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Punk fashion is the clothing, hairstyles, cosmetics, jewelry, and body modifications of the punk subculture. Punk fashion varies widely, ranging from Vivienne Westwood designs to styles modeled on bands like The Exploited. The distinct social dress of other subcultures and art movements, including glam rock, skinheads, rude boys, greasers, and mods have influenced punk fashion. Punk fashion has likewise influenced the styles of these groups, as well as those of popular culture. Many punks use clothing as a way of making a statement.
Punk fashion has been extremely commercialized at various times, and many well-established fashion designers — such as Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier — have used punk elements in their production. Punk clothing, which was initially handmade, became mass produced and sold in record stores and some smaller specialty clothing stores by the 1980s.
Punk rock was an intentional rebuttal of the perceived excess and pretension found in mainstream culture as a whole, and early punk artists’ fashion was defiantly anti-materialistic.
In the United States, dirty, simple clothes – ranging from the T-shirt/jeans/leather jacket Ramones look to the low-class, second-hand “dress” clothes were preferred over the expensive or colorful clothing popular in the disco scene. In the United Kingdom, a great deal of punk fashion from the 1970s was based on the designs of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren and the Bromley Contingent. Mainstream punk style was influenced by clothes sold in Malcolm McLaren’s shop. Deliberately offensive T-shirts were popular in the early punk scene. These T-shirts, like other punk clothing items, were often torn on purpose.
Other items in early British punk fashion included: leather jackets; customised blazers; and dress shirts randomly covered in slogans, blood, patches and controversial images. Other accoutrements worn by some punks included: BDSM fashions; fishnet stockings (sometimes ripped); spike bands and other studded or spiked jewelry; safety pins (in clothes and as body piercings); silver bracelets and heavy eyeliner worn by both men and women. Many female punks rebelled against the stereotypical image of a woman by combining clothes that were delicate or pretty with clothes that were considered masculine, such as combining a Ballet tutu with big, clunky boots.
Punk clothing sometimes incorporated everyday objects for aesthetic effect. Purposely ripped clothes were held together by safety pins or wrapped with tape; black bin liners (garbage bags) became dresses, shirts and skirts. Other items added to clothing or as jewellery included razor blades and chains. Leather, rubber and vinyl clothing have been common, possibly due to their connection with transgressive sexual practices, such as bondage and S&M. Preferred footwear included military boots, motorcycle boots, brothel creepers, Puma Clydes (suede), Chuck Taylor All-Stars and later, Dr. Martens boots. Tapered jeans, tight leather pants, trousers with leopard patterns and bondage pants were popular choices. Other early punks (most notably The Adicts) imitated the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange by wearing bowler hats and braces. Hair was cropped and deliberately made to look messy, and was often dyed bright unnatural colors. Although provocative, these hairstyles were not as extreme as later punk hairstyles.
In the 1980s, new fashion styles developed as parallel resurgences occurred in the United States and United Kingdom. What many recognize as typical punk fashions today emerged from the 1980s British scene, when punk underwent its Oi!/street punk, and UK82 renaissance. The US scene was exemplified by hardcore bands such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Fear. The 1980s American scene spawned a utilitarian anti-fashion that was nonetheless raw, angry, and intimidating. However, elements of the 1970s punk look never fully died away. Some of the following clothing items were common on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and some were unique to certain geographic areas. Footwear that was common in the 1980s punk scene included Dr. Martens boots, motorcycle boots and combat boots; sometimes adorned with bandanas, chains or studded leather bands.
Jeans (sometimes dirty, torn or splattered with bleach) and tartan kilts or skirts were commonly worn. Leather skirts became a popular item for female punks. Heavy chains were sometimes used as belts. Bullet belts, and studded belts (sometimes more than one worn at a time) also became common. Some punks bought T-shirts or plaid flannel shirts and wrote political slogans, band names or other punk-related phrases on them with marker pens. Silkscreened T-shirts with band logos or other punk-related logos or slogans were also popular.
Studded, painted and otherwise customised leather jackets or denim vests became more popular during this era, as the popularity of the earlier customized blazers waned. Hair was either shaved, spiked or in a crew cut or Mohawk hairstyle. Tall mohawks and spiked hair, either bleached or in bright colors, took on a more extreme character than in the 1970s. Charged hair, in which all of one’s hair stands on end but is not styled into distinct spikes, also emerged. A hairstyle similar to The Misfits’ devilocks was popular. This involved cutting a mohawk but leaving a longer tuft of hair at the front of the head. It is still popular to this day in the Horror-Punk scene. Body piercings and extensive tattoos became very popular during this era, as did spike bands and studded chokers. Some hardcore punk women reacted to the earlier 1970s movement’s coquettish vibe by adopting an asexual style.
