Punk fashion

Punk fashion

Punk fashion is the styles of clothing, hairstyles, cosmetics, jewelry, and body modifications of the punk subculture. Punk fashion varies widely from Vivienne Westwood styles to styles modeled on bands like The Exploited. The distinct social dress of other subcultures and art movements, including glam rock, skinheads, rude boys, greasers, and mods have influenced punk fashion. Punk fashion has likewise influenced the styles of these groups, as well as those of popular culture. Punks use clothing as a way of making a statement.


Original styles

The original punk fashions of the 1970s were intended to appear as confrontational, shocking and rebellious as possible. This style of punk dress was significantly different from what would later be considered the basic "punk look". Many items that were commonly worn by punks in the 1970s became less common later on, and new elements were constantly added to the punk image. A great deal of punk fashion from the 1970s was based on the designs of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, as well as the dress styles of punk role models such as the Ramones, Richard Hell, Patti Smith and the Bromley Contingent. Punk style was influenced by clothes sold in Malcolm McLaren's shop "SEX". McLaren has credited this style to his first impressions of Richard Hell while McLaren was in New York City, supposedly managing the The New York Dolls (Note: In the documentary "Punk: Attitude", David Johansen said McLaren was never their manager, and that he only designed clothes for them and booked them one concert; the "Red Show".)

Deliberately offensive T-shirts were popular in the early punk scene, such as the infamous "DESTROY" T-shirt sold at SEX, which featured an inverted crucifix and a Nazi Swastika. These T-shirts, like other punk clothing items, were often intentionally torn. Other items in early British punk fashion included: Anarchy symbols; brightly-colored or white and black dress shirts randomly covered in slogans (such as "Only Anarchists are pretty"); fake blood; patches; and deliberately controversial images (such as portraits of Marx, Stalin and Mussolini) were popular. Leather rocker jackets and customised blazers were early, and are still a common fixture of punk fashion. Preferred footwear included military boots, motorcycle boots, Brothel creepers, Chuck Taylor All-Stars, and (later on) Dr. Martens boots. Tapered jeans, tight leather pants, pants with leopard patterns, and bondage trousers were popular choices. Hair was cropped and deliberately made to look messy; in reaction to the long smooth hairstyles that were common in the 1960s and early 1970s. Hair was often dyed bright unnatural colors. Although provocative, these hairstyles were not as extreme as later punk hairstyles, such as liberty spikes or the Mohawk hairstyle.

Other accoutrements worn by some punks included: BDSM fashions; fishnet stockings (sometimes ripped); spike bands and other studded or spiked jewelry; safety pins (in clothes and as body piercings); silver bracelets and heavy eyeliner worn by both men and women. Many female punks rebelled against the stereotypical image of a woman by combining clothes that were delicate or pretty with clothes that were considered masculine, such as combining a Ballet tutu with big, clunky boots.

Punk clothing sometimes incorporated everyday objects for aesthetic effect. Purposely-ripped clothes were held together by safety pins or wrapped with tape; black bin liners (garbage bags) became dresses, shirts and skirts. Other items added to clothing or as jewelry included razor blades and chains. Leather, rubber and vinyl clothing have been common, possibly due to their connection with transgressive sexual practices, such as bondage and S&M.

Punks in the 1970s sometimes flaunted taboo symbols such as the Nazi Swastika or Iron Cross for shock effect. However, following Rock Against Racism, this sharply declined. To this day, most punks are staunchly anti-fascist, and many punks in the 2000s wear a crossed out Swastika patch (pictured left) or other anti-racist symbols.


When punk underwent its 1980s hardcore, Oi!/streetpunk, and UK82 renaissance, new fashion styles developed as parallel resurgences occurred in the United States and United Kingdom. The US scene was exemplified by bands such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Fear. The 1980s American scene spawned a utilitarian anti-fashion that was nonetheless raw, angry, and intimidating. In the UK, much of the punk music and fashion in the 1980s was influenced by heavy metal and the Oi! scene. However, elements of the 1970s punk look never fully died away. What many recognize as typical punk fashions today emerged from the 1980s British scene, exemplified by bands such as The Exploited, Subhumans, Charged GBH, and The Partisans. Some of the following clothing items were common on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and some were unique to certain geographic areas.

Footwear that was common in the 1980s punk scene included Dr. Martens boots, motorcycle boots and steel-toed combat boots; sometimes adorned with bandanas, chains or studded leather bands. Jeans (sometimes dirty, torn or splattered with bleach) and tartan kilts or skirts were commonly worn. Leather skirts became a popular item for female punks. Heavy chains were sometimes used as belts. Bullet belts, and studded belts (sometimes more than one worn at a time) became common.

