Punk's style legacy
By Kasia Hastings, 20 February 2016
It’s 40 years since punk erupted onto the streets of London and New York and designers have been ripping up, deconstructing and reimagining our wardrobes ever since. The 70s subculture was born out of a need to rewrite the rulebook, with Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren and bands like the Sex Pistols representing a new wave of creative chaos. These days, its defiant DIY spirit is seen sartorially in details like rips, exposed zips and in the ‘fits of some of our most celebrated style rebels.
The Ramones are credited with being the first band to define the punk-rock sound and they did it in really good leather jackets. They applied the punk aesthetic to the outdated 50s concept of the band uniform and spawned a thousand copycat looks. Definitely one of the scene’s most wearable items, the leather jacket has pretty much been adopted by every subculture going, but nothing stuck two fingers up to the 70s establishment like a studded, slur-emblazoned leather jacket. Worn today with slightly less of an anarchic edge, the leather jacket has become a cult classic.
Whether it was with rips, studs or badges, punks liked to deface their denim and this legacy lives on today through the distressed trews of Vic Mensa and co. A punk at heart, the rapper adapts the aesthetic for everything from his high-octane performances to the fashion-week front row. Elsewhere, distressed denim is at peak popularity with knees everywhere feeling the breeze.
Punk was about upsetting the status quo and mohawks, shaved heads and bleached barnets became an instantly visible expression of that spirit. Extreme hair still carries cachet today, whether it’s Bieber dying his hair or Britney going full skinhead. But no one understands the power of a mane makeover more than Zayn, who has experimented with bleach blonde, bright pink and even gone grey. Here he gives the mohawk a nice Malik update.
Pop off the tops
Call it an act of anarchy or commitment to their art, but we’ve seen everyone from The Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious to Wiz Khalifa tearing their T-shirts off on stage. Pre-punk, it was widely accepted that performers kept their shirts on and that’s exactly why clothes became surplus to requirements. While Wiz’s music might not be punk, his attitude is and he was one of the first rappers to introduce a riotous vibe to his shows. Through his tatts, his threads (or lack of) and his consistent disregard for 'no smoking' signs, Khalifa encapsulates the spirit of punk now.