber & Faber, 2017.
Pearce, Tralee. “Geneviève Blouin’s Montreal Style.” The Globe and Mail, Jan 22, 2000, Canadian Newsstream, http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/384444480?accountid=13631.
Simmel, Georg. “Fashion.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 62, no. 6, 1957, pp. 541–558. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2773129.
Timewastermohanty. YouTube, YouTube, 30 Aug. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=31dNYjHl-6w.
Trio Group. “News.” Trio Group Brands: Groggy, 2007, www.triogroup.ca/groggy.html.
Tynan, Jane, et al. “Michel Foucault: Fashioning the Body Politic.” Thinking Through Fashion,I.B. Tauris, 2015, pp. 184–199.
Veen, Tobias C. Van. “Technics, Precarity and Exodus in Rave Culture.” Dancecult, vol. 1, no. 2, 2010, pp. 29–49. ProQuest, doi:10.12801/1947-5403.2010.01.02.02.
Wilson, Brian. “The Canadian Rave Scene and Five Theses on Youth Resistance.” Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie, vol. 27, no. 3, 2002, pp. 373–412. JStore, doi:10.2307/3341549.