The History of Punk Fashion

Punk fashion is all about edginess -- but it started with the music.

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Punk fashion started where so many fashions begin -- with music. The mid 1970s saw the dawn of a musical and cultural movement that included its own garb. Bold and revolutionary, the punk scene started underground and grew until its fashion sense hit the mainstream. Today, punk fashion is just about everywhere. Anyone who loves clothing with a little edge can get in on the styles that come from the history of punk fashion.


In the 1970s, punk fashion had its edge, but it was pretty subdued compared to today. The punk look came from rockers. Their focus was music and counterculture over fashion, but when The Ramones and The Sex Pistols burst onto the scene in 1976, the fashion was too much too miss. True punk aficionados colored their hair and pierced their faces and bodies. Rips and tears were de rigueur. Men and women kept the look hard, just like the music. Designer Vivienne Westwood, called the Mother of Punk, started designing urban outfits with a vicious feel in London.


By the 1980s, punk fashion was going crazy in the U.S. and England. Just like the other styles of the decade, punk style was a race for boldness. Totally unnatural hair color was a must as guys, and girls started shaving their heads and pointing their hair into Mohawks. Men ripped the sleeves off jackets and shirts and started wearing makeup. Women kept their tough looks from the 1970s and added in leather, boots, kilts and tears everywhere. The look had become almost mainstream, but the music stayed loud and rebellious, and plenty of genuine punks kept the style alive.

1990s and 2000s

As punk reached its 20th birthday, its fashion was ubiquitous -- so much that it sometimes parodied itself in the U.S. with over-the-top safety pins, brightly-colored Doc Martens boots and short kilts. Goth fashion, a look that popped up with Goth and industrial music, blended with punk fashion. Androgyny, the style of appearing genderless, took cues from punk fashion's readiness to experiment with boxy, cut-up tops, hair dye and makeup for all.


Today, punk fashion has been revived to its original roots by people who love the scene and its music. Some people just love to experiment with the fashion, though. Playing with punk looks is no longer considered "selling out," and steampunk fashion is quite trendy. The look is a mix of punk classics -- crazy hair, industrial accessories and nonconformity -- and Victorian elegance, like vests, gloves and lace. Forty years after it started, punk fashion is now immortalized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art's website, which gives props to Westwood and her influence on a massive portion of the fashion of the last half-century in both the United States and England.

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