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Punk Rock Fashion

Jessica Biel Wears A Septum Piercing, and Sarah Jessica Parker Wears A Mohawk at the Met Party

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At the Met Gala in New York City, bland and boring celebrities congregated together and tried to be edgy. They took all the punk garb and wore it like a fancy dress, rich people being flippant and vacuous. Justin Timberlake’s wife, Jessica Biel, wore a laughable septum piercing, and Sarah Jessica Parker wore a ridiculous mohawk. One could argue this is a tribute to punk, but the stars wearing these styles most likely know nothing about punk or what it really means.

NY Mag Asks What Does Punk Mean Anymore?

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NY Mag posted an interesting article on how Punk Rock has become embraced by those who initially rejected punk, the elite and rich. Does this mean that punk as we once knew it is dead? Read on…

If a movement known for rage, rebellion, and adolescent id becomes the focus of a high-fashion celebration, is it the final studded nail in the coffin or proof of everlasting life? What punk means now, and what it meant then.

Punk rock has always had an easy time living up to E. M. Forster’s view of music as a kingdom that “will accept those whom breeding and intellect and culture have alike rejected.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit—the “Oscars of fashion,” currently co-hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and perhaps the city’s most glamorous large social event—feels like the opposite: a celebration of rare finery and a discerning elite. The gala’s theme is generally the same as that of the Costume Institute’s spring exhibit; say, Jacqueline Kennedy or Chanel. But this year’s exhibit is “Punk: Chaos to Couture,” a look at punk clothing and high fashion’s varied responses to it. A lavish ball pivots on the same word you’d use to describe crusty squatters in Tompkins Square Park.

One knee-jerk response to this situation is to see it as a laughable irony, like a steakhouse celebrating how brave and inspiring vegetarians are. I know: It’s tempting. Even a glancing understanding of what “punk” is tends to assume vigorous antipathy toward fashion-industry galas. And it is somehow amusing to imagine socialites commissioning extravagant couture inspired by gangs of raggedy late-seventies miscreants, or Girls actress Allison Williams studying photos of the Sex Pistols and, as she said, getting “really excited to commit to that theme.” In 1976, the year the Ramones released their first LP and cemented the “teenage dirtbag” look that’s persevered through decades of rock culture—before the reek of the CBGB bathroom became one of music’s most famous odors—Diana Vreeland was presiding over a Costume Institute fantasia titled “The Glory of Russian Costume,” for which the air was pumped through with ten gallons of Chanel Cuir de Russie perfume. And yes, the whole endeavor comes surrounded with some of the iffy double-talk that arises when cultural institutions celebrate old bits of radical thinking. Exhibit curator Andrew Bolton talks about subverting the mainstream, and of today’s fashion world lacking the energy and freedom of punk—but doesn’t punk’s example suggest that this doesn’t matter? That the fashion world is easily topped, freedom-and-energy-wise, by random glue- sniffers? If one of punk’s lessons is that people can create their own culture, instead of waiting for it to be dictated from on high, what can elite culture-industry folk learn from that, besides modesty?

One answer is “technique.” Bolton’s exhibit isolates specific themes of punk style (confrontational images, tattering and deconstruction, metal hardware) and traces them out into high fashion. It’s not the first time punk has intruded into the Met-gala world. It cropped up in 2006 as well, in Bolton’s “AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion” exhibit. Sex Pistols front man John Lydon neglected to show up for the band’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction honors that year, with characteristic scorn, but weeks later he was recording a podcast on the Met’s behalf; he contributes a preface to this year’s catalogue. His band was famously instigated by Malcolm McLaren, whose longtime collaborator, Vivienne Westwood, turned out iconic early-punk looks from their London shop—all of which is re-created in “Chaos to Couture.” Richard Hell, whose carefully conceived style became the template for museum-worthy punk looks—he figured out the T-shirts and the hair—contributes another preface, and also just published a punk-years memoir, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. CBGB’s bathroom will be replicated as well, both in this exhibit and in a forthcoming big-budget film about the bands and odors and semen-spiked chili that still make rock nostalgists swoon. This exhibit is far from alone: We’re neck-deep in opportunities to memorialize punk.

