When did punk get so fucking trendy?

How did a subculture oozing with anti-fashion end up frequenting retail establishments? It never used to be ‘cool’ to be a rocker, so what happened? Nina Cresswell divulges…

And so punk rock was born. The smash-it-up sounds of the 70s, and the DIY ethic of producing music, was mirrored in the fashion. Gorgeously gruesome outfits made from bin bags, tyres, and spray paint were ripped, mutilated, then paraded. Filthy thread-bare garments worn inside-out, chopped up and held together with safety pins and strings, used to reflect the punk’s feelings of being abused and discarded by an unjust society.

People pay at least thirty quid for a pair of ripped jeans on the high street now. Anarchy.

 Original punks made it their mission to steer as far away from the hippie image as possible. Hippies had long flowing hair. So, naturally, punks shaved it off, spiked it, dyed it the rainbow. The answer to flared jeans of the 60s? Drainpipes, of course. The jeans which now have a permanent tenancy on Topshop’s rails.

Rock ”˜n’ roll goddesses, The Runaways, had a film made about them last year. I didn’t fancy seeing the lame Kristen Stewart ruin Joan Jett’s image, so I gave it a miss, but I did see the fashion hype that followed. Wandering into River Island, there was a jumper sprawled with the words ”˜Cherry Bomb’. You can bet your bottom dollar that the commercialist disciples who bought it hadn’t a clue it was a Runaways track. Shops like Triple S are sopping with Che Guevara t-shirts, but how many people who wear them know or care how many people he killed? It’s inevitable that symbols that were once deemed perilous will eventually be sucked in to the mainstream vortex and spat out for mass market sales. 

It’s not just the high street that makes punk popular. Zandra Rhodes reworked the image of the safety pin in her couture dresses, and Jean Paul Gaultier broke the barrier between the mainstream and subculture with his punk collections. The shaved head craze (and I’m not talking about Britney) is particularly rife in the celeb world, with unexpected pop diva Rihanna and Kelis both reaching for the razor. Plain and pretty Ellie Goulding shaved the side of her long blonde hair last year, and fashionistas worldwide followed the trend, to the bemuse of punk ladies.

Vivienne Westwood, along side Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McClaren, outraged the public during the first wave of punk, taking fetish wear out of the bedroom and into the streets. Their shop, “Sex” catered for rubber, leather and PVC wardrobes, showered with straps, studs, and exposed zips. Punks went mad for S&M clothing, or the “bad girl look” for females. Then, it was a visual outlet for their feelings of being dominated by a Tory society. 2011 and the leather bras, chains and fishnet are now just a run of the mill browse through Topshop. Oh, and Vivienne Westwood adorns the well-off fashion conscious worldwide, considered the queen mother of fashion. In her own words: “I may be a rebel but I’m not an outsider.” She shocks, but she still belongs. 

The bottom line here though: it’s not punk to dress like it’s still 1977. You’ve got to develop it and make way for something new. Nothing stays the same, and punk can’t be the same. But punk values could and should be relentless. Punk’s do-it-yourself ethos matters, punk’s tradition of protest and excitement matters. What doesn’t matter is what form it takes. Make your own shit, don’t conform, be innovative, and breathe life into punk. DIY or die!

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6 comments on “When did punk get so fucking trendy?”

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  1. Punk went trendy and mainstream very soon after the sex pistols first appeared. Mohair sweaters were everywhere within months. It was mainstream fashion for a while and then things moved on, as they do. Propper Punks stayed on and never really went away, just got fewer in number

    • . Propper Punks stayed on and never really went away
      that must mean i’m not one. i wore t/shirt, jeans, and converse, had fairly long hair. i saw the pistols 5 time (3 with glen)did a few gigs on the white riot tour followed buzzcocks and the banshees round the country. got in so many fights for the clothes i wore (see above). it was moved on for bands that were more experimental (caberet voltaire, gang of four). i also stayed with punk with original bands like the prefects, subway sect, alternative tv, the fall. note) not a leather jacket or stud between them. it was YOUR so-called propper punks who came in wearing a uniform + rules 18 months later and turned it into a joke with every band sounding like each other.

  2. What gets me is when some “designer” comes up with their new collection. And what was walking down the aisle this year? a bloke in rocker chic, wearing a Vice Squad T Shirt.
    Previous to that I’ve seen Sex Pistols, Rolling Stones and even Exploited t shirt designs ripped off and displayed in Top Shop.

    Everything is up for grabs, clothes get ripped off by “designers” music gets ripped off by “samplers”

  3. Personally ? I don’t give a toss.

    Where’s my clash iPod sleeve ?

  4. Wait two years and all the skinny jeans and plastic punk apparel will have been replaced by another watered down version of a one-dimensional take on some other youth ‘cult’ from the past; not a small one (‘Grebo’,anyone?) but something well-known, like ‘Baggy’. Blokes in their thirties will be moaning that thirteen year olds are now wearing Flowered Up t shirts. Personally, I’m expecting to experience another three punk ‘revivals’ before I croak. More celebrities sporting Crass t shirts? Tres chic!Fuck ’em all, I say.

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