Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1975 Anglo-Am. punk
Subject: punk rocker
Culture: English, American youth
Setting: youth subculture, England/America 1970s-1980s

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Croll 2014 p84-85
"Youth culture's collective loss of innocence spawned a subculture with a particularly hard edge: punk.  Punk appeared in New York and London in the seventies, and the look and lifestyle were wound up inextricably with punk music and bands like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.  Spiked hair, piercings, studded belts, and torn shirts were a symbolic middle finger to society, an embodiment of the subculture's antiestablishment attitude.  The look spawned legions of imitators (often described as 'poseurs'), and punk's legitimacy has been an issue ever since, exemplified by the song 'Punk Is Dead' by Crass: 'Ain't for revolution, it's just for cash / Punk became a fashion just like hippy used to be / Ain't got a thing to do with you or me.'"

* Punk! 2012 p7
"Punk rock developed in the UK, the USA and Australia during the mid-1970s as a grass-roots reaction to the perceived excesses and pretensions of disco and mainstream rock. Punk bands played fast, hard-edged music, typically with basic instrumentation and often anti-establishment lyrics. Their short songs, backed by distorted guitars and loud drumming, drew heavily on 1960s garage rock and 1970s pub rock.
    "Bands such as the Ramones in New York, and the Sex Pistols and The Clash in London were the forerunners of this new musical movement, which would soon spread around the world. A punk sub-culture emerged, with an anti-establishment, anti-capitalist ethos, and characterised by distinctive clothing and accessories. The latter was designed to make a non-conformist, provocative statement, and included spiked and studded leather jackets and chokers, chain belts, heavy boots, ripped T-shirts (often bearing hand-written anarchic or offensive slogans and held together with safety pins), rubber and leather fetishwear, 'drainpipe' jeans and bondage trousers with their legs joined by long straps. Some punks made a point of wearing dirty, secondhand clothes as a stand against consumerism.
    "Many punks wore unkempt, short hair, but bright, unnatural colours became popular, as did styling the hair into startling shapes, including tall spikes and the famed Mohican, or Mohawk, crop. Tattoos and piercings complemented the look."

* Fogg ed. 2013 p416
"The punk phenomenon erupted in London in 1976.  Although many musical influences came from the United States, in particular New York's proto-punk scene, it was in London that all the elements came together to create a blueprint for the movement.  This consisted of an explosive mix of simple, loud, and aggressive music combined with a startling approach to dress and appearance.  Punk espoused a DIY aesthetic whereby the individual was empowered to construct their own identity through music, clothing, attitude, and even name changes.  Self-expression, experimentation, and above all, outrage were the guiding principles to what became a bricolage approach to the reinvention of the self."

* Hebdige 1979 p25-26
"It was during this strange apocalyptic summer [1976] that punk made its sensational debut in the music press.  In London, especially in the south west and more specifically in the vicinity of the King's Road, a new style was being generated combining elements drawn from a whole range of heterogeneous youth styles.  In fact punk claimed a dubious parentage.  Strands from David Bowie and glitter-rock were woven together with elements from American proto-punk (the Ramones, the Heartbreakers, Iggy Pop, Richard Hell), from that faction within London pub-rock (the 101-ers, the Gorillas, etc.) inspired by the mod subculture of the 60s, from the Canvey Island 40s revival and the Southend r & b bands (Dr Feelgood, Lew Lewis, etc.), from the northern soul and from reggae.
    "Not surprisingly, the resulting mix was somewhat unstable: all these elements constantly threatened to separate and return to their original sources.  Glam rock contributed narcissism, nihilism and gender confusion.  American punk offered a minimalist aesthetic (e.g. the Ramones' 'Pinhead' or Crime's 'I Stupid'), the cult of the Street and a penchant for self-laceration.  Northern Soul (a genuinely secret subculture of working-class youngsters dedicated to acrobatic dancing and fast American soul of the 60s, which centres on clubs like Wigan Casino) brought its subterranean tradition of fast, jerky rhythms, solo dance styles and amphetamines; reggae its exotic and dangerous aura of forbidden identity, its conscience, its dread and its cool.  Native rhythm 'n blues reinforced the brashness and the speed of Northern Soul, took rock back to the basics and contributed a highly developed iconoclasm, a thoroughly British persona and an extremely selective appropriation of the rock 'n roll heritage."


* Young 2016 p134
"It was in April 1973 that the New York and London movement collided, when Westwood and McLaren went to New York to display their designs and ended up at the Chelsea Hotel with Andy Warhol, the New York Dolls and Richard Hell, who was a source of fascination for McLaren, describing him as 'deconstructed, torn down, looking like he'd crawled out of a drain hole.' McLaren brought the look back to London, and inspired by the New York Dolls, decided to create a pop group who could showcase the fashions of the shop. They changed their look from Teddy boy style to rocker, calling the shop Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die. They sold sleeveless black t-shirts, customised with studs spelling out 'scum' or 'Venus', zips placed over each nipple and bleached chicken bones linked with chains that spelled 'rock'."

