I’d been rejected entry into Berlin’s KitKatClub twice; both times because I wasn’t dressed appropriately. I didn’t know about their dress code at first — fetish, latex, leather, high-style or glamour attire is required. I’d given up on even trying to get in after the second rejection, but a friend of mine insisted that today was their “gay night,” so they would be more lax with the dress code. Sure enough, we got in — but only with a promise that I would remove my shirt once I got inside.
The KitKatClub is legendary in Europe, and is inspired by the sunrise Goa beach parties of the ’90s in India.
This scene in India died long ago because the native residents complained about the loud noise from the beach raves. They apparently still have Goa beach parties, but headphones are required after dark. Needless to say, it’s not what it used to be.
We went into the main dancefloor which felt a bit like the inside of a circus tent, with multi-coloured spirals and dots that glowed under the ultra-violet lights. There were fluorescent paintings on all walls, radiating abstract sex scenes. Each one looked like the cover of a trippy psy-trance album.
I grabbed a drink from one of the three female bartenders who were completely naked and covered in body paint and glitter. The dancefloor soon filled with even more sexual folks: poly couples, half-naked drag queens and gay men in jockstraps and harnesses. It was queer, glittery and absolutely outrageous.
It occurred to me that the strict dress code was some sort of crusade to fend off all things normal, which I was all for. I live more unconventionally than most (at least I think I do), but the club just wasn’t resonating with me. Perhaps because I’d been rejected from it twice, but I just didn’t feel like I belonged, despite the shared ideology. If it was a celebration of individuality where misfits were welcome, doesn’t the strict dress code put conditions on that?
I’ve never been criticized more for how I looked (with exception to my teens) as much as I have since arriving in Berlin. I’ve developed a bit of a complex as a result, and now I’m always second guessing my entire wardrobe. The main criticism I’ve received is that I don’t look cool or kinky enough.
I once dated someone who worked in the fashion industry, and he drove me crazy with it all. After that, I chose to dress as ordinarily as possible, because fashion is not an outlet for my self expression. People can express themselves in various ways — it could be through fashion, sure, but it could also be through opinions, ideas, or through sexuality, employment, attitude . . . really, the outlets are endless. It seems small minded to think that someone has nothing to contribute if they’re not wearing faux fur and a top hat.
Maybe sometimes you do need a certain code to keep a scene alive, but I think back to my experience at Folsom Fair in San Francisco. There were no rules, and no dress code. Everyone was accepted no matter what, and it didn’t detract from people dressing up. Perhaps this is a very North American way of thinking: inclusivity versus code, but it seems so much more progressive to me.
We danced until at the KitKatClub until 3am and, admittedly, I had a decent time. There were some cute boys, and the music was nice and hard. At the same time, I couldn’t help but see the club as an incubator of sorts, afraid of evolution, trying to keep something alive that had died in India 15 years ago. Don’t get me wrong; I hope it stays alive for another 15 years — Berlin has a wonderful way of keeping scenes alive which have become extinct in other countries. But I decided that my first time at the KitKitClub would be my last.