Cultural Critique of Punk Rock Fashion

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Introduction

Fashion plays a vital role in distinguishing one group from another. Besides, fashion provides more information and perception regarding a particular culture, such as Punk Rock. Punk fashion has existed for years now, and it is unique to the culture of Punk Rock. The earliest forms of punk fashion utilized the natural objects to produce the aesthetic effect. For instance, the artists’ held together their ripped pants using safety pins or wrapping with tape. Moreover, the artists made their clothing by embroidering it with markers as well as using paint to adorn their clothing. Additionally, the punk fashion also incorporated jewelry made from razor blades and safety pins. The public has always associated the rubber, leather, and vinyl clothing of the punks with transgressive sexual practices. Hence, this paper seeks to critique punk fashion as an element of Punk Rock.

Through the punk fashion and styles, the Punk Rock has demonstrated rebellion. The reason is that rebellion is the core of Punk Rock culture. Examples of such resistance include those against social inequalities and conformism. All the actions of the punks and their fashion and style, and everything else associated with Punk Rock culture is aimed at fighting against nonconformity. Conformity refers to the change in an individual’s behavior which is triggered by actual or imaginary pressure. Hence, the punks tried to rebel against the negative perceptions of the world against them. They did not tolerate the blame from ordinary people regarding homosexuality, racism and the choice of employment opportunities. The punks thought that best codes of conduct do not depend on ordinary people’s point of view.

Although the punks were young, helpless and poor back then, they knew that their fashion and style would help pass across various messages. Besides using fashion and style, they decided to transform themselves into directly offensive and threatening beings.

The style of the punks is similar to the post-war subcultures, such as the rockers and the mods. They both have an intelligible and intricate system of body decoration, which expresses their separation from the normal society, with the capability to terrify the general public. Examining the introduction of punk fashion, the punks had limited access to the current means of discourse, such as dialogue because no one would care to listen to them. Henceforth, they focused on displaying the disaffiliation and the identity of the Punk Rock culture through their dressing. According to them, the adornment was an available and direct channel for passing across information. Thus, the punks manipulated the standard codes of dressing to attain their desired fashion and style, which challenged the tolerable categories of daily dressing, and disrupted the codes and conventions of the day to day life.

The rebellious techniques of punks are similar to those used by the old avant-gardists. The fashion of both groups is characterized by unusual style and unlimited boundaries regarding art and the daily life. Besides, they utilize the association of what seems like different objects and behaviors. Moreover, both groups demonstrate deliberate provocation of the audience using unstrained performers and radically restructuring the acceptable styles of performance.

It is evident that the main components of punk fashion are tremendously shocking and extraordinary. The essential elements of this fashion include the utilization of affordable trashy fabrics to develop vulgar designs and dreadful colors. Such fabrics, which mostly had been discarded by industries, were salvaged by the punks and converted into clothing, which includes the “fly boy drainpipes”. Moreover, the punks also draped lavatory chains in graceful arcs across their chests, covered in plastic bin liners. Additionally, safety pins and spikes have been a common adornment to the punk fashion. They utilized such clothing to demonstrate self-conscious commentaries on the perceptions of taste and modernity.

The punks have also shown the refuse from conventional beauty and attractiveness. For instance, they have for long dyed their hair with bright colors before straightening it up to form spikes and Mohawks. Their body piercings are degenerate in self-mutilation. Moreover, the punks have prickled and studded their lips, nose, cheeks and eyebrows for decades. Makeup, for instance, is used by both men and women in a broad and extraordinary way. In the early punk fashion, cosmetics were used as paint in decorating their alien masks.

Since the punks thought that they were nihilists and anarchists, they had the notion that it was acceptable to insult anyone when they felt like. Hence, they wore offensive T-shirts with guerrilla artworks or sprinkled with fake blood. Besides, the general public was offended with their dishonored spiritual objects and different sexual decorations.

As a form of rebellion against the general public, the punks intrinsically valued pervasiveness and abnormality. They used the illicit iconography of sexual fetishism for predictable effect. Furthermore, the punks wore rapist masks and rubber wear, fishnet stockings and leather body suits, copied from prohibited movies and exposed to the streets. Although such fashion was banned to the general public, the punks defied the societal rules.

Despite the weird fashion, each of their adornment has a meaning, for instance, the bin liners and the safety pins are symbols of religious and spiritual poverty in their exaggerated form. Such adornment is often based on their past experiences, or simply a way of acting. Hence, this means that the use of safety pins as a decoration demonstrated the transition from reality to illusion.

The swastika is one of the controversial symbols employed in Punk Rock. Bowie and Loud Reed availed the symbol to the punks. The swastika has for long evoked a dissolute and wicked Germany, which is a notion of no future that has strictly been linked to the attitude of the punks. During the period the symbol was availed, the punks highly supported the anti-racism and anti-fascism. However, the symbol lost its iconic meaning although it is currently worn because it guarantees shock. Conservatively, the swastika is a symbol of hate and enemy. Hence, the punks have always aspired to be hated.