Some punks bought T-shirts or plaid flannel shirts and wrote political slogans, band names or other punk-related phrases on them with marker pens. While this was not without precedent in the 1970s, the depth and detail of these slogans were not fully developed until the 1980s. Silkscreened T-shirts with band logos or other punk-related logos or slogans were also popular. Studded, painted and otherwise customised leather rocker jackets or denim vests became more popular during this era, as the popularity of the earlier customized blazers waned. Hair was either shaved, spiked or in a crew cut or Mohawk hairstyle. Tall mohawks and spiked hair, either bleached or in bright colors, took on a more extreme character than in the 1970s. "Charged" hair, in which all of one's hair stands on end but is not styled into distinct spikes, also emerged. Amongst female punks, a hairstyle similar to The Misfits' devilocks was popular. This involved shaving the entire head except for a tuft at the front. Body piercings and extensive tattoos became very popular during this era, as did spike bands and studded chokers. Sometimes bandana were worn to indicate gang affiliation. Some hardcore punk women reacted to the earlier 1970s movement's vibe by adopting an asexual style.


Current factions of the punk subculture have different clothing habits, although there's often crossover between the different subgroups in terms of style.

tandard punk

In general, modern punks wear leather, denim, spikes, chains, and combat boots. They often wear elements of early punk fashion, such as kutten vests, bondage pants (often plaid) and torn clothing. There is a large influence by DIY-created and modified clothing, such as ripped or stitched-together pants or shirts. Hair is typically dyed in bright colors such as red, blue, green, pink or orange and arranged into a mohawk or liberty spikes. Hair could also be cut very short or shaved. Belts with metal studs, and bullet belts, are popular. Leather or denim jackets and vests often have patches or are painted with logos that express musical tastes or political views. Pants are usually tapered tightly. Metal spikes or studs are often added to jackets and vests.


There are several styles of dress within the hardcore scene, and styles have changed since the genre started as "hardcore punk" in the late 1970s. What is fashionable in one branch of the hardcore scene may be frowned upon in another. Clothing styles are often chosen to make moshing easier to perform. Plain working class dress and short hair (with the exception of dreadlocks) are usually associated with hardcore punk. Mute colors and minimal adornment are usually common. Some elements of hardcore clothing are baggy jeans or work pants, athletic wear, cargo or military shorts, band T-shirts, plain T-shirts, and band hoodies. Personal comfort and the ability to mosh are highly influential in this style (Jewellery, spikes, tight clothes, flashy hair and chains are highly uncommon and discouraged in hardcore fashion, Although baggier skinny jeans are becoming popular.)


Anarcho-punk fashion is a politicised adaptation of traditional punk fashion. This all black militaristic fashion was pioneered by Crass in the United Kingdom and by T.S.O.L. in the United States. A prominent feature is the heavy use of anarchist symbols and slogans. Some whom define themselves as Anarcho-Punks may opt to wear clothing similar to traditionalist punks or crust punks, but not often to the extreme of either subculture. Mohawks, and liberty spikes are rarely seen, but can still be worn. Tight pants, bands shirts and boots are common. Hair styling products are often used only on the basis that the company who manufactures it did not test it on animals. Leather, often avoided as part of Veganism, may be replaced with imitation leather or cloth in a similar design as leather products.

Crust punk

Crust punk fashion is an extreme evolution of traditional punk fashion, and is heavily influenced by bands such as Doom, Amebix and Antisect. Typical crust punk fashion includes black or camouflage trousers or shorts covered in patches (heavy work pants are popular for their durability), torn band T-shirts or hoodies covered in patches, studded vests and jackets (commonly black denim), bullet belts, jewelry made from hemp and other natural/found objects, and sometimes bum flaps. Patches, even band patches, are often of a political nature. Clothing tends to be unwashed and unsanitary by conventional standards, and dreadlocks are popular. Crust punks sometimes sew articles of clothing with found or cheaply-bought materials, such as dental floss. Baseball caps with patches sewn on or studs implanted are popular headgear. Pants are often held up with string, hemp, or vegan-friendly imitation leather (sometimes avoided due to the style's connection with animal cruelty).

Gothic rock/Deathrock and Horror punk

Deathrock and Horror punk fashion is similar to goth fashion. Black is the predominant shade. Deathrock and horror punk incorporates a sexier image, incorporating fishnets, corsets and elaborate make-up for men and women. The use of occult and horror imagery is prevalent on T-shirts, buttons, patches and jewellery. The Misfits' "Fiend Skull" emblem is often hand-stencilled onto articles of clothing or worn as a cloth patch. Other common adornments include band names painted on jackets or bleached into clothes, as well as buttons or patches indicating cities. The initials D and R (for "Death Rock") may part of a crossbone logo, accompanied by other initials, such as C and A for California, N and Y for New York, or G and R for Germany. Hair may be in "deathhawk" style (a wider teased-out variant of the mohawk hairstyle), an angled bangs style, or in a devilock style. The traditional 80's Gothic Rock gave birth to the teased mohawk, unlike the Punk mohawk which was often fanned or spiked the Goth mohawk which is often referred to as the Death Hawk was slightly wider and teased, often crimped as well.

kate punk

A skate punk is a skateboarder that listens to punk rock. Many wear clothing such as open plaid button down shirts are common, band tees, baggy shorts or semi-tight jeans (often black.) They also may wear cheap generic clothes and patches on their back pockets They often carry a bandana (folded or messed up) in their right or left back pocket.Some have also been influenced by the Cholo/gang style.While most skaters have long and messy hair Skate Punks usally have short working class style of hair. skate brands are common to wear such as Baker, Emerica, Fallen, Toy Machine, Vans,Adio and Zero. The Baker,Zero and Deathwish teams are the best examples of skate punks.Hoodies with Patches and spray painted graphics are also common.

