By Jess Rogleff
Meandering through a sea of first world frivolity and uneducated political discontent, one is oblivious to the infinite passing of ill-fitting suits, off-coloured jeans and questionable blazers so commonly donned by those with All of the Wrong Answers, and None of the Right Hair Products.
Peasant and Leader are habituated to the sensation of cloth against skin, not just as a protective means as with the armour of a knight, but as an attempt at decency, modesty, earnesty, regality…. Could such qualities ever be really achieved considering our track history? Not really… but lest we strive!
Can one man be inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame, and wind up world leader three years later? Wearing the exact same tie? If his jacket matches his pants, possibly. If he knows, perhaps, two or five people in China, yes.
Today, the pinnacle of political daywear is this: Muammar Gaddafi was the last chance we had to boycott the axial tilt and enter a new world regime of star spangled debauchery and animal printed shoulder pads. But then he got killed by a bayonet stab to the anus, thrice, in a tassled beret.
Closer to home, we’ve made the lavish upgrade to a national figurehead that considers the official prime ministerial abode (valued at around $50 million AUD) a residential downgrade, yet seems to own only two white shirts. Top Turnbull tip: unbutton one of them (only slightly) on weekends. This kind of wealth does have its perks though: a comb-over that is at least, 20-30% better than that of supreme reptilian bishop, Tony Abbott.
I confess, the subtle variations in Julia Gillard’s hair colour are admirable. I noticed your delicate transition between copper auburn and soft burgundy, Julia. I notice these things. I notice these things because my body is a shell and I’ve emptied the entire contents of my brain into a bottomless pit of outdated pop culture references and semi-depraved banter. Any other standardised pit of endless denial would certainly facilitate the acquired taste for political hair styles, the merits of a cult following, green energy, the music of Phil Collins….
In such dark times, and without further ado, allow me to put forth a gold star selection of my favourite political/religious Fashionistas. Alas, none of them really made it to real world leadership.
1. Heaven’s Gate Marshall Applewhite
Heaven’s Gate was an American UFO religious millenarian group based in San Diego. Their leader, Marshall Applewhite, postulated an extra-terrestrial spacecraft to be humanity’s final destination, and after many years of strict adherence to a real life science-fiction drama, Applewhite and his 39 followers committed a mass suicide.
Heaven’s Gate valued total uniformity in lifestyle, which extended from celibacy to apparel. At the time of the group suicide – in particular, Applewhite’s selection of footwear: the Nike Decade was worn by all members. Only recently, (on Reddit – where else?) the Nike Sales rep at the time revealed the terms of the sale, stating he ‘delivered the 39 pairs of shoes to the [cult’s] house’, asking ‘Is this for a basketball team?’ to which Applegate replied, ‘something like that’. Each member of the cult drank a lethal amount of Phenobarbital, draped themselves in uniform purple sheets, leaving none but the iconic Nike tick on display. For these reasons, the Nike Decade was discontinued the same year.
2. Aum Shinrikyo Shoko Asahara
Shoko Asahara was the founder of the Japanese Doomsday cult group ‘Aum Shinrikyo’. Aum Shinrikyo’s teachings were based on the Bible, Vajrayana scriptures and an interesting cocktail of other religious texts. In 1992, Asahara published his magnum opus, a lengthy answer to the question, “Am I Jesus Christ?”. He found conspiracies in everything. The Jews, the Dutch, the British Royal Family, rival Japanese religions, the Freemasons, in his eyes, would create a third world war, and thus he birthed his own doomsday prophecy.
In 1995, members of Aum Shinrikyo attacked a Tokyo subway with nerve gas. Asahara had given orders to attack the subway in order to “overthrow the government and install himself in the position of Emperor of Japan“. As a yoga instructor turned criminally insane cult-leader, you could imagine this would make for some pretty fresh looks. Consistently draped in silk, taffeta, satin and mesh, all of which should allow for flexible bodily movements, Asahara fused comfort and style together seamlessly. He also killed thirteen Japanese salary-men on their morning commute.
3. The Order of the Solar Temple Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret
The Order of the Solar Temple was a French secret society with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. The Temple’s ideals were a mix of early Christian Identity, UFO religion and New Age philosophy, using variously adapted Freemason rituals. The leader, Luc Jouret based the cult around three things: money, sex and power. Alongside the cult’s increasing membership, Jouret became… increasingly obsessed with sex. Prior to each ceremony, he had intercourse with one of the female members to give him ‘strength’ for the upcoming performance. Similar to Heaven’s Gate, TOST members were made to believe that they would be led to a utopian planet after their death. Eventually, suicide, ritualistic murder, drugging and asphyxiation did away with the 74 members in 1984. They all wore ceremonial robes and had plastic bags over their heads. The founding member’s son was wrapped in a black plastic bag with a wooden stake placed through his chest.
