I was one of the last in a generation of identifiable weirdos – a group anyone could name on sight. Born in the 1980s and coming of age before internet ubiquity started the mass disinfecting of differentiation. For years I’d glutted on my mother’s records – Joy Division, Bauhaus, The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie Sioux – wondering how we’d gone from this to Britney and S Club 7. I traded my acoustic guitar for an electric, joined a youth club and had my first brush with punks, metallers, riot grrrls and goths. It felt like a homecoming. I was hypnotised by sidereal girls with alabaster faces. Otherworldly, with lined eyes, raven lips and inky hair. I wanted to be one. This was a tall order for a Fife mining town girl, where the most exotic spoils of the local Superdrug were brown lip gloss and foundation in a spectrum of artificial peach. So, a trip to Edinburgh. An inaugural excursion to Cockburn Street for “supplies”, to begin a transformation that would see me through teendom and beyond.
Nearby Fleshmarket Close was enveloped by swarms of scene kids. Fishnets, chokers, jeans as wide as big tops, skyscraping mohawks. Independent shops for inchoate rebels – records, hair dye, leather, body jewellery, chains, tarot cards, tattoos. I was in love with this alternate reality at first sight.
I found my way to Whiplash Trash – a dingy grotto of perspex heels, neon bongs and cheap PVC militaria that I’d end up living above six years later. I made my first purchase of my future uniform. A mempo of Stargazer makeup: white foundation, kohl liner, black lipstick.
I put it on in Princes Street Gardens, unable to wait the length of a Fife circle train home. I watched my face change through each layer. First de-saturating with dabs of moon-coloured liquid, then contrasted in the extreme with jet liner and charcoal lips. I saw myself – I was sure of it.