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Fashion Trends: What Did Punks Wear in The 80s and Punk Fashion Trends Today

Updated on November 4, 2014
Literary Rejections
Literary Rejections
Punk by Acharai
Punk by Acharai | Source

Anti-Fashion Trends & 80s Punk

The aim of the game? Be more intense than the ordinary…

Fashion DIY and creativity took a darker and more controversial side with the political, idealistic youth who proudly shook their leather, bristles and studs in the faces of fascism.

80s punk shocked the world with its aggressive, unconventional and artistic exploitation of music and fashion. This outburst from the post-war generation of angry, unemployed youth was infectious. Their extreme views on politics, music and fashion took the world by storm. Punk began to symbolize anarchy and insurgence, eventually testing and enlarging the gap from their previous generations. This was about fighting oppression and having the freedom to rebel.

Fashion became a way for punks to convey a message to the public by visually expressing their non-compliant attitude and individualistic nature. 80s punks wore clothes that set themselves apart from the rest by rebelling against the limitations that society continued to put in place. Fashion was one of the limitations 80s punks wanted to conform against. By simply looking different in a world where everybody wanted to be the same, meant that punks could define themselves as individuals and non-conformists. Punk fashion in the 80s was one of the most shocking youth movements the world had ever seen. They dared to rock the status quo beyond the imagination of any previous generation. In the end, they created their own fashion trend in the 80s that many today still try and imitate.

American Punk Boys
American Punk Boys
British Punk Girls
British Punk Girls

Where Did Punk Come From?

Although Punk initially started in the 1970s, it was 80s that made punk fashion a trend in its own right. The global punk movement took off in many places around the world, but it was both the UK and USA that largely influenced the world in the late 70s through to the 80s in punk music and fashion.

Exactly when and where punk rock was born is still something of a debate. The punk movement brewed strongly on both sides of the Atlantic, but was it born in the deep crevasses of New York’s’ underground bars? Or did it emerge from London’s pubs in smoke filled back rooms? In terms of music, it was probably the United States that initially began the start of the punk movement, way before the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks came on the scene. Interestingly, the first concrete punk rock scene appeared in the mid '70s in New York.

Many believe that the British punk music scene was inspired by American bands such as the Ramones. Yet many also feel that it was Brits that inspired the world with their aesthetic punk anti-fashion liberation. Although the UK equally added to the music scene, it was the current social issues that spurred the British into making it more than simply a type of music but a way of life. Either way, both the United Kingdom and the United States contributed to the revolution of punk.

Anarchy: Once You've Tried, Nothing Else Compares
Anarchy: Once You've Tried, Nothing Else Compares

What Exactly Does Punk Mean?

Is it a style of fashion, music or a type of person? Punk was always more than a ripped T-shirt or loud music: it was an irrepressible attitude.The anarchy sign, prominently the circle-A, became their symbol and used to "brand" punk beliefs. It stood for Do-It Yourself, an ironic implementation of ethic. The circle-A is almost certainly the best-known present-day symbol for anarchy and was incorporated into many of the punk imagery. British punks also use the famous "God Save The Queen", a popular euphemism created by the Sex Pistols when the punk movement clashed with the Queens silver jubilee in 1977. So what is punk and what does it mean? It means standing out from crowd, being a nonconformist in what you believe, your choice of music and what you wear.

Modern Punk Fashion
Modern Punk Fashion

Punk Inspired Fashion Today

There is a huge difference between what’s considered punk in the fashion world and what is, you know, actually punk. A lot of fashionistas have taken inspiration from punk culture and have turned it into a very interesting and exciting form of self expression. Vogue has even made an exhibition celebrating punk fashion, “Chaos to Couture”.

The return of punk and how to do it now?

Punk has become very glamorous. Woman who go punk today focus on creating a look that is very feminine but edgy. Enhancing the look with statement accessories, a leather jacket and sexy pointy high heels is now considered very "punk" in the world of fashion.

Combat boots are still very fashionable and have been glamorized as well. Diamond studs, various colors and elevated spikes are all making an appearance and on the feet of many runway models. Pair your combats with skinny jeans or black leather leggings for a perfect combo.

It's not only women's fashion that has modernized the punk look. Men today adapt to the bad boy attitude with skinny jeans, grungy t-shirts, combats, chains and the leather jacket.