Anarcho-punk fashion usually features all-black militaristic clothing, a style that was pioneered by the English punk band Crass. A prominent feature is the heavy use of anarchist symbols and slogans on clothing items. Some who define themselves as anarcho-punks opt to wear clothing similar to traditional punk fashions or that of crust punks, but not often to the extreme of either subculture. Mohawk hairstyles and liberty spikes are seen. Tight trousers, bands T-shirts and boots are common. Hairstyling products often are used only if the company that manufactures it did not test them on animals. Leather, often avoided due to veganism, may be replaced with imitation leather or cloth in a similar design as leather products.
Fans of Celtic punk and Gaelic punk often mix various punk fashions with traditional Irish or Scottish clothing styles, sometimes incorporating elements of highland dress. Common items include boots, sneakers, jeans, work trousers, kilts, grandfather shirts, T-shirts, hoodies, black leather jackets, peacoats, donkey jackets, football shirts, flat caps, tuques, Tam O’Shanter caps and Trilby hats. Hair is usually cut relatively short.
Fans of cowpunk base their look on Southern United States poor boys: vintage western wear-like checked shirts, Perfecto motorcycle jackets, wifebeaters, overalls, trucker hats, work boots, acid wash jeans, and cowboy boots. Hair can be a short quiff, crew cut, long, or a psychobilly-style mohawk, and facial hair is acceptable for males.
Crust punk or gutter punk fashion is heavily influenced by bands such as Doom, Amebix and Antisect. Typical crust punk fashion includes black or camouflage trousers or shorts(heavy work pants are popular for their durability), torn band T-shirts or hoodies, skintight black jeans, vests and jackets (commonly black denim), bullet belts, jewellery made from hemp or found objects, and sometimes bum flaps. Many items of clothing are covered in patches and/or metal studs. Often the patches display a political message. Clothing tends to be unsanitary by conventional standards, and dreadlocks are popular. Crust punks sometimes sew articles of clothing with found or cheaply bought materials, such as dental floss. Pants are sometimes held up with string, hemp, or vegan-friendly imitation leather.
Dance punk fashions include day-glo colors, phat pants, glowsticks, leather studded jackets, chains and combat boots. Typical haircuts include spiky hair bleached blond, short mohawks and synthetic dreadlocks.
Garage punk bands of the 1970s like MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, the Flamin’ Groovies and the Ramones often wore secondhand clothing from the mid-late 1960s, such as velvet jackets, slim-fitting grey suits, black leather jackets, winklepickers and drainpipe jeans, in reaction to the flared trousers worn by hippies and disco fans.Their hair was generally worn long, as was then fashionable in the 1970s, but some fans opted for buzzcuts or Caesar cuts, previously associated with hard mods and bootboys. Following the 1980s garage rock revival, garage punk bands tended to dress more casually, with less overtly 1960s clothing. However, the original garage punk look remained a big influence among British indie rock groups during the mid and late-2000s.
Contemporary to the garage bands of the early 1970s, glam punk fashion, pioneered by bands like the New York Dolls, includes glitter, androgynous make-up, brightly dyed hair, drainpipe jeans, bright colours like electric blue, elements of leather fetish wear, and unusual costumes like leopard print, spandex, or satin shirts. Leftover baroque pop clothing like ruffled pirate shirts or brocade were also worn, together with more typical glam rock fashions like platform boots, tartan, kipper ties, and metallic silver clothing like jumpsuits.
Gothic rock, deathrock and horror punk
Deathrock and horror punk fashion is similar to goth fashion. Black is the predominant shade. Deathrock and horror punk incorporates a sexier image, incorporating fishnets, corsets and elaborate make-up for men and women. The use of occult and horror imagery is prevalent on T-shirts, buttons, patches and jewellery. Other common adornments include band names painted on jackets or bleached into clothes, as well as buttons or patches indicating cities. The initials D and R (for Death Rock) is sometimes part of a crossbone logo, accompanied by other initials, such as C and A for California, N and Y for New York, or G and R for Germany. Hair may be in a deathhawk style (a wider teased-out variant of the mohawk hairstyle), an angled bangs style, or a devilock style.
