A rivethead or rivet head is a person associated with the industrial dance music scene.[1] In stark contrast to the original industrial culture, whose performers and heterogeneous audience were sometimes referred to as "industrialists", the rivethead scene is a coherent youth culture closely linked to a discernible fashion style. The scene emerged in the late 1980s[2] on the basis of electro-industrial, EBM, and industrial rock music. The associated dress style draws on military fashion and punk aesthetics[3] with hints of fetish wear, mainly inspired by the scene's musical protagonists.

Origins of the term

Initially, the term rivethead had been used since the 1940s as a nickname for North American automotive assembly line[4] and steel construction workers[5] and hit the mainstream through the publication of Ben Hamper's Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line,[6] which is otherwise unrelated to the subculture.

Glenn Chase, founder of San Diego label Re-Constriction Records, is responsible for the term's meaning in the 1990s.[7] In 1993, he released Rivet Head Culture, a compilation that contains several electro-industrial and industrial rock acts from the American underground music scene. In the same year, industrial rock group Chemlab − whose members were close friends of Chase − had released their debut album Burn Out at the Hydrogen Bar,[8] which includes a track called "Rivet Head". Chemlab singer Jared Louche said he did not remember where the term came from, although he stated that this song title was in his mind for years.[9]


The rivethead scene is remotely related but not directly connected to the industrial music culture. Industrial music is a genre of experimental and avant garde music, intertwined with graphical visualization (mostly with disturbing graphical content).[10] The absence of conventional song structures, such as rhythm and melody, is a main characteristic of the genre, whereas the music preferred by the rivethead scene includes several danceable and song-oriented styles that are sometimes considered "post-industrial".[10] Like post-punk, the term post-industrial describes a musical genre that developed distinctly from its roots and turned into several strands of sound, namely electro-industrial, electronic body music, and industrial rock, often referred to as industrial dance music. Those styles differ from traditional industrial music regarding aesthetics, sound, and production techniques.[11][10]


The rivethead dress style has been inspired by military aesthetics, complemented by fashion "that mimics the grit and grime of industrial sectors in major metropolitan areas".[12] Additionally, it borrows elements of punk fashion, such as a fanned and dyed Mohawk hairstyle,[3] and fetish wear such as black leather and PVC tops, pants and shorts partly supplemented with modern primitive body modifications such as tattoos and piercings.

Occasionally, rivetheads emphasize a post-apocalyptic, dystopian influence, often inspired by movies, e.g. Mad Max (1979), Escape from New York (1981), Gunhed (1989), Death Machine (1994), and Strange Days (1995). Several movies, such as Hardware (1990), Strange Days and Johnny Mnemonic (1995), feature music tracks by Ministry, KMFDM, Diatribe, Stabbing Westward and other bands associated with the rivethead culture.[13][14][15] Other influences include sci-fi archetypes such as Lupus Yonderboy and Razorgirl, characters from the Sprawl trilogy by William Gibson.

Sascha Konietzko, one of the most influential persons in the rivethead music scene since the 1990s, both musically and visually

Below some basic characteristics of the rivethead dress style. As a divergence from the extravagance of youth cultures such as New Romantic, goth, cyber, and steampunk, the idea is to make a statement with as few fashion components as possible. The rivethead look commonly is unadorned and epitomizes a direct reflection of the social environment ("street survival wear"[16]).



Rivetgirls may dress along with the femme fatale look: sexuality as power. Common are fetish wear, such as black PVC and leather corsages, miniskirts, ankle-deep or knee-high stiletto heel boots;[5] less makeup than Goths[3] and 1980s New Wave fashion girls, who were also an influence on the late-1980s/early 1990s rivetgirl style (cf. fishnet tights, stilettos, Dr. Martens low boots). Often dyed hair (black, sometimes red or blond) that is long, short, spiked, partially shaved (see Maria Azevedo of Battery[20] and Yone Dudas of Decoded Feedback[21]) or dreadlocked (see Anna Christine of Luxt[22]). On the other hand, the female rivethead fashion look may be and often is identical to the tough style of the male rivetheads (Tank Girl aesthetic; military wear[5] such as tank tops, paratrooper pants and combat boots[3]). Kim X, co-founder of California-based music label COP International, compared the female rivethead attitude to the Riot grrrl movement.[23]

