Punk is more than a style of music! It's a way to exist, and the rock rebels preferred to live with their own style. But what is the origin of the punk style ? What is its history?
Young rockstar, welcome to Skull Faction! We are passionate about rock, punk as well as punk rock, and in this article, we look at the history of the punk rock style! 🤘
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Punk Fashion Ideology
Loud, fast and simple, punk saved rock 'n' roll from suffocating from its own excesses, giving the genre a razor sharp edge it hadn't had since its inception. The rebellious spirit and willingness to question traditional conventions -like the idea that you had to know how to play an instrument before you could start a band- would find a place in almost every significant musical revolution that followed: from hip-hop to rock to techno. 🎶
But music was never just one facet of punk's identity. It's more than just a style of music, it's a whole way of being, a philosophy, an attitude and, most importantly, a look!
Characteristics of the Punk Style
The sonic foundations of Punk were laid in New York by the same people who established the beginnings of the punk style: artists like Lou Reed, the Ramones, Suicide and the New York Dolls who wanted to strip down the rock of the time and make it harder. While Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones met their ambitions to fill the arena with equally elaborate suits of velvet and glitter, the new rock rebels preferred T-shirts and Levi's jeans 👖
The Ramones created a style based on shredded Levi's 505 jeans and black leather jackets. In the mid-70s, the New York sound and style became known thanks to Blondie, among others. Singer Debbie Harry pioneered high-flow mixes of Levi's and designer pieces. Bands like Television and Blondie, had an influence on the music and style of the time. "It was shameful at the time to run around with holes in your jeans, and the Ramones would say, 'This is who we are! And we're willing to impose our style on the world to get it accepted." They did not believe so well to say...
Punk and Glam Rock Look
"We came out of the glam scene by introducing the punk look," says photographer Paul Zone, author of Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground. "When Glam Rock started to fade in 1974, half of the people who adopted that style would become involved in what would become the punk scene and the look that went with it."
In the glamorous era, Dolls wore little boys' Levi's jackets that were so small they could barely fit their arms in." This sartorial ideology would give way to a more masculine and less offbeat style. Without not imposing its own style, especially thanks to the brand Levi's which has strongly contributed to the rise of the punk look of the time.
Ripped Jeans and T-Shirts
In the middle of the 1970s, the music and the new punk look were imposed in particular thanks to the Ramones as we have seen. But also thanks to Television whose guitarist Richard Hell was one of the first performers to rock with spiked hair and ripped t-shirts held together with safety pins...
"They had no money," recalls photographer Jenny Lens. "The holes in Joey's knees were from wear and tear. It wasn't fashionable. I have pictures of Dee Dee Ramone wearing a leather jacket, and at the cuffs because it's completely worn out. As we saw above, it was shameful at the time to show up with holes in your jeans. But guys created a clothing style that would take over the entire planet though! 🌍
Arrival of Punk Fashion in EuropeBy the time people started calling it punk, the revolution had already started to spread around the world. Malcolm McLaren ran the New York Dolls before returning to London where he and his partner Vivienne Westwood opened a boutique called "Sex". Inspired by what he saw in New York, he combined the Dolls' over-the-top style with Richard Hell's deconstructed style to create a distinctly British style of punk fashion and enlisted his new clients, the Sex Pistols, to promote it. 🇬🇧
"McLaren went back to England and imitated the look, giving it a little more flare. In particular by coloring the hair to have a "trashier look", explains Zone (journalist at the time). At the same time, other London punks like X-Ray Spex picked up on the "DIY clothing philosophy" of the punk movement and began using basic items like jeans and leather jackets as blank decorative canvases to decorate with pins, paint and spikes. 🎨
Description of the Punk Style
If we were to describe the punk look at its origin in one word, we would say it is "DIY"! Let's see why:
Almost at the same time as it crossed the ocean to the UK (from New York), punk spread to Los Angeles. where fans of the Ramones and Blondie adapted their distinctive look to the city's unique identity. "What we were doing in L.A. had a lot to do with a lot of factors, one of which was the weather. We don't have the rain, snow and cold that you get in London or New York. So our style of clothing will be very different here! But the spirit is still there. We were very into DIY (just like in Europe). To have a punk style is to know how to reuse clothes. Cutting them, painting them, sewing them... It's being an artist in a way. ✍️
Bound by Punk Rock FashionPunk bands were very diverse. From pop bands like the Go-Go's to the anti-commercial approach of the Germs, to bands like the legendary "X" that were somewhere in between... But one thing always united them creating this wonderful punk rock community: punk fashion! 👔
"Fashion was very free," says Lens. "There were no stylists for that fashion. We were each stylists as much as we were musicians. Everyone would go to stores or yard sales together, sharing our clothes from each other. It was really a chance to dress up every day, to express yourself and be an artist. You could be an artist who expressed yourself only through your clothes if you wanted to. And I think that's what the public liked at the time too. People could express themselves by creating their own style."
L.A.'s entire punk style shines through in one of the most iconic photos of the era. Where singer Exene Cervenka and set designer Pleasant Gehman pose in a shower in a loft where pioneering fanzine Slash was throwing a party for Devo. Pleasant had laundered his jeans and written "Slash" for Slash magazine, she explains. "No one had laundered their jeans then. We did a lot of things that other people weren't doing." That's one of the definitions of the punk look. 🕶
Forty years after punk's beginnings, the music continues to resonate, not only in the punk scenes that have sprung up in cities around the world, but also in the independent and alternative movements that punk has inspired. 🤘
In fashion, its influence has spread even further. You can find the classic jeans and t-shirt combination pretty much everywhere in the world and among all generations. And in the world of music, leather and denim jackets to be personalized with the names of artists or bands have become almost systematic... Especially for rap stars.
The most lasting legacy of the Punk style cannot be reduced to a particular piece of clothing, nor even to the popularity of jeans with holes in them and hair dyed all over. Rather, it's the idea of being authentic, the fact that if you do your own thing and dress your own way, you can literally change the world. In short, punk style influences fashion. And fashion never influences punk!
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