This aside, the cult’s apparel was fucking deluxe! Silk. Leather. Golden embroidery. Gorgeous cream lapels. The logo was two eagles intertwined through a crown. I’ve pictured two rituals below, which could easily belong in a Kubrick or Cronenberg film. The Swiss headquarters remind me of that Italian body-horror film ‘Suspiria’. The gold capes above white and red robes with the TOST logo embellished on the back were definitely crafted by some delirious satin priest.
4. Ashram Shambala Konstantin Rudnev
Around 20 years back, Konstantin Rudnev, a Siberian mechanical engineer, came upon a revelation that affected a movement that extended to 18 regions throughout Russia. He realised he was the messiah! Writing books, conducting seminars, recording video and audio tapes, dressing like Santana and posing with various nude women in notorious ‘photoshoots’, managed to rope 30,000 Soviet bastards into his personal brand of Hell. In 2010, Rudnev was arrested in Novosibirsk and scored an 11 year prison sentence under four articles of the Criminal Code: having founded a religious association that infringed human and civil rights, rape, sexual assault, and drug trafficking. In terms of apparel, I can only really crown him as Lord of the sequinned pillbox hat, and am yet to come to terms with his alternative choice of headwear (is it a fabric eagle?). I have read, however, that he conducted the majority of his sexual rituals wearing aviator sunglasses. Same 😉
5. Vampire Clan Rod Ferrell
In 1995, a depressed teenager from rural Kentucky started an underground group called the “Vampire Clan”. Rod Ferrell, alongside a loose-knit gang of local teenagers believed that they were actually vampires. They practiced Dracula-esque rituals including drinking blood and staying indoors for obscene amounts of time. Ferrell told people that he was a 500-year-old vampire named Vesago, a character he created for himself after becoming obsessed with the role playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. Given this pretext, things got pretty out of hand. In November 1996, Ferrell and his accomplice Howard Scott Anderson murdered a local couple with a crowbar, marking each victim’s flesh with the letter ‘V’. Despite his genuine belief in his alter-ego Vesago, Ferrell looked like he fronted a grunge band, with rare pictures (below) so desperately reminiscent of late 90s teenage angst and .. the southern United States… Ever seen the movie ‘Gummo?’ My favourite look is trench-coat over bare chest.
6. Church of Satan Anton Lavey
Anton Lavey really doesn’t require an introduction. In fact, if legal costs weren’t such a significant barrier in the way of obtaining legal access to the Church of Satan, me and Marilyn Manson would be sniffing angel dust off a Ouija board right at this moment. Pictured below is Lavey and his collection of keyboard (he was a real synth nut!), Lavey in a Prince-standard blazer, Lavey and the Antichrist Superstar, Lavey mid-pork-ritual. Looks like Sydney city on a Friday night!
7. Sethian Liberation Movement (SLM) Zeena Lavey
Daughter of aforementioned Anton Lavey, Zeena Lavey went on to become the Spiritual Leader of Sethian Liberation Movement (SLM). In 1967, three-year-old Zeena had the first and most highly publicized Satanic baptism in history performed by her father. The ritual amassed international publicity with a rendition of the ceremony recorded for The Satanic Mass LP. A great record, if you’re into an occultist reciting excerpts from the Satanic Bible over the music of Beethoven, Wagner, Sousa, etc. I’ve managed to find it on cassette. My number one style icon in this list, Zeena frequently draped herself in pastel silks and poisonous snakes. Also, she pretty much pioneered leopard-print lingerie, leather gloves, black lipstick, eyebrow tweezing to the point of no return, etc.
8. Raëlism Claude Vorilhon
Last on this list, Raëlism, a ‘UFO religion’, was founded in the mid-70s by French sports journalist, Claude Vorilhon. Basically, the Raëlian Movement claimed that life on earth was created by an advanced alien civilization 25,000 years ago in a laboratory. Allegedly, in 1973, Vorilhon had a revelation, spoke to a volcano and had a meeting with extra-terrestrials who told him to have as much sex as is humanly possible. Also, that said aliens had eventually planned to clone Michael Jackson and Hugo Chávez (the 64th president of Venezuela) in order to lead all followers into an interspace haven (as pictured). How Vorilhon managed to recruit as many beautiful people as he did is still a mystery. The Raëlism campaigns all look like S-Club 7 videos and [1990s] Calvin Klein ads. Vorilhon’s apparel, although, all white and cream — shoulder-padded vests, pleated trousers, high-cut turtlenecks and a tasteful choice of bling do give us a bit of a hint.
I’d like you to keep this list in mind this next time you see how bad Donald Trump’s hair is. Truly, there is no solid conclusion or sense of shared worth to be gained from this piece: I’m a nerd and I love cults but so should you. That’s all, thanks.