There are several styles of dress within the hardcore scene, and styles have changed since the genre started as hardcore punk in the late 1970s. What is fashionable in one branch of the hardcore scene may be frowned upon in another. Personal comfort and the ability to mosh are highly influential in this style. For this reason, jewellery, spikes, chains and spiky hair are highly uncommon and discouraged in hardcore fashion. Plain working class dress and short hair (with the exception of dreadlocks) are usually associated with hardcore punk. Mute colors and minimal adornment are usually common. Elements of hardcore clothing include baggy jeans or work pants, athletic wear, cargo or military shorts, khakis or cargo pants, band T-shirts, plain T-shirts, muscle shirts, and band hoodies. Common sneakers include classic Adidas Originals, Puma, Pony, Nike, Converse high-tops, and Vans shoes. Boots are also somewhat common, especially Dr. Martens.
Contemporary pop punk fashion sometimes overlaps with skater punk fashion. Originally this consisted of black or tartan baggy pants (sometimes fitted with studs and eyelets), band hoodies, wristbands, patrol caps, pyramid stud belts, dress shirts with thin ties or scarves, blazers and spiky hair or fohawks. In the mid 2000s (decade), pop punk fashion, influenced by indie rock, hip-hop and emo fashions, evolved to include cartoon print hoodies, Converse shoes, keffiyehs and skinny jeans. Spiky hair was gradually replaced by skater styles with long fringes or bangs. In the 2010s, pop punk fans took on a more hardcore look, with shorter hair (including a wide Mohawk combined with a fringe), plain hoodies and straight-leg jeans.
Psychobilly fashion combines elements of punk with 1950s Greaser and British Teddy Boy fashions. Brothel creepers are frequently worn, as well as leather jackets, gas-station shirts, black or white retro T-shirts, dark-colored drape jackets and vintage motorcycle/work boots. Hair consists of a quiff or pompadour, usually with the sides shaved into a mohawk. Clothing is usually adorned with motifs inspired by classic American horror films or art-styles inspired by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. This subculture is strongly associated with the Kustom Kulture movement.
Ska punk fans typically dress in a style that mixes typical ska- or 2 Tone-related fashions, with various types of punk fashions, including street punk, pop punk, skate punk or hardcore punk. Braces are popular, as are Harrington jackets with Royal Stewart tartan lining, thin ties, Doc Martens, mohair suits, pork pie hats, tonik suits (especially in the early years of the 1980s ska revival), tank tops, Ben Sherman or Fred Perry polo shirts, hoodies, and checkerboard patterns. Hair is cropped very short in imitation of hardcore punk bands and early 1960s rude boys.
Skate punk is a derivative of hardcore fashion, chosen with comfort and practicality in mind. Common skate punk clothing items include: T-shirts, flannel button-down shirts, hooded sweatshirts, webbing belts, and khaki shorts, pants or jeans. Some punks, especially in Southern California, mirror Latino gang styles, including khaki Dickies work pants, white T-shirts and colored bandanas. While some skateboarders have long and messy hair, skate punks usually have short hair, often shaved into a buzzcut, and wear little jewellery.
Street punk and Oi!
In general, contemporary street punks wear leather, denim, metal spikes or studs, chains and military-style boots. They often wear elements of early punk fashion, such as kutten vests, bondage trousers (often plaid) and torn clothing. There is a large influence by DIY-created and modified clothing, such as ripped or stitched-together trousers or shirts, or trousers that are tightly tapered. Jackets and vests often have patches or are painted with logos that express musical tastes or political views. Bullet belts and belts with metal studs are popular. Hair is often spiked and/or dyed in bright, unnatural colours and arranged into a mohawk or liberty spikes. Hair could also be cut very short or shaved. Oi! skinheads, sometimes known as skunks or punk-skinheads, fuse traditional skinhead style with street punk fashions.
The look is characterised by Doc Martens boots (or similar boots made by a different brand), braces, and tight rolled-up jeans, sometimes splattered with bleach. Other common items are T-shirts (featuring band names, political beliefs or other text/images relevant to skinhead culture) and denim jackets or flight jackets. These jackets are often decorated with buttons or patches, and in the case of the denim jackets, sometimes splattered with bleach. Hair is typically shaved shorter than with traditional skinheads. Other items from traditional skinhead fashion (e.g. Fred Perry and Ben Sherman shirts) and, to a lesser extent, punk fashion (e.g. short mohawk hairstyles, metal studs on jackets) are also worn.
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