Women involved in the 'Industrial scene' wore less makeup, particularly less elaborate eye makeup. They also adopted a much more traditional Punk look, with shorter skirts, made of leather or vinyl, and combat boots. Because of the athletics required of 'Industrial' dancing, it was rare to see women in this scene with spike heels, as it would constrain their movement on the dance floor. The male 'Industrial style' also was much closer to Punk, with men wearing shorts, big boots and adopting partially shaved hairstyles.

— Kristen Schilt, sociologist at the University of Chicago[3]

Comparison with goth subculture

The rivethead scene of the 1980s and 1990s was different from the goth subculture in ideological and musical terms, as well as in their visual aesthetics.[24] Confusion regarding the boundaries of those two youth cultures has heightened because of the late-1990s "multi-subcultural" cross-hybridization, which led people to incorrectly believe that rivetheads are an offshoot of the goth subculture. Canadian novelist and author Nancy Kilpatrick labelled this youth-cultural overlap "industrial goth",[25] as does Julia Borden.[2] ( − Note: In the heyday of the rivethead culture, the term "industrial goth" as a description of a youth culture did not exist).[26][18][27]

“The 'Industrial look' began to emerge in the late 1980s. […] The typical 'Industrial' guy, circa 1989, was a Punk who liked technology.”

— Julia Borden[2]

“In contrast to the old-style Goth look, which was androgynous, the male 'Industrial look' was tough and military, with a sci-fi edge. The men wore […] band T-shirts, black trousers or military cargo pants in black, military accessories, such as dog-tags, heavy boots […] 'Industrial' women, who were fewer in number, tended to wear waist-cinching corsets, small tank tops or 'wife-beaters' [sleeveless t-shirts], trousers, and sometimes suspenders hanging down off the pants. They also […] sometimes shaved their heads.”

— Valerie Steele, fashion historian and director of MFIT, New York.[2]

“Stylistically, both men and women in the Gothic subculture […] rely heavily on feminine signifiers, such as makeup, skirts and corsets, while the 'Industrial scene' adopts a much more masculine style that incorporates more traditional Punk elements, such as combat boots and leather pants. […] Unlike their Gothic counterparts, the male ‘Industrials’ did not wear makeup.”

— Kristen Schilt, sociologist at the University of Chicago[19][3][28]

Goths are a dark romantic outgrowth of the punk and post-punk movements that emerged in the early 1980s[29][30][31] while rivetheads developed from the industrial dance music scene that came to be in the second half of the 1980s, hand in hand with the media success of post-industrial artists such as Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Front Line Assembly, Ministry, KMFDM,[2] and Numb. The rivethead scene is a male-dominated youth subculture[32][28] that shows a provocative, insurgent as well as socio-critical approach. The Goth subculture is “equally open to women, men and transgendered [sic] people”,[33] and frequently devoid of any interest in ethical activism or political involvements.[34]

“Gothic expresses the emotional, beautiful, supernatural, feminine, poetic, theatrical side. Industrial embodies the masculine, angry, aggressive, noisy, scientific, technological, political side. Industrial music often uses electronics, synthesizers, samples from movies or political speeches, loops, and distorted vocals. It tends to be male-oriented in those who make the music and those who enjoy it.”[35]

