1970s Punk Fashion History
Today everyone knows what punk fashion is, but in 1970 it didn't exist. Punk first emerged in the mid 1970s
in London as an anarchic and aggressive movement. About 200 young
people defined themselves as an anti-fashion urban youth street culture.
Closely aligned was a music movement that took the name punk.
suited the lifestyle of those with limited cash due to unemployment and the
general low income school leavers or students often experience.
Punks cut up old
clothes from charity and thrift shops, destroyed the fabric and refashioned
outfits in a manner then thought a crude construction technique, making
garments designed to attract attention. It deconstructed garments into
new forms. Whilst torn fabrics, frayed edges and defaced prints are now considered
normal in the 21st century, in the 1970s it shocked many people, because it
had never been seen before. Until then fabric had been treated as a
material to keep as pristine, new looking and beautiful as possible.
deliberately torn to reveal laddered tights and dirty legs. They were worn with
heavy Doc Martens footwear, a utilitarian, practical traffic meter maid
type of footwear in that era, not seen on many young women until then. Safety pins
and chains held bits of fabric together. Neck chains were made from
padlocks and chain and even razor blades were used as pendants. The
latter emerged as a mainstream fashion status symbols a few years later when
worked in gold.
Body piercing was
done in parts other than the usual accepted placement in the ear lobe. The
placement of studs and pins in facial body parts such as eyebrows and
cheeks, noses or lips for the masses was then quite unusual even after the
freedom of the 1960s.
Although it is
known that Edwardian ladies used to have rings inserted into their nipples
to make their breasts stands up more pertly, this was not a usual practice
among the masses of the 1960s and 70s. Self-mutilation, rejection of prettiness and body
piercing was not a norm then. The chosen placement of body jewellery
and tattoos of the new punks was deliberately intended to offend the more
conventional members of society. The fashion was also unisex and men
began to sport facial jewellery. What we take as a normal strand of
fashion today was all quite unusual then.
Body piercing seems everyday now in the 21st century.
It entered mainstream fashion quite rapidly, beginning with the three
stud earlobe, progressing to the whole ear outline embedded with ear
studs. This was followed by Goths sporting nose studs in the early
80s. Then in the 1990s belly, tongue and genital piercings all
gathered a following among the masses.
Twenty five or thirty years ago it was true anti fashion
and anti establishment, but now it is so everyday that not even great
grandmothers titter. Thirty years after Punk emerged as a
rebellious youth oriented fashion many grandmothers and great
grandmothers sport a tattoo or piercing somewhere on their body.
studs, chains, mufti fabrics, greyed sweated out black T shirts, bondage
animal print bum flaps and leg straps epitomise some of the looks that
immediately spring to mind when thinking of the early punks. What was
then thought to be blatant and obvious sexual references in written form, on
dyed and destroyed vests have again become a norm and the masses happily don
Tshirts emblazoned with fcuk or crave a graffiti print covered Louis Vuitton bag, both
fashions very much accepted because of the path set by the early punk
Punk as a style
succeeded even more when Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren formerly
Malcolm Edwards, publicized the ideas through their joint design ventures. McLaren launched the 'Sex Pistols' Punk music group. The punk group wore
clothes from a shop called 'Sex' that Vivienne Westwood and her partner
Malcolm McLaren opened on the Kings Road, London. They sold leather and rubber
fetish goods, especially bondage trousers. Later the shop was renamed
Not long after, Westwood launched alone renaming the same
shop as 'World's End'. Westwood was soon translating her ideas into
Pirate and Romantic looks. The collections were innovative, but were
spoken of as unwearable, yet so often other designers picked up on ideas
she had instigated and soon started another new trend.
In later years as her talent developed, her moods and
methods changed. She mastered tailoring techniques combined with
flair, frivolity and sexuality creating new looks that others copied.
With a long stream of firsts behind her, Vivienne Westwood is now
considered to be one of the most innovative designers of the 20th
Punk hair is
worthy of mention - A focal point of the punk look was the hair which was
spiked as high as possible into a Mohican hairstyle by a variety of means
including sugar and water solutions, soaping, gelatine, pva glue, hair
sprays and hair gel.
It was big hair
before 80s big hair became everyday. Often it was coloured pink or
green with food dyes. It was intended to startle the onlooker and attract
attention. Over bleaching was common and also became deliberate as
home methods were initially employed to achieve hitherto unknown effects.
look was to shave areas of the scalp. Both sexes did this. They
intended to make themselves look intimidating. Hair was sometimes dyed jet black or
bleached white blonde. Eyes were emphasised with black and sometimes cat
like eye make up and vampire like lips drew more attention to the face.
