The word punk is a very old one : Shakespeare used it to describe prostitutes, and in 20th century it was mainly used in prisons, some says as a very offensive term. In the late 60s, the word has been placed side by side with rock to describe a different type of garage rock. It was then detached again, by the music magazine "Punk". And everything begun.
|David Bowie - Joe Strummer - British TV presenter Bill Grundy - Johnny Rotten - Malcolm McLaren - Smutty of the Rockats - Andy Warhol - Sid Vicious - Vivienne Westwood - background Kings Road with Sex ( seditionaries.com )|
In 1972, a British couple decided to open a shop on Kings Road, to sell clothes inspired by the early punks : Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. The shop, called "Let it Rock", became a real success and soon evolved in a new concept, called "Sex" in 1974. The same year, in the same shop, McLaren created his own punk band, the famous Sex Pistols. The band, composed of singer Johnny Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and bassist Glen Matlock, was not exactly a professional band. Most of them were beginners, and they clearly didn't give a damn about the whole thing, but they soon catched up the eyes of the public. The 1st December 1976, the band and some of his fans appeared on the Today Show, hosted by Bill Grundy. The TV show was broadcasted live and everyone on the set was drunk, including Grundy himself. It was seen by a lot of people around the country and the behaviour of the punks shocked them a lot, especially for their several use of five letter words ... It would be quite banal now, but at the time, it was really outrageous and it seriously launched the career of the Sex Pistols.
The punks were invading UK. The fans soon became rockers too, and most of the main bands of the Music History were created then : The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure ( which later created the Gothic movement ), Generation X, The Buzzcocks, The Cramps, The Damned, ... and later, Joy Division. London became the center of the punk world, and even the early actors of New York settled in the capital of England. But too much provocation and chaos soon led the punks to decline. Sid Vicious replaced Matlock in the Sex Pistols and he drove the band to its end, with the blessings of McLaren, who was counting on the junkie's provocations for his marketing. Some says McLaren was a genius, but I'd rather think he was an opportunist. Nothing new !
The Sex Pistols went to USA, they clashed. Sid killed his girlfriend Nancy, died of an overdose of heroin and the Punk died of an overdose of trash. Born in the USA, died in the USA, it sounded natural. Broken in many different pieces, the movement evolved : the 80s saw the rise of the gothics, Johnny Rotten helped the expansion of the reggae, Joy Division represented the post-punk hope and open the way to the alternative rock, and The Exploited created the wave of the "crest punks", those rockers with enormous mohawks. "Punk's not dead" was their main slogan, but Punk as it used to be was definitely part of the past.
|Gaye Advert - Cherry Vanilla - Siouxsie Sioux - Debbie Juvenile - Nancy Spungen - Debby Harry - Nina Hagen - Sue Catwoman - made by Sam Tyler, background Mirror article on the Sex Pistols|
|Bondage Suit by Sex - Sweater by Seditionaries - Top by Vivienne Westwood - Outfit by Let it Rock - Bondage boots by Seditionaries - Shirt by Sex - Shop sign of Sex - Self made badge|
Punks main idea was to provocate the right-thinking society so they stole a lot to the skinheads and the sadomasochists. Indeed, most of the t-shirts bore swastikas, anti-catholic slogans and sexual contents. They were not racist at all, just little idiots who thought they were funny using such outrageous symbols. They didn't care about politics, but they were rebelling against English government. Anarchy was an extreme point of view, so they adopted it and sprinkled some designs of the anarchist "A" on their clothes, as well as pictures of Karl Marx and of the Queen ( see the famous Pistols "God save the Queen" ). Quite an odd mix, but as long as it looked outrageous, it was considered as great.
Bondage was also something important in the punks' attires. Their taste for leather and rubberwear was borrowed to the SM and homosexual communities, which they helped a lot. Bondage was the only thing dark in the punk fashion, which was more colourful than believed. Sid Vicious was the only one at the beginning to wear leather jackets and jeans, as the punks main clothes were surprisingly ... sweaters. It's true ! A look at contemporary pictures will convince you : striped, multicouloured and often destroyed, the sweater is everywhere. The women wore ripped leggings. Tartan, ties, tape and garbage bags were at the programme too ...
Most of the punks' clothes were made by themselves, but Vivienne Westwood soon revealed her talents of designer and she created most of the clothes of her shops "Let it Rock", "Sex" and later "Seditionaries". Other shops were opened on Kings Road but were less famous, and sometimes more considered as tourists' shops. Let's quote Acne and Boys, of stylist Helen Robinson.
No mohawk for the early punks : Sue Catwoman was the only one with a weird hairdo, Linda Ashby was skinhead and Sid has got spiky hairs, but most of the time it was short for men and long for women, sometimes dyed, always dirty. Extreme make-up and body art, even for men, was common, the trends of piercings and tattoos mainly started in the 80s.
|Agyness Deyn - "Punk" by Tim Flash - Kate Moss in Isabel Marant - Danielle Scutt AW 2010 - Nana - Dimepiece Bondage t-shirt - Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander for W Magazine|
Punk came back in trends at the beginning of the 21th century. Before, the only admirers of the movement were people who lived it or some old fashioned teenagers who prefered old rock to hip hop and techno. I was among those kids, and even if my punk years are far behind me, I have to admit that they still influence my sense of fashion and of arts. "Once a punk, always a punk" I guess ... We all belong to the Blank Generation now.