Remembering 40 years of punk fashion

Sophie Taylor

Spikes, leather and rips. Punk fashion turns 40 in 2016. Sophie Taylor is paying homage to the anarchists of fashion with a retrospective of the last four decades of punk. 

Punk came about in the 1970’s as a rebellion against mainstream culture in all its pretensions and excesses.

The clothes reflected this revolutionary thinking as it moved away from long hippy hairstyles and colourful disco outfits. The bold and controversial attitudes were expressed in blood-stained, ripped and safety pin-pierced clothing bearing anarchic slogans and symbols.

westwood and maclaren
(L-R) Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Maclaren. Maclaren outside his shop, Sex, on The Kings Road. Image via Pinterest

In the UK, fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Maclaren influenced the more mainstream punk style.

When in New York, Maclaren was inspired by punk pioneer and musician Richard Hell, who was the first to spike his hair, tear and scrawl images and slogans onto his clothes. Maclaren drew on Hell’s aesthetic when styling his band, The Sex Pistols, and designing for his shop, ‘Sex’ on The Kings Road.

 

Read more: We remember 1970s fashion

 

From the UK and New York, punk spread sweaty and stained to Manhatten: specifically CBGB’s, the music venue that provided a platform for punk rock and a catwalk for the fashion. The soft, loose lines and shapes of the sixties Summer of Love ethos and fashion were ripped apart, cut tight and shouted over.

CBGB
The exterior of the CBGB music venue. Image via Billboard

Leather, rubber and vinyl were the popular materials of choice, reflecting transgressive sexual practices like bondage and S&M. Aggressive looking blades, chains and pins were employed as accessories while footwear grew heavy, from military and motorcycle boots to brothel creepers and Dr Martins.

With the dawn of a Tory government, there was major civil unrest in the 1980’s, intensifying the politicisation of punk fashion. Street punk grew in popularity, as seen in mohawks, Dr Martin boots, ripped fishnet tights and marker pen effaced tees.

The ‘enfant terrible’ trickled up into couture fashion as Jean Paul Gaultier took heed of the daring subcultures and played with gender stereotypes, creating the man-skirt in the mid-1980’s.

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A group of enfant terribles in the 1980s. Image via Anglo-phone Subcultures

Designer Zandra Rhodes made the couture punk fashion affordable, designing ‘The Conceptual Chic Collection’ and commercialising the movement with pretty pins, neat rips and bright colours. The movement rooted in rebellion and anti-establishment started to become mainstream.

Vivienne Westwood described the need to move away from the ‘underground tunnel feeling of England’ and instead brighten the political gloom as she moved into New Romanticism that can be seen in her corsets.

The clean, punk styles we can find on the high street today would not have survived without the dirty rebellious attitudes of 40 years ago.  

 

Read more from Sophie Taylor

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Feature image captured in 1977, via Photogrvphy