Click here to see the article online, or read it in full below. Where did punk really begin? New Yorkers claim it grew out of their music scene headed by bands like the New York Dolls, but Londoners reckon the punk scene stemmed out of a specifically British mindset.
Britain saw a flurry of youth subcultures emerge during the post-war years; Teds, Mods, Skinheads … and punk came on to the scene as an expression of rebellion. Punks railed against traditional notions of gender, family and hierarchy, with punk fashion being the strongest symbol of this. Punk epitomised a D. Y attitude to fashion as a reaction against the consumerism of 70s Post Modernism — and image was everything.
Young punks wore a mish-mash of recycled clothing, often sourced from charity shops. Garments were destroyed, torn and defaced in a style more anti-fashion than fashion, as a statement against pristine clothing favoured by the affluent.
Straps, often attached to trouser legs, were a blatant reference to sexual bondage gear. Purposefully ripped T-shirts were held together with safety pins and women combined tartan kilts, laddered fishnets and heavy Doc Martens to challenge gendered clothing. Extreme hairdos, body piercings and an aggressive stance all tested the boundaries of social acceptability. To be vilified for your stance was a badge of honour not a condemnation.
Provocative music and fashion fused to create the Punk scene. Former art student turned entrepreneur, Malcolm McLaren, formed The Sex Pistols whose message was a clear call for confrontation. The Sex Pistols arrived in a hail of spitting, gobbing and loud-mouthed lyrics; Johnny Rotten blamed it on his sinuses, Julian Temple likened it to the hail of arrows at the Battle of Agincourt. The couple created punk fashions including T-shirts emblazoned with anarchic slogans.
This became an iconic, if more costly, version of punk fashion and gave rise to the formalizing of sub-culture fashion statements — but could this readymade, manufactured punk fashion still be classed as Punk D. Punk soon became popular with art students who embraced it as a music and fashion statement and a number of Punk Bands emerged, many all-female.
Modern critics consider it to be the best example of the Punk genre in film, but Punk audiences at the time hated it. Whether punk has at times been hijacked by the mainstream, its influence on arts culture and fashion in particular, is undeniable. Never before has the clothes we wear been dictated by a subculture so powerfully.
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