The Development of Punk Fashion

Punk fashion can be applied to numerous areas including jewelry, hairstyles, cosmetics, and clothing. The punk style has been influenced by a variety of subcultures and has, in turn, influenced many as well. The fashion is widely used as a manner of self-expression.

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The clothing started off as handmade by individuals and has become an integral part of many fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the fashion began to be produced in mass and sold in stores. Many original punks view the commercialization of the style as cheap and, essentially, a sell-out.

Punk rock is perhaps one of the most well known branches of punk fashion. It was largely created to combat their view that popular music was excessively materialistic. The “look” of the punk rocker typically included short unkempt hair which was meant to counteract the longer hair of the 1970s mainstream “hippie” disco artist in the 1970s. Bands such as Ramones donned plain clothes typically consisting of a simple T-shirt with a leather jacket. Some artists such as Patti Smith went even further by wearing second-hand drab clothing to further go against the popular colorful disco clothing.

In the U.K., the fashion of punk clothing in the 70s was largely influenced by designers such as Vivienne Westwood and the Bromley Contingent. These clothes went on to be sold in stores such as SEX, owned by Malcolm McLaren, which largely consisted of extremely offensive T-shirts with images such as swastikas, the Nazi symbol, as well as inverted crucifixes. Also, similar to the United States, leather jackets, blazers, and dress shirts became popular. Shirts with anarchist slogans with controversial pictures of figures such as Karl Marx, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin also became popular.

Punk fashion also included additional accessories reminiscent of BDSM fashions such as ripped fishnet stockings, spiked bracelets and necklaces as well as other jewelry featuring studs or spikes. Other common accessories used were safety pins, large numbers of tattoos and body piercings, and thick eyeliner and other heavy makeup worn by both men and women.

Women who considered themselves “punk” often wanted to combine both feminine and masculine looks. A popular look was wearing delicate dresses with big combat boots. The clothing was often combined with common objects in order to improve the aesthetic look of the ensemble. A common look was to rip clothing and to then hold it together with safety pins or duct tape. Other objects such as razor blades and chains were commonly used. Clothing even began to be composed of trash bags as well as the more conventional vinyl, rubber, and leather. Again, this was taken largely from sado-masochistic fetishes.

Common footwear was military combat boots as well as motorcycle boots. Popular pants included leather pants, animal print trousers, tapered jeans, as well as bondage pants. Punk fashion also took advantage of the use of hats particularly bowler hats as were seen in the movie Clockwork Orange. Hair was commonly cut short by both men and women and made to look messy and was often dyed bright colors. Although they were meant to be controversial, the 1970s was not nearly as provocative as later years.

The 1980s showed the further evolution of punk fashion both in the United Kingdom as well as in the United States. Modern punk clothing and other aspects of punk fashion were largely influenced by the British punks. The punk fashion scene of the United States was largely demonstrated through the bands such as Fear, Black Flag, and Minor Threat. The United States also showed the emersion of anti-fashion designs that focused on the angry and intimidating. Although this was somewhat different than early fashions, it was still largely influenced by the 70s punk looks.

There were several common links between the punk fashion in both the United Kingdom and in the United States. However, there are also several looks that were unique to specific geographical areas. Common footwear donned in the 1980s was Doc Marten boots, military combat boots, and motorcycle boots. In addition, accessories such as bandanas, heavy chains, and studded or spiked bands and jewelry were, as in the 1970s, very popular. Tartan kilts and utilikits, plaid skirts, as well as dirtied and torn jeans were common punk garb. Skirts made of leather were also quite common among female punks with heavy chains being used commonly as belts by both men as well as women. Belts adorned with bullets, studs, and spikes were also used.

Punk fashion, as in the 70s, consisted of novelty T-shirts as well as plaid shirts made of flannel. Slogans of a political nature as well as shirts with band names and phrases were often written on these shirts with pens and markers. Although these T-shirts and slogans were worn by punks during the 1970s, they did not become widespread and developed until the 80s. During this time, T-shirts began to be silkscreened with logos of bands, punk-related sayings, as well as other slogans. Leather jackets and vests made of denim also became increasingly popular with studs, paint, and other accessories being placed on the outerwear. Blazers, once common, became less so during this decade.

The hair was often worn either shaved, in a crew cut, as a Mohawk, or long and spiked. Mohawks were often grown out to be quite tall and spiked hair was often dyed with bright colors or thoroughly bleached. This gave the punk fashion an even more extreme look. Distinct spiked hair, known as charged hair, became popular during this era as well. Another unique hairstyle, which was known as The Misfits’ devilocks, consisted of cutting a large amount of a Mohawk while leaving the hair long around the forehead. This is still common today particularly among persons who exemplify horror-punk. The 1980s’ punk scene also featured the increase in tattoos and body piercings as well as the use of chokers with studs and spiked armbands. Women also limited the amount of feminine styles during the 1980s adopting a more masculine edge.

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