Zandra Rhodes the British dress designer, took elements of the punk style
and used it in her collections making refined and more elegant versions in
bright colours which were more acceptable to the rich and famous. She
used gold safety pins and gold chains to connect and decorate uneven hems
and slashed holes. The carefully placed holes were edged with gold
thread and the hems adorned with exquisite embroidery. She had always
coloured her hair with exotic colours and worn it as a form of plumage.
Watered down punk
chic worked its way to the top end of the market. Versace too, also
decorated dresses with large safety pins, most notably a black dress that
Liz Hurley wore to accompany Hugh Grant at the premiere of the film 'Four
Weddings And A Funeral' in about 1992.
Now every fashion shop has torn and distressed clothing
items. Many are similar in concept to those originally sported by
the first punks of the 1970s.
You may also be interested in the page Laver's
Law a timeline of fashion style by James Laver.
Please do not write to me requesting Punk pictures. I
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If you are interested in other less conventional trends
in fashion you will enjoy this book called Surfers Soulies Skinheads and Skaters: Subcultural Style from the Forties to the Nineties
Selfridges Bags The Future
of Punk (Press Report)
March 4th 2006 sees the launch of the biggest punk rising
since the BBC’s veto on Johnny Rotten’s rendition of God Save the Queen!
Inspired by next season’s modern take on glam-rock and to
mark the thirtieth anniversary of Punk, Selfridges will present
FuturePunk, its own twenty-first century interpretation of the attitude
that has dominated youth culture and influenced fashion for three
decades. With FuturePunk, Selfridges builds on its heritage of retail
innovation and edginess, pushing boundaries in the name of the Punk
It will be a multi-dimensional event featuring music
performances, exhibition and talks, where exclusive luxury goods will
sit alongside vintage, punk classics and products such as t-shirts,
badges, toys, books and CDs.
Alannah Weston, Creative Director for Selfridges, said:
'The project captures the spirit of this highly influential movement.
We’re involving Punk luminaries from the past- such as Malcolm McLaren –
as well as using it to launch new talent in fashion and music who are
inspired by the challenging, DIY attitude of Punk.'
Nostalgia, Fashion and the Future will all play their
part in FuturePunk, which promises to elevate Britain’s last working
class movement into next season’s cult craze through its electrifying
punk-inspired 4-week lifestyle event.
Representing a contemporary take on the spirit of Punk,
Selfridges has collaborated with la crème de couture including Givenchy,
Fendi and Chloe. The result - a rocking range of exclusive accessories,
inspired by the trend that catapulted black-clad punks into an iconic
These coveted bags, belts and hair embellishments, many
of which have only ever been viewed by those lucky enough to possess a
pass to Paris fashion week will be available exclusively at Selfridges
during March. Prices start from an affordable £89 for DKNY’s Logo
X bucket bag to a glam £1,119 for Chloe’s chic ‘Gladys’.
Subcultural styles developed around the 1940's and were identified in a book called Surfers Soulies Skinheads
and Skaters - Subcultural Style From the Forties to the Nineties written by Amy
de la Haye and Cathie Dingwall.
1970s Subcultural streetstyles include
Afrocentric, B-Boy, Beatnik, Bhangra, Caribbean, Casuals, Cowboy, Cyberpunk, Eco,
Fetish, Funk, Gay style, Glam rock, Greasers, Grunge, Head-Bangers, Hippy,
Hipsters, Indie, Jungle, Madchester, Mod, New Age, Northern Soul, Old Skool,
Preppy, Psychedelic, Psychobilly, Punk, Ragga, Rasta, Rave, Rude Boy, Skater,
Skinhead, Soulies, Streestyle, Surfer, Techno, Teddy Boys (Teds), Travellers, Two
Tones, Workwear Rockabilly, Yardies, Young British Radicals and Zoots.
I suggest that if you have an interest in any of the street styles
listed above you obtain the illustrated and informative book.
It is interesting how many of the styles above continue to provide
designers. Many aspects have invaded the catwalks in the past decades, so that we now see these
once original styles in a new light as high fashion innovations in mainstream clothing. Once again another aspect of my page Laver's
Law is at work here.
Real fans of punk will find a great
Canadian site covering all
aspects especially punk music here.