Raving has always been synonymous with youth culture. From polaroids of sweaty teens writhing in abandoned warehouses to half-used glitter packs lying strewn in the corner of the room, reckless adolescence has always defined the rave scene.
Spanning across the rise of acid house music in the 80s, new techno in the 90s and illegal lockdown dance parties in 2020, raving culture has shifted and changed with the marching of time. But are gen Z ravers inherently different from those who took part in the scene 30-odd years ago?
Subcultures and aesthetics come and go online, any chronically scrolling TikTok addict knows that. We’ve seen the likes of clowncore, whimsigothic, and dystopiacore explode in popularity, only to dissipate and lose traction just a few weeks later. So, why would raving culture be any different?
As a gen Zer myself, I believe that the reason why so many young people, generation after generation, get seduced by the raving scene, is because of the fact that it’s one of the most authentic expressions of rebellion. Even as the culture becomes more mainstream and further away from the police’s radar, raving still represents wildness and empowerment—an escape from the establishment’s norms and what’s considered socially acceptable.
Just look at how subversive London’s rave scene is today, with iconic queer-led rave nights like Inferno and GutterRing being staples of counter culture. And these are just the tip of the raving iceberg.
While the choices in fashion, music, and class of drug may have changed over the past few decades, raving culture still represents the same set of beliefs it did all those years ago: freedom, diversity, acceptance, and interpersonal connections.
SCREENSHOT spoke with some high-key gen Z ravers from TikTok to chat about why they think raving culture has resonated with their generation so much, and how the primary pillars of raving still stand. This one’s for you, boomers.
TikToker and Depop aficionado @FestivalStyled, aka Bekah, has been raving for seven years and has accumulated a loyal online following who go to her social media pages for all things raving aesthetic, tips and tricks, and how-to guides.
Not only does Bekah find raving to be incredibly meditative, she’s also found her love of rave music to be intrinsically linked with the fashion that’s associated with it. The creator explained: “It’s empowering for a lot of people to be able to express themselves in many different forms of art.”
But Bekah also emphasises that these kinds of subcultures and aesthetics are in no way a “new thing.” “I’m sure rave clothing has become a bigger industry than it was when raving began, but to say anyone who likes to wear ‘out-there’ rave outfits isn’t there for the music is wrong. Just look at the outfits from the Berlin Love Parade in 1998. I think wacky people wear wacky things and I love looking around and seeing what people have come up with at events,” the TikToker continued.
Another content creator who dedicates her platform to celebrating rave culture is Emma Kapotes, a US-based influencer who documents her love for the electronic music community online. For Kapotes, her favourite thing about raving all comes down to the deeply introspective way it makes her feel.
The creator stated: “I love how present I am and how free I feel at events. Being on the dance floor listening to live music has always made me feel more connected to myself!” Kapotes went on to comment on how she too, finds rave fashion to be incredibly empowering and feels as though it acts as a “creative outlet for [her] to express herself.” She noted: “I feel more like myself fully dressed up in my outfits than I do in my day to day clothes.”
Similarly to how the revival of Y2K brought back the likes of low rise jeans, belly chains and camis, the recent heightened interest in raving culture—or, as it’s known to some, the cyber raver aesthetic—has also helped curate the fits of this generation’s rebels and extroverts. Metallic bodysuits, glitter, and abstract cut-outs has now become synonymous with gen Zers’ disenfranchisement and desire for experience.
While there might be some serious disparity between the political and social perspectives of gen Zers versus gen X, or even millennials—there are some valid similarities when it comes to our aversion to the status quo in our youth. And, while social media and technology might’ve changed the way people engage with music, culture and community, the reasoning behind that engagement has always stayed the same.
The internet, for all its wonder and faults, has had a profound role in getting young people into rave culture. As found by Bekah, “we have much more accessibility in regard to different choices of music venues with amazing setups. And we’re also now able to connect with people in other countries to travel there to sample their scenes, something that was never possible before. Most of my raving friends I met online, so I think this community can be used to connect people.”
Kapotes reiterated this thought process, stating: “I think the scale and popularity of raving has grown tremendously just given the boom of dance music in the early 2010s, and the live events industry has also grown with the help of social media.” The likes of Instagram and TikTok have helped the commercial rave scene to boom, as well as allowing the underground scene to also solidify itself in the youth zeitgeist.
On the surface, raving culture may seem like a smoke screen for heavy drug use, vandalism and anarchy. But, in reality, it’s been a universal method for people to find solidarity among like-minded communities who champion diversity, inclusion and individualism.
In war-torn Ukraine, the progressive and vibrant dance scene has found a way to continue to thrive. As reported by Vice, Ukrainian DJs and artists gathered together after the Russian invasion and began throwing collective parties for anyone who was seeking respite from the psychological impact of the conflict. Primarily taking place in the nation’s capital Kyiv, the war has actually given the Ukrainian electronic music scene a massive boost, and a number of the events that’re put on donate all proceeds to the army.
