How Punk Changed the (Fashion) World – and why you should care…

Punk. It’s  everywhere (honest). From the frayed glamour of Rodarte‘s NY showing; rough hand-dyed fabrics, plaited leather tassels, tribal body paint. Through the safety pins adorning Christopher Kane’s Versus collection and adding eccentric detailing to Vena Cava‘s Spring 2010 show, to Marc Jacobs’ girly take on the safety-pin necklace – firmly cementing safety pins as the new accent du jour. And what about those killer thigh-highs? 2008’s, oh so tricky, leather leggings? McQueen? Westwood? Punk is the mainstay behind the eclecticism of modern fashion – a wry eyebrow raised in nihilistic insouciance, a sardonic nod to the sheer theatricality of it all. In short, fashion reference gold.

Spawned in the mid-70’s from the realities of a disaffected working-class youth with little hope of employment and housing. Anti-establishment, anti-materialistic, anti-aesthetic. Punk was a back-street backlash against everything that had gone before and nothing shouted this fact more loudly in 1970’s Middle England than a no-holds-barred, many-holes-bared approach to clothes.

Branded the wardrobe equivalent to swearwords; indeed (bondage, studs and leather aside), expletives – along with swastikas,  inverted crucifixes and other offensive symbolism – did play their role in Punk’s crude yet powerful form of anti-branding. A foil to the unrealistic ideals and fanciful imagination of the hippy era, exchanging the frothy patchwork maxi dress for distressed and dirty denim, flipping the bird to floral prints. Punk bit back with a mish-mash of crude realism. Made-up of unconventional materials – Bin Liner Dress anyone? – shredded knit-wear,  ill-thought-out forays into razor-blade jewellery, this really was the ultimate in Trash Couture. The Establishment was, suitably horrified. Punk gave us the sartorial rebellion of the century combined with a thrift-store magpie-esque vision that is, well, so now.

In plundering the cultural closet of Britain, taking ownership of its tight-laced tweeds and quaint tartans, and reworking them with an anarchic sense of fusion: the donkey jackets, ex-army surplus and tattered work-shirts all replete with an edgy DIY approach to accessories (marker-pen graffiti, electrical tape, badges, the ubiquitous safety-pin). Punk turned fashion inside out, upside down and then gave it a solid kick in the teeth for good measure.

And at the epicentre of this style revolution? The Grand Dame herself Vivienne Westwood and partner in crime Malcolm McClaren, whose Seditionaries collection – as worn by Punk anti-stars The Sex Pistols – forged the iconic early Punk look from the ideological play-off between tradition and transgression. This self-conscious pastiche of historical costume, combined with a don’t-equals-do approach to the rules of dressing and an in-your-face individuality liberated us from a complacent conformity and gave the British Fashion scene a much-needed injection of ballsy indifference.

It was a style tour-de-force from which convention never fully recovered. The ironic rise and rise of the original anti-fashion is still on the up with Punk now the proud post-modifying Grand-Daddy of an innumerable brood of subculture-styles from Pop-punk to Psychobilly. And, with a swathe of super-stylish celebrities already on the Punk-inspo bandwagon – Kate Moss, Agyness Deyn, Leigh Lezark – going Punk has never been so on-trend.

So, what’s your 2010 style? Raw Couture? Neo-Grunge? Urban athletic? Thinking of dressing-down that lacy Galliano mini dress with some sexy biker boots? Picking up on the body-art trend a la Chanel, Gaultier, Malandrino? Or even, taking the plunge with the latest underwear-as-outerwear craze? Punk has its plucky fingers in many pies so, the chances are, whatever you’re channelling this season, you’re channelling Punk. And if in doubt, a little bit of Butler and Wilson Swarovski skull glamour is sure to get your inner anarchist  going. Vive Le Rock!


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