Growing Up Gabber

DIS talks to Dutch designer Tom Nijhuis about his recent hardcore dance-inspired collection, /1995.

Tell us about growing up with gabber and how it inspired this collection.
[When I was] a 9-year-old boy, my family and I went shopping and I picked up a CD called Thunderdome #7. This was a compilation CD with all the biggest hardcore gabber tracks on it. It was such an inappropriate CD for a 9 year old, but I’m thankful now. At the time, the gabber scene was really becoming a big thing in Holland, and I remembered looking up to the real gabbers; they looked real cool and tough. The wardrobe of the gabber was pretty strict; it all came down to an over-priced tracksuit from the brand Australian or a Cavello bomber jack, Nike Air Max Classic b/w shoes and silver necklaces with the Figaro chain. So of course I begged my mom to death to get all of these and succeeded, but there was one more key to the gabber look and that was to shave my head bald. This is something my mom would not let me to do to my long blond hair. So I chose an alternative which was called the Rotterdam style, where you would have the sides shaven bold and long hair on top of your head, slicked back with a lot of gel. I thought she wouldn’t notice if I would dress my hair down, but she did. But there was no stopping me; I kept doing my hair like that! I remembered going to a youth base where they would play loud hardcore music and had a lot of strobe lights and they illegally would deal XTC. I was way too young but sneaked in if the social worker who was on watch was gone. That was pretty intense. I was about 11, and everybody in there 16 to 20. When I was 13, I sneaked out of the house and went to real raves, but when I was old enough to legally go to ravesm the original gabber scene was not the same as it used to be. The wardrobe changed, and the scene became more skinhead and aggressive.

Love how every single girl at the ’90s gabber party in this video is wearing a sports bra. What year is that? Is it in Holland?
This is at the Tunnel of Terror at Mystery Land, probably around 1995. It´s an big outdoor commercial rave. Hardcore gabber music was created at the moment XTC hit the house scene in the early ’90s.

I guess Holland even today is the biggest supplier in XTC. At raves people who took a lot XTC stood in front of the speakers drugged out their minds, raving the night away. But the thing is with this drug that you never experience it as strong as the first time, so they gradually would take more and more when going to parties. So, all pumped up, they would tell the DJ to play their music faster and faster. Most of the rave DJ’s were opposed to the music going up to 160 BPMs, so a small group of them would take their new music to underground parties, mostly at illegal locations like bunkers and old abandoned buildings. Eventually the music became a huge successm and they ended up doing big commercial festival like raves called Thunderdome, Mystery Land, Hell Raiser.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little place called Eibergen in the Netherlands; it’s in the so-called backyard of Holland where actually never anything happens. My dad owned a toy store, and because of that I never took too much interest to toys; the real presents where when my mom brought home new clothing. Those were the best!

You seem really consumed by athletics. We love how sporty your clothes are. What’s your relationship with sports?
The collection is a stylistic portrayal of gabber. It is sporty since I tried to stay close to the wardrobe of the gabber, which only consists of sportswear. I am not that sporty a person and remembered somebody telling me that she never expected by the looks of me that I made this collection. Then again, I do love all the trademarks of sportswear: the technical fabrics and their vibrant colors, the textures and strength, zippers, mesh, stretch waistbands, and its youthfulness.

How did you do your casting?
There is this profile site called Party Flock, and it has an online agenda for raves and such, so that is where I ended up finding actual gabber girls. It is a small group, but I was lucky with these beauties.

What’s going on in the Dutch fashion scene?
Well I still live in Arnhemm which proclaims to be the new fashion capital of Holland, but I see more chances abroad so I am focusing on my own work, living a kind of bit sheltered in this fairly quiet city. I have a nice house with an atelier, which kept me from moving out right awaym but I will move abroad within a year. It’s inevitable.

Who are your Dutch contemporaries?
Meinke Klein, Maarten van der Horst, Levi van Veluw.

What’s next for you?
I am going to do an internship at Nike EMEA; that’s the European HQ. After an internship at Thom Browne, which I did in my third year of the Art Academy, I decided I want to do something totally different and see how such a huge company as Nike works. I love their image and always feel so professional when I gear up in my Nike running apparel!

Growing Up Gabber: TOMNIJHUIS’ Childhood Playlist

TOMNIJHUIS collection photography and .gifs by Meinke Klein.

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