One definition of the word “alternative” means employing or following nontraditional or unconventional ideas, methods, etc.; existing outside the establishment. In regard to clothing, the term alternative in summary means clothes, footwear, or accessories that are not fitting within the current norm.
Alternative fashion is fashion that stands apart from mainstream commercial fashion. This style is often worn by youthful people that have no interest in fitting in with everyone else. They move to the beat of their own drummer. These people are generally not too concerned with what other people think of their appearance. They dress in a way that is pleasing to their own sense of style even if that particular style is not the trend at that particular moment in time.
A good example would be punk fashion. An even better example, would be wearing punk fashion during a decade that punk fashion was not very popular.
The one downside to alternative apparel is the fact that if enough people start dressing so that they do not fit the norm, it is very possible that their new method of dress can become very popular among other like-minded people. If many people start dressing in a similar way, that method is technically a trend. Therefore, there alternative style is no longer technically alternative enough.
In general alternative, or 'alt,' fashion does not conform to style trends of the times that have widespread popularity. It may exhibit itself as a fringe style - extremely attention grabbing and possibly more artistic than practical. The lifestyle can also develop from anti-fashion sentiments that focus on simplistic utilitarian motives. For example, grunge fashion is largely based around comfort and availability as opposed to trying to make a particular statement.
Alternative fashion includes the fashions of specific subcultures such as emo, scene, Goth subculture, Hip hop, Heavy metal fashion, industrial and Cyberpunk, however it is not limited to this.
Alternative fashion examples include the following styles:
Heavy metal fashion
Elegant Gothic Aristocrat
Japanese street fashion
Traditionally alternative clothing, shoes and accessories have been largely procured from independently owned businesses, such as the boutiques found in bohemian and artistic districts of large urban centers. Much of the clothing is also made by the wearing. Consumers will often re-purpose existing clothes to create a new and unique item. DIY fashions has long held an important place in alternative fashion. Utilizing second-hand clothing is an active concept.
Mainstream culture, particularly retailers and the media, have often looked to alternative fashion for up and coming trends and, increasingly, as an easy way to market products to a niche group that may not be having its tastes supplied elsewhere. Some in the alternative community view this as flattering and as a positive expansion of what is socially acceptable, and easily available, fashion. Others consider the involvement of mainstream institutions in alternative fashion as a desecration of what the concept stands for in the first place. It is sort of an insult for department stores to copy the underground clothing styles.
When a previously non-mainstream style becomes popular the core group of a certain alternative niche may be watered down with dozens or even hundreds of individuals who are not genuinely invested in the advancement of alternative culture or its precepts of individuality and present an image of the subculture not at all related to its traditional members' behaviors.
Alternative fashion is expressed, discussed, viewed and proliferated through many of the same channels as mainstream fashion, such as fashion shows, websites, blogs and magazines. The use of these avenues in the alt community traditionally tend to follow similar principles to traditional alt fashion itself - existing outside of mainstream outlets, fueled by personal creativity. It is common for projects related to alternative fashion to be independently run by individuals or small groups and to be offered to the public cheaply or free of charge. However, just as alternative fashion has been commodified by chain stores some level of commercialization may exist within outlets of alternative fashion seeking to exploit certain styles as 'the next big thing' or taking financial advantage of customers with limited options.
The concept of alternative fashion will always exist. Fortunately, the world will always have people that wish to dress outside the norm. Thank goodness that the world has freedom of expression.
You may also want to learn about Avant-garde fashion.
What is alternative fashion?