* Young 2016 p133-134
"Punk is considered to have two different origins -- in New York around 1974 in the Bowery clubs of CBGB and OMFUG,and in London in 1975 at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's King's Road boutique. Punk in New York was an artistic rebellion where the clothing was black and ripped,a dirtied rock'n'roll look, while in England punk had a political message. It was a rebellion against the establishment through outrageous slogan t-shirts, bondage wear and anything that was ripped up and uglified, making a statement in the face of unemployment, service strikes and poverty.
      "Punk was about DIY fashion, buying from thrift stores, fixing with a safety pin, deconstructing fabrics, tearing up pieces of tartan, old combat fatigues and suit jackets to create something new. Even a black bin bag could make a style statement. 'That was a perfect, perfect item of clothing. You'd just cut out a hole for your head and your arms and put a belt on and you looked 'stunning,' said Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten
"New York in the early 1970s had lost its sense of optimism; the hippie dream had died, and there was a punk rock movement growing from the dank east village clubs. Their clothing reflected nostalgia for rock'n'roll, with black leathers and jeans inspired by Marlon Brando and the Fonz, but their t-shirts were ripped, their clothing was held together with safety pins and they wore sneakers rather than motorcycle boots. Musician Richard Hell had the ultimate rebellious haircut -- an exaggerated schoolboy cut, as if he had taken a razor blade to it. 'A guy with a haircut like that couldn't have an office job. And no barber could even conceive of it. It was something you had to do yourself,' he said."

* Dirix 2016 p164
"Whereas the first half of the decade [1970s] was dominated by fantasy, retro, pastiche, and ethnic styles, things changed dramatically in the second half. From 1975 through to late 1979, mainstream fashion became both more conservative and more severe.  In youth and street fashions, the designer-hippie ethos of freedom and choice was followed by the nihilistic and shocking styles of Punk, while the middle classes increasingly gravitated toward the uniformity of the Dress for Success look (signaling the advent of the dominant power-dressing look of the 1980s).
    "This shift by youth culture toward the violence and deliberate bad taste of Punk fashions, and the middle classes' increasingly conservative look, were born out of the same reasons: the deepening economic crisis, political upheaval, and social fragmentation.  But whereas the former chose to visually confront these social ills, the latter tried to adjust to them and fit in through the adoption of a uniform style.
    "In opposition to hippie youth culture style, Punk clothes were generally black and deliberately menacing.  Punks, like hippies before them, adopted a do-it-yourself ethos and either made their own clothes or purchased second-hand garments, often customizing them.  For those on more generous budgets, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren's boutique Seditionaries (originally called Sex) on the Kings Road in London sold ready-to-wear bondage pants, T-shirts with sexually and politically explicit imagery, and deliberately 'ugly' mohair sweaters in garish colors.
    "While Punk, with its extreme styles, had little impact on mainstream fashions, it had nevertheless picked up on the sinister and growing cultural undercurrent of (sexual) violence and brutality."

* Calasibetta/Tortora 2003 p382
"punk/punk look ... Fashion originating in London in the late 1970s that was a demand for attention and a protest against the establishment by working-class teenagers, who were largely unemployed. Their idea was to scare and frighten their elders, who responded with feelings of rage, guilt, compassion, and fear. It included pasty white makeup, blackened eyes, and much lipstick; hair was cut short and dyed or painted startling colors (e.g., red, yellow, orange, green, or lavender). Clothing included black leather jackets, stud-decorated jeans, and T-shirts printed with vulgar messages or pornographic images. Clothing was torn and soiled, held together by safety pins. Favorite accessory was a bicycle- or dog chain worn around the neck, sometimes used to fasten one leg to the other."

* Schnurnberger 1991 p394
"In 1974 Malcom [SIC] Mac Claren [SIC], co-owner (with designer Vivianne [SIC] Westwood) of the London boutique 'Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die' (later shortened to 'Sex'), meets Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell of the band 'Television.' Verlaine and Hell sport the first spike haircuts, which Mac Claren [SIC] helps to popularize. The style is achieved by applying massive gobs of Vaseline to hold it in place, and then talcum-powdering down (à la eighteenth-century wigs) to relieve the wet look. The punk look is born.
    "Basic black -- in turtlenecks, shirts, short leather skirts, and tight leather pants -- is the mainstay of the punk uniform -- accented by Mohawk haircuts in startling pink, fluorescent green, or purple. Of course, to avoid hair coloring decisions, some punkers simply shave their heads. Punks like to mix materials -- they'll fling a squirrel fur over a chintz dress; stick feathers in their hair; women will don fuschia [SIC] crochet golves [SIC]. But their most important accessories come in metal -- spikes and studs, heavy crosses, bracelets, and several pairs of earrings worn in one lobe, chain belts, and safety pins -- stuck through their noses. True punks slam dance and follow the beat of the Dead Kennedys."

* Young 2016 p139
"The punk look spread quickly during Britain's heatwave of 1976 and into the next summer, when the anarchy flag spread worldwide as the international press gathered in London for jubilee celebrations and the royal pageant.
    "[...] Punk style would evolve into t-shirts, black leather studded jackets, bondage trousers, skinny jeans, Doc Martens, Mohawks and body piercings, with an exaggerated uglification from 1979 onwards. It also became incorporated into haute couture -- from Zandra Rhodes 'Conceptual Chic' collection, with punk hardware of chains, zips and safety pins inspired by the look at the Roxy club, to Versace's safety-pin dress, famously worn by Liz Hurley in 1994, and the designs of Alexander McQueen.
    "But, as John Lydon said: 'At heart, punk was a street culture. It came from kids on the street, doing it yourself. The trouble is that punk got co-opted, and distorted by the media. People find it hard to get away from the clichés, from the popularised eighties version of punk, and it became a stereotype.'"