See also


  1. ^ Goodlad, Lauren M. E.; Bibby, Michael (2007). Goth. Undead subculture. Duke University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0822339212.
  2. ^ a b c d e Steele, Valerie; Park, Jennifer (2008). Gothic: Dark Glamour. Yale University Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0300136944.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Goodlad & Bibby 2007, p. 69.
  4. ^ "Rivethead @ Everything2.com". [Welcome to Everything @ Everything2.com]. Retrieved August 23, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Stevens, Kate (November 2010). Freak Nation: A Field Guide to 101 of the most odd, extreme, and outrageous American subcultures. Adams Media. p. 108. ISBN 978-1440506468.
  6. ^ "Ben Hamper". [Welcome to MichaelMoore.com]. Archived from the original on September 21, 2007. Retrieved August 23, 2007.
  7. ^ "Re-Constriction". [Cargoland!]. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved September 11, 2007.
  8. ^ "Chemlab: Burn Out at the Hydrogen Bar". Discogs.com.
  9. ^ pHil (February 24, 2006). "Chemlab - Teaching you how to bleed". ReGen Magazine :: Industrial, synthpop, electronic, alternative music. Retrieved October 22, 2007.
  10. ^ a b c Partridge, Christopher; Moberg, Marcus (2017). "Industrial, Post-industrial and Neofolk music". The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 206. ISBN 978-1-474-23733-8.
    "From the early 1980s onwards industrial music as represented by Throbbing Gristle influenced and was fused with other musical styles, resulting in what can be termed 'post-industrial styles'."
  11. ^ Reed, Alexander (2013). Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music. Oxford University Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-199-83260-6.
  12. ^ "The Fashion and Culture of the Industrial Music Scene". Archived from the original on October 20, 2012.
  13. ^ "Hardware / M.A.R.K. 13, OST". Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
  14. ^ "Strange Days, OST". Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
  15. ^ "Johnny Mnemonic, OST". Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
  16. ^ Epstein, Jonathan S.; Locher, David A. (1998). Youth Culture. Identity in a postmodern world. Wiley-Blackwell Publishers. p. 107. ISBN 1-55786-851-4.
  17. ^ a b Epstein & Locher 1998, p. 115.
  18. ^ a b Digitalis, Raven (2007). Goth Craft. The Magickal Side of Dark Culture. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 37. ISBN 9780738711041.
  19. ^ a b c Goodlad & Bibby 2007, p. 76.
  20. ^ "Photo of Maria Azevedo (Battery)" – via discogs.com. picture was taken in 1996/97 (COP International promotion picture
  21. ^ "Photo of Yone Dudas (Decoded Feedback); picture was taken in the mid-/late-1990s". Zoth Ommog promotion picture.
  22. ^ "Photo of Anna Christine (Luxt)" – via discogs.com.
  23. ^ "Dossier. Diva X Machina". Side-Line music magazine (January 1997): 45.
  24. ^ Ladouceur, Liisa; Pullin, Gary (2011). Encyclopaedia Gothica. ECW Press. p. 232. ISBN 9781770410244.
  25. ^ Kilpatrick, Nancy (2004). The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 23, 33–4. ISBN 978-0312306960.
  26. ^ Thompson, Dave (2000). Alternative Rock. San Francisco, CA: Miller Freeman Books. p. 72. ISBN 0-87930-607-6.
  27. ^ Voltaire, Aurelio (2004). What is Goth?. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books. p. 06. ISBN 9781578633227.
  28. ^ a b Goodlad & Bibby 2007, p. 72.
  29. ^ Baddeley, Gavin (2002). Goth Chic: A Connoisseur's Guide to Dark Culture. London: Plexus Publishing. p. 204.
  30. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up And Start Again: Post-punk 1978-1984. London: Faber and Faber Limited. p. 422. ISBN 978-0571215706.
  31. ^ "A History of Goth". The Batcave. Retrieved November 23, 2007.
  32. ^ "Dossier. Diva X Machina". Side-Line music magazine (January 1997): 44.
  33. ^ Goodlad & Bibby 2007, p. 48.
  34. ^ Lynn, Andrea (September 18, 2007). "Oh, my goth - dark, cultural phenomenon thriving, scholars say". News Bureau. The University of Illinois. Retrieved October 27, 2007.
  35. ^ "A Study of Gothic Subculture".