Kapotes concluded: “Fashion, production and music may all have evolved, but I still think people have the same intentions for raving that they did 20 years ago. It’s a way to let loose, have fun and feel connected to something bigger than yourself.”
So, there we have it. To rave or not to rave? Gen Zers might be revolutionising some of the ways in which we consume music and immersive dance experiences, but at the heart of it all, we’re all just searching for our own slice of escapism.
Times have changed and, along with it, so have tastes and expectations. The 2022 Instagram report confirmed that, in relation to fashion choices, sustainability is a key issue for gen Zers. Climate concerns, the cost of living crisis, and the rising cost of luxury goods are driving the demand for new brands and solutions who have the tools to feed this appetite.
Providing alternatives to the most expensive substance on earth, diamonds, is a great example of how some luxury sub-sectors are embracing this switch in preferences. Gen Zers—and millennials— are very holistic about purchasing choices and want brands which will actively support their own beliefs and causes. The proof is in the pudding, just look at what happened to Balenciaga…
So, with that in mind, let’s consider all of the factors as to why all you TikTok scrollers out there should think about switching from high-pressure carbon, to lab-grown jewellery. Of course, another completely valid option is to stay away from the market altogether and hunker down amid this wild financial and living crisis.
We all know that diamonds are expensive, and it makes sense why. Their rarity is continuously driving up the price. The more diamonds sold, the less there are to sell—and so those left in the market are worth that little bit more. Though not completely finite, diamonds are said to take millions of years to form naturally, compared to the days, weeks, or months it takes to make a lab diamond.
Naturally, lab diamonds are less expensive owing to their ability to be grown in a (you guessed it) lab. At around 20 to 30 per cent the price of a comparable natural diamond, it’s no wonder that these man-made creations are becoming all the rage among netizens who’re trying to channel the celestial aesthetic, a subculture which has been dominating gen Zer fashion recently.
However, there is something to be said for the fact that the sheer drop in price does mean your home-grown gems won’t hold much value after they’ve left the safety and comfort of the lab.
Mined diamonds are formed when carbon deposits into the earth’s mantle— the layer between the earth’s crust and core for those of you who didn’t pay attention in geography class. This carbon is then subject to a naturally occurring high level of heat and pressure.
The good news is that up until this point, there’s no negative impact on the environment. The problem starts when these diamonds are mined to be processed, packaged up and subsequently placed on the neck of the world’s top one percent.
In order to find a diamond, a whole area of earth needs to be dug up, usually this also involves draining any bodies of water in the area too. The diamond sits roughly 100 miles below the ground, and so at least this much earth needs to be removed. In the areas where diamond mining takes place, water scarcity is almost a given; and if water is available, it is almost always of bad quality which can harbour diseases like malaria and respiratory infections.
Now, on the other side of things, lab-grown diamonds have exploded in popularity due to the fact their creation has zero negative social or environmental impact.
SCREENSHOT recently spoke with Corinne Taylor-Davis, resident gemologist at ethical lab diamond jeweller Do Amore, to learn more about the production process. The expert explained: “There are two ways of growing lab diamonds: Chemical vapour deposition (CVD) and High pressure, High temperature (HPHT).
Taylor-Davis continued: “Both start with a diamond seed (a tiny fragment of diamond about the width of a piece of hair). HPHT involved mimicking the environment that natural diamonds grow in, whereas CVD “was the catalyst for the recent lab diamond boom.” The latter is a high-temperature, low-pressure environment, and the longer the ‘seed’ is left to grow, the bigger it will get.
Sustainable jewellery brands, due to the nature of the lab and creating of the ethical diamonds, tend to have a strong stance on community well-being. The aforementioned Do Amore is a brand that prioritises conflict-free diamonds and sustainable mining practices, and its founder Krish Himmatramka began his professional career as an engineer, and soon his responsibility was drilling for oil.
Himmatramka explained: “I learned how hard it was to drill for oil but how easy it was to drill for water; it took weeks to get to oil but only minutes to get to the water. I couldn’t believe there were people dying from not having clean water and it was literally just 30 yards beneath them.”
With his brand, Himmatramka has since created an opportunity for anyone buying a diamond through his company to change someone’s life by providing them with clean water. To date the brand has touched the lives of 15,000 people.
Lab-grown diamonds and naturally sourced diamonds are both chemically and physically identical, and from the naked eye, it’s near impossible to tell the difference—a massive perk. Only experts with special instruments that detect a difference in trace elements—-the elements the stone is made up of—will be able to differentiate between the two.
So, there we have it. Lab-grown diamonds are inherently the smarter option for any socially and environmentally conscious gen Zers who’re wanting to add some shine to their wardrobes.
However, in terms of investment—it’s got to be a no. Lab-diamonds aren’t an inherently smart investment of your money, but minded diamonds definitely aren’t either. In fact, as a rule of thumb, jewellery often isn’t an investment at all, even if made from the finest diamonds money can buy.
On the surface, it can look as though pouring your money into these highly sought after gems is a great idea. In reality, however, it might be better to consider these items as simply a material representation of what actually matters— personal investment into the emotional commitments with your loved ones.