On May 19, Gerard Way walked onstage at My Chemical Romance’s show in Milton Keynes, England, in a white suit covered in fake blood, wearing a white mask with the Meta logo (yes, that Meta) on it. It was a bizarre look, even for the singer, who has never been a stranger to outrageous costumes over the band’s many eras.
Fans who were at the show or simply following along on social media, wanted to know what was up with Way’s outfit. So they immediately went about deconstructing it, posting theories, photos, breakdowns, and TikToks about it. They affectionately dubbed this getup—or character—“Meta Man.”
Was “Meta Man” just the revamped version of the Demolition Man, the nickname given to the ill-fated anti-hero of My Chemical Romance’s first two albums? Way did look a lot like the figure depicted in the single artwork for “I’m Not Okay.” Or was it a callback to Way’s Danger Days alter-ego Party Poison, speculated by fans to have turned into one of the evil henchmen from that album’s fictional universe? The henchmen wear white suits, and the blood is fitting for a character who was believed to be dead. (Not to mention that Party Poison was fighting against a big corporation.)
There’s no concrete answer (yet) as to the significance or backstory of “Meta Man.” But they were just one of several characters fans watched emerge during My Chemical Romance’s month-long touring stint in the United Kingdom and Europe—the band’s first tour since breaking up in 2013 and announcing its reunion in late 2019. All the outfits have given MCR lovers tons of fodder to discuss, whether they were able to see their favorite band live or just enjoy some good-quality phone footage from the shows.
No matter who saw these outfits in-person or not, everyone’s had the chance to discuss them. Fans in attendance have been going live on Instagram, so that others could watch in real-time too. They came together on Twitter to crowdsource setlists for each show, since the band played different songs on each date. And TikTokers compiled clips of the band’s antics, banter and performances each night. While onstage, and even in interviews, Way has spoken out against social media, the My Chemical Romance fandom continues to thrive online most of all.
And it’s social media—mainly TikTok and Twitter—that I turn to for the updates that I need the most: Way’s on-stage outfits. I’ve become absolutely fixated on their choice of attire, and these outfits continue to puzzle me. While they wore relatively normal clothes on most of the tour dates for this run, every now and again, Way would surprise the audience with a striking fashion choice. And every time I’ve seen one online, I’ve been tormented by two questions that not even the super sleuths on TikTok can answer: What does this outfit mean, and what will Gerard do next?
With “Meta Man” and their other outfits over the past month— fans even speculated that the more toned-down, yet still slightly unusual, pale pink button-up shirt Way wore in Bonn, Germany, was the shirt from the Meta Man outfit after a trip through the wash—Way definitely seems like they’re trying to tell us something about new music, old music or… something else potentially. But I still can’t figure out what it is they’re saying and what it has to do with any of these fashion choices, which seemed to me to get only wilder and less comprehensible as the tour went on. Which is why I absolutely cannot stop thinking about each and every single one of these bizarre costumes, from the clown suit to the face-paint-rain-poncho combo.
Could Way’s stage costumes simply be references to past eras of the band? Fans online have pointed out the similarities between their recent skull-like black-and-white face paint and The Patient, the central character of The Black Parade. (This tour look was completed with an olive-green rain poncho, worn on account of the weather forecast.)
Could they have been even longer in the making, and this was just the first chance Way got to wear them? When presenting Way’s and guitarist Frank Iero’s “vinegar” and “piss” T-shirt ensemble on-stage during their third Milton Keynes show, Way laughed, “I thought this shit up so long ago, we weren’t even a band at the time.” But the shirts look similar to Iero’s “homophobia is gay” shirt as well as the “i am a monster” shirt from his old Skeleton Crew clothing line, which was also worn at one point by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz.
Or could Way have been planning to wear these outfits on past tours, but never got the chance to do so? In a 2010 interview, Way said that short-shorts (which they recently donned on stage) would have been “the mandatory uniform” for the shows My Chemical Romance was planning to play in-character as the Mad Gear and Missile Kid, a fictional band within the Danger Days universe. While they never got to play those shows, the band has been playing songs from The Mad Gear and Missile Kid EP, which was only released in the deluxe box-set edition of Danger Days, on its reunion tour. The short-shorts, like the songs, are finally getting their time to shine.
Rats have also featured prominently as of late: Way told a story on-stage about their cat bringing rodents to them; they yelled “rats!” at least twice; the band even played a video about rats before a show. Fans have thrown toy rats on stage (which ended up in the hands of bassist Mikey Way’s daughters), and Way wore more than one rat-related shirt on tour. The “All Hail The Rat King” shirt, for instance, that they wore on May 30 in Glasgow, was part of a look that fans now call “Motor Oil Gerard.” It was accessorized with, you guessed it, what looked like motor oil. (Remember also that “king rat on the streets in another life” is a lyric off of MCR’s 2010 song “DESTROYA,” and that “as the vermin crawls” is a line from MCR’s 2022 song “The Foundations of Decay.”)
Then there’s the look that has confounded me most of all: a yellow clown costume with full clown makeup. I struggle to understand the meaning behind this, other than that it shares the bright color scheme of Danger Days—their most recent studio album, which gave us Party Poison and “DESTROYA.” It’s a great point for picking up the narrative if MCR chooses to release a new album.
But, to my knowledge, there were no clowns in that post-apocalyptic universe. Was this utterly baffling outfit a result of Way finally realizing their clown ambitions? Or was it a reference to something more recent, like when they joked to the crowd during a show “my friends, you’re at the fucking carnival!” or when talking about how much MCR has been enjoying this string of shows, said “every day, it’s like clown village?”
Perhaps the biggest teaser of this tour, however, didn’t appear onstage, but on the merch table, where shirts, jackets, and banners bearing the word “swarm” were for sale. They were also adorned with an image of a fly—notable, because flies were depicted in the artwork and accompanying stream for My Chemical Romance’s newest single, “The Foundations of Decay,” which contains the lyric, “And as the swarming calls, we lay in the foundations.” Many fans have speculated that this is a possible clue about upcoming music.
I can’t help thinking there’s a deeper meaning behind all of the other outfits. After all, Way’s singing career started when he acted in drama productions in school—his first part was Peter Pan—so the theatrical mentality of MCR was baked-in from the start. The band’s new album releases often involved costumes, whether it was the red-and-black suits and bulletproof vests worn during the Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge tour or the black marching-band uniforms of the Black Parade era. And sometimes, the clothing contained hints of music to come. For the band’s first-ever show, Way made a shirt with the words “Thank You for The Venom” on it, the title of a song that would appear on MCR’s second album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. When they got married during 2007’s Projekt Revolution Tour, Gerard and wife Lindsey Way both wore matching unicorn shirts with their partner’s name on it. Gerard wore a similar shirt (with “Lindsey” rather than her former stage name “Lyn-Z” on it) during MCR’s second Milton Keynes date on this 2022 tour.
As MCR fans, we’re trained to look for either winks to past work or clues for new music in any content bestowed on us by the band. It’s a lot like that It’s Always Sunny meme: We piece together the meaning of each song, image, and video through screenshots of magazine articles and interview clips and, now, social media videos from tour dates. It’s not just obsession for obsession’s sake: In 2020, MCR announced its initial set of tour dates via a 13-minute video chock-full of Easter eggs. We know this trail of breadcrumbs leads somewhere, but where, we don’t know quite yet.
But where will Way’s outfits lead us? And what do they tell us about possible new music? Do they reveal anything about the existing music? And what does Way’s clown costume have to do with any of it? Alas, to badly paraphrase MCR’s peers who we are also eagerly awaiting new music from, these outfits I can’t decode.