Punk fashion today is not nearly as extreme in comparison to what punks wore in the 80s. Many punks today still hold the ethics and a similar idealism, but times have changed and political oppression has taken a different route all together. Most members of the punk culture today don't dress nearly as elaborate, preferring to succumb to the new brand of post era punk. Punk beliefs and nonconforming political ways may be dead, but its individualistic fashion is not. It still serves as a very prominent form of visual communication for many.

Punk: The Sex Pistols
Punk: The Sex Pistols

80s Punk Fashion

The clothing started off as handmade by individuals and has become an integral part of many fashion designers such as Vivienne Westwood and the Sex Pistols, the fashion leaders of the punk era. It wasn't until the 1980s that the fashion began to be produced in mass and sold in stores. The most common and infamous store was known as SEX was run by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, in London on Kings Road.

80s Punk Fashion: Mohawk/Mohican
80s Punk Fashion: Mohawk/Mohican
Punk Mohawk/Mohican
Punk Mohawk/Mohican

80s Punk: The Mohawk

Punks in the 80s wore the Mohawk very proudly. The Mohawk (also referred to as a Mahican in British English) is a hairstyle that got reinvented in the punk era from the Native Americans (Red Indians). The extreme hairstyle, the Mohawk, requires both sides of the head shaven, leaving nothing but a strip of hair that in adversely has nowhere to go but “up”. It is not hairstyle that has lost its appeal either; today many have once again reinvented the style into a “Faux Hawk”. The “Faux Hawk” doesn't necessarily require the sides’ shaven. The sides are just distinctively shorter than the hair on top, a much less intimidating hair style in comparison to the punk Mohawk of 80s punks, to say the least…

Punk Denim Jacket
Punk Denim Jacket

80s Punk: Embellished T-shirts, Jackets and Tight Pants

Tight jeans, ripped and re-attached with safety pins as well as plaid or tartan trousers with additional pieces of fabric attached were often wore by punks in the late 70s and throughout the 80s. T-shirts were embellished with slogans that were painted on or etched in with safety pins. Jackets were also a major part of the attire. They too had hand painted logos, safety pins and often studs and icon buttons creatively adorned all over. Anything that was unusual and that stood out took a new home on their clothes. It was an unusual freedom to do what you wanted. When in comparison to the rest of the 80s fashion, they took great pleasure in being as different as possible from the rest of society.

80s Punk Fashion: Combat Boots
80s Punk Fashion: Combat Boots

80s Punk: Combat Boots, Studded Belts, Chains and Leather Bands

Bondage type fashions shocked society and punks took great time in resourcefully adding dog chains to their clothes or around their necks and wrists. The 80s punk girl loved wearing fishnet stockings, sexually liberating their rebellion towards the hush of inappropriate sexual suggestions and shocking many older generations. Punk girls combined both feminine and masculine looks together, often wearing delicate dresses along with their big combat boots. Both male and female wore studded or spiked accessories and safety pins which once again served as useful accessories when worn as jewelry. They hung from rings and often as earrings. Punk Rock: the New Wave of Sound and Style was a publication printed in the 1977 covering the many types of accessories wore by Punks.

Punk Documentaries

Punk documentary shot in 1977, documents the early days of the Punk Rock phenomenon. From its beginnings on London's pub rock circuit to UK chart domination. Includes tracks by the Sex Pistols, Generation X and Billy Idol.

Interested in other punk documentaries?

IMDb have put together a list of some of the best documentaries to see.

IMDb: Punk Documentaries

Vogue - Chaos to Couture

Punk has taken the fashion world and vogue has done an interview with Andrew Bolton covering the new trend. An interesting insight into how punk has changed now that we are in the 21st century.

"PUNK: Chaos to Couture" examines the impact of punk's aesthetic of brutality on high fashion, focusing especially on its do-it-yourself, rip-it-to-shreds ethos, the antithesis of couture's made-to-measure exactitude.

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    • Waqa212 profile image

      Waqas Ali 

      22 months ago from Pakistan

      check out my profile hope you will also be like my work also

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thank you very much for posting some interesting - and even useful info about Punk and its background. It was not written with any complex syntax and it was easily understood.

      I've always admired, to some degree, the Punk World. I enjoyed observing some of them down on St. Mark's Place, on the Lower East Side (East Village) in Manhattan (NYC).

      I've always been a bit of a 'nonconformist' but I just kinda did that my own way, too. Yep.

      All the best to all the rest.




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