I know what you’re thinking: “AP is a music magazine. Why are you writing about fashion?” Contrary to what a some people may believe, music and fashion have been joined at the hip for quite some time—especially in the punk scene. You might say, “Caring about what you wear isn’t punk,” but it may be the most punk thing you do each day. And here’s why.
Header images: Sid Vicious, 1977 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph © Dennis Morris – all rights reserved | Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913) Vogue , March 2011 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by David Sims]
1. Style is about more than clothes.
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” –Coco Chanel
We wear clothes to make a statement, to reveal a part of ourselves. Kurt Cobain did it when he wore his famous “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” T-shirt when Nirvana appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. The men of My Chemical Romance did it with each album, reinventing their music, and by extension their look, every few years. The Beatles’ fitted suits and skinny ties. Elvis’ leather jacket. Johnny Ramone’s Chuck Taylors—all signaled changing trends in music and fashion. They represented shifts in our culture. Every time you get dressed and walk outside, you’re telling the world, whether you’re conscious of it or not, “This is the person I am today.” Tomorrow you may be a different person, and that’s okay. The best part about fashion is it’s constantly changing—and you get to change with it.
2. Some of the greatest punks were fashion innovators.
“I was a punk before it got its name. I had that hairstyle and purple lipstick.” –Vivienne Westwood
Writing a piece about punk and fashion and not mentioning Vivienne Westwood would be sacrilege. Ironically enough, Westwood couldn’t care less about all the hubbub surrounding her. When the Metropolitan Museum Of Art’s Costume Institute chose the theme “Punk: Chaos To Couture” for last year’s exhibition, she had this to say: “I think it’s ridiculous… Every time punk comes up, they think of me as a kind of trophy. ‘Oh, we know Vivienne, she’s great.’ And then you hear nothing from them in between.” As if that wasn’t punk enough, Westwood showed up to the Met’s Costume Institute gala for said exhibition with a photo of Chelsey Manning, the intelligence analyst who was convicted for releasing classified U.S. documents, pinned to her dress. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t nod to other famous punk fashion innovators like Debbie Harry, Richard Hell (who arguably created the classic “punk” look, holding T-shirts together with safety pins) and Malcolm McLaren who ran the famous London botique SEX with Westwood while managing the Sex Pistols.
3. Fashion doesn’t equate superficiality.
“Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.”–Epictetus
I could wax on for hours about my numerous problems with the following statement: “Caring about clothes/fashion/how you look is superficial.” But I’ll abstain. This goes back to my first point that fashion is more than clothes. Until public nudity becomes acceptable, you’ll be forced to wear clothing every day, so why not enjoy it? I consider fashion equal to my other passions in life. No one ever says caring about the music you listen to is superficial. For some reason though, talking about the clothes we wear in the same context as what we listen to or read or watch is shallow. Making people feel bad about what they wear—and by default how they look—is the real disservice here. Let’s remember the actual definition of superficial: not having or showing any real dept of character or understanding.
4. Fashion is punk.
“Punk is not just the sound, the music. Punk is a lifestyle.” –Billie Joe Armstrong
There isn’t a strict definition of punk (because wouldn’t that be the most un-punk thing ever?) but we can all agree on a couple things: Punk is about being true to yourself. It was a music community created for people who were a little bit weird, a little bit off-center. What better way to let your freak flag fly than through your clothes? That’s what fashion is about. Sure, there will always be people who spout off about the latest trends and demand that people stop wearing certain pieces of clothing because they’re just so passé. Hell, even I’m guilty of it. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about the clothes you put on your body. I might not understand why you wear what you do, but that’s not the point. The point is to be you—and what’s more punk than that?