Pop punk

Pop punk fashion sometimes overlaps with skater punk fashion and emo fashion. Contemporary pop punk fans often wear items such as band T-shirts with, tie or scarf; blazers; Dickies pants, tight skinny pants, jeans or shorts; studded belts; Converse All-Stars or Vans Off The Wall,skateboarder shoes,and often fitted hats. Popular patterns include checkers and arms. Hair is usually long for women, and short and spiky for men — and is sometimes dyed black, platinum blonde, or natural hair colors with unnatural streaks.


Some punks dress similarly to the droogs in the film "A Clockwork Orange". This involves white boiler suits, bowler hats, black Dr. Martens or combat boots, suspenders and sometimes black eye makeup (on one eye only). This look has been displayed by bands such as The Adicts and Lower Class Brats, The Violators and Major Accident.


Suicidals (and some individuals in the later hardcore scene) dress in styles associated with the Cholo gang member look. "Cholo punk" is another term used, but is better suited for those who are more heavily influenced by the Cholo/gang culture. This look, influenced by the California band Suicidal Tendencies, involves wearing bandanas (primarily blue in color) on one's head, Converse sneakers and other skateboard shoes, and blue plaid flannel shirts (usually worn with only the top button done up). Other commonly worn items include knee-high white socks, khaki shorts, baggy Diesel jeans and blue basketball jerseys with the number thirteen on them. Suicidal Tendencies T-shirts, as well as related band T-shirts (e.g. Beowulf, Excel and No Mercy) were popular, as well as white tank tops. This style sometimes includes a shaved head, short mohawk, crewcut or long Jay Adams-style hair. Another item associated with the Suicidals scene is a baseball cap or trucker hat with the bill upturned, and with text written or painted on it. Another associated item is a white dress shirt with hand-drawn Suicidal related iconography on the back (e.g. Skulls, satanic imagery, the number 13 or the words Suicidal, Venice or Cyco). Many such shirts were drawn by Ric Clayton.


Punk fashion has been extremely commercialized at various times, and many well-established fashion designers — such as Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier — have used punk elements in their production. Punk clothing, which was initially handmade, became mass produced and sold in record stores and some smaller specialty clothing stores by the 1980s. Many fashion magazines and other glamor-oriented media have featured classic punk hairstyles and punk-influenced clothing. These have caused controversy, as many punks view it as having sold out.

Common elements of punk fashion

* Badges
* Bleach-stained jeans
* body piercing
* Bondage pants
* Brothel creepers
* Buttons
* Carabiner-inspired keyrings
* Cargo Pants
* Chuck Taylor All-Stars shoes, or sweatshop-free alternatives such as Blackspot and No Sweat
* Dickies pants and shorts
* Dr. Martens boots, less popular now that Dr. Martens has moved their factories to third world countries.
* Dyed hair (often in unnatural colors such as purple, blue, green or orange)
* Ear and/or facial piercings
* Fingerless gloves
* Fishnet stockings
* Hoodies
* Kutten
* Leopard print patterns
* Military uniform items such as combat boots, BDUs or dog tags)
* Mini-skirts
* Mohawk hairstyles and Liberty spikes
* Leather jackets
* Safety Pins
* Shorts, cut-offs, cargos or athletic
* Skate shoes Such as Vans Shoes or Lakais
* Sleeveless T-shirts
* Spike wristbands and studded belts
* Spray painted clothing
* Suit jackets
* Tartan patterns
* Tattoos
* Torn clothing
* T-Shirts or hoodies
* Wrist Bands
* Webbed Belt
* Scout belts
* BDU belts



*Dick Hebdige (1979). "Subculture: The Meaning of Style" (Routledge, March 10, 1981; softcover ISBN 0-415-03949-5). Cited in Negus, Keith (1996). "Popular Music in Theory: An Introduction". Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6310-2.
*Paul Gorman (2006). "" (Adelita, May 10 2006; softcover ISBN 0-9552017-0-5)

ee also

*Fetish fashion
*Heavy metal fashion
*Gothic fashion
*Industrial fashion

External links

* [http://diyfashion.about.com DIY Punk Fashion] Photos and Instructions to make Punk DIY clothing, accessories and jewelry.
* [http://www.DIYclothing.co.uk DIYclothing] - UK dedicated DIY clothing forum
* [http://www.fashion-era.com/punks_fashion_history1.htm "1970s Punk Fashion History Development"] by Pauline Weston Thomas, "Fashion-Era.com", 2007.
* [http://www.acc.umu.se/~samhain/summerofhate/punk.html "Punk and the Swastika"] , "The Summer of Hate" (webzine)
* [http://www.geocities.com/punkscenes/swastica.html "Swastica and Punk"]

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