How to Dress Punk
Dressing punk has been around for decades, though the look keeps morphing and developing different elements of style. If you want to dress punk, it's all about finding a look that's anti-materialistic, edgy, and still you. You got the music playing already, right?
Rocking the Clothes
Choose your style. Punk started after WWII, but really took off in the 70s. Since it's been around for a while, it's gone through different phases and style twists and modifications. When the norm was long hair in the 70s, punks went short. Punk girls of the 80s went more masculine to combat the more feminine look of the 70s. And then there's glam punk, pop punk, and hardcore punk, just to name a few variations. So what's your take?
- Glam punk means bright colors, glitter, spandex, leather, leopard print, neons, and satin. Metallic jumpsuit? Sure?
- Pop punk can be found at Hot Topic. Skinny jeans, band tees, pyramid stud belts, skater styles, and wristbands. It's like punk and hipster had a baby together.
- Hardcore punk is the opposite of what it sounds like. It favors simple clothes that are safe to mosh in. A plain t-shirt and baggy work pants is ideal, eschewing the elaborate fashion of other types of punk, which doesn't really make sense in the first place.
- Regardless of which style of punk calls to you (and there are many more that what's listed here), it's all defiantly anti-materialistic. No version of the punk way of life caters to the norm or caves into the mainstream. If it's not trendy, it's good. If it makes your mom furrow her brow, it's good. If the cool kids wouldn't be caught dead wearing it, it's good.
Master the basics. If you're looking for a good, no-questions-asked punk look, there are a few main tenets that have withstood the test of time. Here's a few ideas to get you started:
- Guys: black jeans (or any other type of jeans, really), bullet belts and silver stud belts, leather jackets/denim vests (with all your band patches), leather studs and any simple T shirt. As for shoes, Doc martens, converse, or military-style shoes.
- Girls: black skinny jeans, leopard print or patterned skirts, bullet and stud belts, band tees, leather anything, mesh and ripped mesh, and feel free to thrown in a bit of pink. Converse, Doc Martens, and military-style shoes are best.
- When it comes to band tees, know that everyone is rocking a Ramones or Clash tee. Do yourself a favor and go a little less mainstream punk which, unfortunately, isn't an oxymoron anymore.
Hone your DIY skills. Core to the punk image is being anti-brand. Anti big stores, anti-capitalism. And the easiest way to stick it to the man? Do the job yourself. Rip your jeans, take a black marker to your t-shirt, turn wire into jewelry, whatever. If it's made by you, you can make damn sure no one else has it.
- If you're lacking in creativity skills, there are still tons of ways to show your own style. Add patches to wherever, get experimental with dyes, and go to town with a pair of scissors. It doesn't have to look good. That's actually the idea. The more not-good it looks, the better. Who knew not being creative would ever come in handy?
Choose simple and dirty over clean and chic. There is something decidedly unkempt about the punk look. If your t-shirt has wrinkles, no problem. If your socks look like your grandpa wore them, no problem. If all you're wearing is a t-shirt and jeans and nothing else, no problem. This isn't about trying. This is about throwing on whatever your little hands found in the closet this morning, no worries about it.
- There was a punk movement that swore by simple because it was better for moshing.<ref name=complex/> You would not wear studs in the pit unless you wanna get thrown out for inadvertently poking out a stranger's eye. So when it doubt, keep it easy. Fashion is a mainstream thing, anyway.
Mix it up. If your mom were to walk by you, she might say, "You know that shirt doesn't match those pants, right?" Bingo. Nailed it! This is not really about piecing together a cohesive outfit. Feel free to scream British punk on your top half and Celtic punk on your lower. If anybody asks you any questions, just ask them why they're so concerned with labels anyway.
- Feel free to mix up layers of formal-ness, too. A t-shirt and tie? Why wouldn't you? A skirt and masculine boots? Sure thing. Total bedhead, but an outfit you spent hours on? Why not?
- If you're female, you can totally rock a tutu with combat boots. Play up your feminine side by juxtaposing it with masculine items. Feather earrings and cargo pants, sexy fishnets and a loose band tee, it's all good.
Accessorizing and Hair
Don't shy away from metal and other textures. There is nothing wrong with rocking a pair of chinos with a mesh top and a leather jacket. Nothing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Heck, your belt could be a metal chain (in fact, that was a prominent thing in the 80s). Wool socks, leather boots, ripped nylon tights? Yes, please.
- Most of your clothes are gonna be cottons. To really have a piece stick out, it needs to be something else. This isn't completely necessary -- after all, simple is good -- but if you do want to nail that park of the punk look that is eye-catching, it's a surefire way to go about it.
