Cuba is an island in more ways than one: The Florida coast is just a measly 90 miles away, but Cuba may as well be in a totally separate solar system. Only a very tiny fraction of its residents have regular access to the internet. Its press is restricted to sunny stories about the country's athletic and cultural successes. Don't even get me started on the cars—growling, gas-gargling relics from an era when Don Draper was still mucking about in Korea.
But outside Maxim Rock, Havana's government-funded metal club built to pacify the area's legions of rockers, punks, skaters and frikis, you'd never know you were in a country populated by people who have never seen a McDonald's. Skinny jeans have invaded Havana. Sleeve tattoos are commonplace. One man in Buddy Holly glasses declared the source of his sartorial inspiration to be MTV. "We smoke weed every day," he announced proudly. The tides are certainly changing in Havana: Until 2003, the penalty for getting caught trafficking drugs was death by firing squad.
Anti-government lyrics are tempered by the state's ever-vigilant eye of Sauron, but so far, the state doesn't seem care how its comrades dress. Gauged ears are common, as is jewelry on both sexes. The nice thing about metal is that seasons and years may slip by, but the style remains the same: Long hair is always in vogue, as are tattoos and piercings. In Havana, as in New York, Oslo or anywhere else on this fragile Earth, you can never go wrong with a black t-shirt, a wallet chain and an air of benign menace. Please plan to include at least one skull or flaming cross.