Despite the weird fashion trends adopted by the punks, some of them have been against fashion because they had the notion that Punk Rock should be defined by ideology rather than bizarre fashion. The anti-fashion is common during the US hardcore punk scenes, in which the artists usually dressed in plain shirts and jeans. Surprisingly, this is the opposite of their elaborate adornment and spikes that are a characteristic feature of the British punks. Hence, the US punks have adopted the simple style of the –anti-fashion ones. The female punks often dressed in army trousers and t-shirts with band labels.

The 1970s and 1980s fashion differ significantly. The 1970s punks are characterized by provocative fashion styles similar to those of the punk rockers, which included safety pins, spikes, ripped clothing and spikes. Numerous anti-fashion punks associated the hardcore style with the British fashion. The 1980s style, particularly in the US is characterized by conventional and dull fashion, with no piercings or spikes. A majority of the punks in the 80s also had short haircuts, which contrasted with the embellished leather jackets and pants.

The media and DIY (do it yourself) slogan have profoundly influenced the spread and perception of the punk fashion globally. Earlier on, the punk style followed the DIY ideology. Since the best clothes were only suitable to the rich and wealthy, the punks had to adopt other means of fashion to stand out. And since there was no money to buy new clothes because of high unemployment and low income, they tore up the old one. Fabrics were destroyed and redesigned into weird styles, thereby developing fashions which never existed before.

Because of such inventions, the punks captured the media attention, which provoked two different opinions. The new fashion trends incorporating creativity and newness among the punks became highly acceptable and celebrated. Another response was that other media outlets stigmatized the punks, terming them as offensive and ridiculous.

The media, however, began introducing the punk fashion into the fashion magazines. Nevertheless, the young punks still represented strange ways of living. The attitude of the media and the perception of the whole society shifted from demonizing punk to neutralizing it. Therefore, the diffusion of punk fashion from the Punk Rock culture to the fashion market was not a social process, but rather an actual network of the contemporary commercial institutions.

Malcolm McLaren is one of the pioneers of punk fashion after opening a fashion store called Let It Rock. Within the punk fashion market, the entrepreneur understood the new needs of a small segment of the fashion market. The section comprised of the individuals overlooked and hated by the society. Thus, McLaren satisfied these consumers effectively through fashion. Nonetheless, McLaren faced a remote risk of social criticism. For instance, in 1976, the store got fined for exposing explicit fashion to the public. During this period, however, the punk fashion was gradually converted into commodities, as it gained international recognition. The mainstream fashion industry, therefore, gained interest in the punk fashion segment, which led to the large-scale production of coded, clean and acceptable versions of the Punk Rock symbols for the Punk Rock culture. However, the new punk fashion was not original because it symbolized a detachment from the Punk Rock culture.

With great investment and mass production of the punk fashion, anyone in the world had the opportunity to order their desired adornment from the production industries. The previous safety pins and other piercings were converted into sensible jewelry for the punks. Thus, this period is often remembered for the time when the Punk Rock culture was eliminated, leading to the generation of punk fashion.

Different subgroups within the Punk Rock culture have demonstrated a variety of fashion and style. One of the punk fashion styles is the Anarcho-punk one. In this type of way, they dressed in the black military attire. The fashion style is characterized by excessive use of anarchist codes and slogans on their clothes. Besides, the members of this subculture have spikes with Mohawk hairstyles. Moreover, tight trousers and boots are collective within this fashion style. The punks who are part of this subculture aim at intimidating and offending of the general public. Their symbols and slogans are also aimed at communicating various messages to society on issues such as racism.

Secondly, the hardcore punk became popular in the 1980s was different from all other forms of Punk Rock with regards to fashion and style. The hardcore punk fashion styles sensitize personal comfort and the capability to mosh. The punks in the hardcore style do not wear safety pins, spikes or chains. However, they wear simple T-shirts and regular pants. Adidas shoes and other sneakers are common in this group. Hence, the message communicated by the hardcore style is that Punk Rock is not defined by fashion but by the music and ideology.

Thirdly, the horror punk and deathrock is another style of punk fashion. The punks in this fashion style incorporate sexy objects into their fashion. Such objects include fishnet stockings and both men and women wear makeup. Moreover, these groups are common in the 21st century. Their culture is characterized by the use of occult and horrific imagery, particularly on their clothing. The style is familiar in the US and Germany. The main aim of this style is to cause intimidation within the society. Besides, it demonstrates that the standard codes of fashion are not confined, and people have the choice to explore them.

Lastly, the pop punk is another style of punk fashion characterized by the punks wearing baggy trousers and band jackets. The style was standard in 2010 because of the inspiration from hip-hop and indie rock. The style of pop punk is varied and seems to have an exact meaning or message. The reason is that the style incorporates many aspects of fashion, not only from the Punk Rock but also from other genres of music in the world.

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