Think black augmented with bright colors. If there's one thing everyone knows (or thinks) about the punk look, it's that it's mostly black. And, in general, this is true. But tried-and-true punk rockers also aren't afraid to throw in a little color. And bright colors at that. Think neons -- blues, pinks, yellows, oranges, greens -- and silver and red. Punk is so not the same as being goth or emo, and this is one of the reasons why.
Throw in different influences. Remember how we talked about how punk has gone through all these transitions? Pay 'em homage! Do your research -- there are often military themes, blue collar themes (work boots and suspenders -- getting down to punk's roots), and British influences. So raid your English uncle's closet. He's bound to have something in there.
- Body piercings, glitter, rubber, vinyl, kilts, tattoos -- they all have a spot on the spectrum of punk. Bowler hats, studded wristbands, the anarchy symbol, shaved heads or long hair, punk has seen it all.
Do whatever the heck you want with your hair. Seriously. Some people will tell you you gotta dye it, but if you take it too far, you'll end up just telling everyone, "Hey, look at me! I'm trying so hard to be anti-conformist!" So you could dye it, but you could also wear a mohawk, shave it all off, or just do absolutely nothing to it whatsoever. It's totally up to you.
- Not the answer you were looking for? Well, think about your hair the way you think about your clothes. If most people wouldn't sport it, it's probably on the money. So go get that perm, shave in your dog's name, dye just the part by your left ear blue, whatever. Who cares what your hair looks like, you know?
Getting the Attitude
Listen to the music. Love it or hate it (since you're here, you probably fall more in the first category), it's still good to know the bands. You'd be on this page all day if we covered them all, so here's a few to get started: Some examples:
- Dropkick Murphys
- The Clash
- Nirvana (labeled as grunge, but still very punk)
- Minor Threat
- Dead Kennedys
- Be aware that if you rock the tee-shirt, someone may come up to you and say, "Duuuuude, I love the Adicts! What'd you think of Chinese Takeaway?" And then you'll be forced to either make something up and hope for the best, say, "Omg, look over there!" and run the other direction, or admit that you just bought the t-shirt because you thought it looked cool. So do yourself a favor and be part of the scene.
Develop something to rebel against. Anything you hate in the world, rebel against it. This is way more important than the clothes. You can be a true original punk and not have all the cool clothes -- the clothes don't mean anything, just a way of identification. In fact, some punk lifers swear that fashion is just a distraction.<ref name=complex>http://www.complex.com/style/2013/04/29-things-you-didnt-know-about-punk-style/hardcore-punk</ref>
- You do not necessarily need something to rebel against, but "police" generally works in most situations. The man, the establishment, authority in general. Angst is very at home here in punk land.
Don't pay attention to what others think about you. If you get a raised eyebrow or two because of your tutu, awesome. If the family doesn't understand why you're wearing a tie over your Black Flag t-shirt, tell them to go to Wikipedia. If your teacher is worried you're going through a detrimental phase, well, prove her wrong by getting an A on the next project. What they think may seem to matter now, but it in the scheme of things, it so doesn't. That's really at the heart of being punk.
- And don't even pay attention to other "punk" enthusiasts. If they tell you your look isn't punk, they don't get it. Punk isn't something you can put into a box and say this is or is not punk. If you like it and someone else doesn't, you're doing it right. Don't second guess yourself. At the end of the day, to dress punk, just go for it. Whatever it is, go for it.
- If you don't like the way you look, change it. If you don't like Mohawks, don't get one, if you don't like leather jackets with spikes, don't wear one. Its all about doing what YOU want, not what people think about you.
- Do not ever listen to any negative comments that bring you down. They're just telling you that trash because their life sucks and they're really insecure.
- Just be yourself -- most importantly!
- Hit some cool thrift shops and buy a bunch of old clothes there and cut them up-be Do It Yourself!
- Listening, loving and living the music is what matters, above all else. You're either a punk or you're not.
- There is no right or wrong way to dress punk. It's more about the individual.
- Don't worry about if what you do is punk. That will make you a poser.
- Be nice to people! Nothing is more of a shock than when a rough-and-tumble person turns out to be considerate and polite.
- If you happen to like something popular, enjoy it. There's a big difference between acting to like something because it's popular, and genuinely liking something, regardless of it's popularity.
- Get into the music first, if anything.
- Don't start dressing like this overnight! Firstly, you'll look like a poser, and secondly, (unless you really want to shock them) you'll stop everyone's heart when they see you for the first time all punked up!
- Don't flaunt or brag about anything when it comes to being "punk," especially the way you dress.