It’s right on schedule. We’ve all spent enough time with the old boomer iconography of rock and roll—Elvis and Chuck Berry, the Beatles, the student movement, Woodstock—that it’s become quite cozy and grandparentish; it’s as chronologically distant from a young person today as the big-band era was from young people of the nineties. Rock’s become more of a niche interest, and our image of its grand transfiguring moment has gradually become something more obscure: Ramones T-shirts, pictures of Johnny Thunders, spiky hair. The New York scene offers a particularly romantic origin story, full of fabulous records (graceful poetics from Television and Patti Smith, Mad magazine giddiness from the Ramones, Dead Boys, and Dictators), eye-opening tales (with cameos by Beat poets and Bowie and Sontag), and the sense of this fecund window when a few rotten patches of Manhattan made art with such energy and possibility, such unexpected elegance and dignity, that parts of the music world have spent decades obsessing over—or, in the case of those shaggy throngs on the Lower East Side ten years ago, trying to revive it all, the look and feel even more than the sound itself.

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Kathleen Hanna In A Punk Rock Bikini

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Kathleen Hanna, former lead singer of Bikini Kill, is forty-four years old, and as beautiful and intriguing as ever. Besides the talent, the rage, the edge, Kathleen Hanna also was genuinely good-looking, in a way that people like Courtney Love and Nancy Spungen were not.

Wipe of the punk stylings and ethos, and what would be left is a girl that could’ve easily appeared on Law & Order, Grey’s Anatomy, or any other middle-of-the-road television production.

Photo via Wild Magazine

Besides being a Punk Icon, Kathleen Hanna is a Fashion Icon. She was a key innovator to the Riot Grrrrl sense of self. Girls who still felt like girls, but didn’t want to conform to mainstream fashion, could still meld their intelligence and disenfranchisement with a femme styling that fit their individuality. Sexuality is empowering to women, Hanna understood, but it was also a tool of oppression.


So if Kathleen Hanna was wearing a bikini, she would wear it for herself, making the ironic statement that she wanted, and still drive the boys wild.

To discover more about the Riot Girl movement, Click Here for additional info.

The Punk Rock Ethos Of John Waters’ Baltimore-Based Cinematic Trash Fests

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Legendary filmmaker John Waters once described his films’ target audience as “outcasts from their own minority.” His epic “trash” movies such as Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living appeared during a time when it wasn’t cool to be ruthlessly outrageous, but widely persecuted and stigmatized.

But what separated John Waters’ films from being pure trash, is the intelligence and social commentary that lay beneath the outrageous actions of the characters. His motley crew of actors, titled appropiately enough “The Dreamlanders,” were mostly John Waters’ friends and anyone stupid enough to perform some of the graphic acts John Waters requested. But amidst his amateur actors, lay a few gems, such as Divine, who turned in genius performances in a variety of his films, including his later mainstream success “Hairspray.”

John Waters also rooted for the under-dog in his movies, particularly women and racial minorities. His scene from “Pink Flamingos” featuring Divine triumphantly walking through the streets of downtown Baltimore, head held high, hips swaying to Little Richards’ “The Girl Can’t Help It”, is an unforgettable scene. Shot on low-quality film, there is still cinematic magic created in this enigmatic scene, that is more memorable than the last shot of Pink Flamingos, which may be one of the most infamous in movie history.

John Waters’ films captured the Punk Rock ethos of the permanent outsider, celebrating outsider culture and raging against the hypocrisy and morality of a world gone mad.

Song Of The Day “Punk Rock Girl” – Dead Milkmen

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One Saturday I took a walk to Zipperhead
I met a girl there
And she almost knocked me dead
Punk rock girl please look at me
Punk rock girl what do you see?
Let’s travel round the world
Just you and me punk rock girl

I tapped her on the shoulder
And said do you have a beau?
She looked at me and smiled
And said she did not know
Punk rock girl give me a chance
Punk rock girl let’s go slamdance
We’ll dress like Minnie Pearl
Just you and me punk rock girl

We went to the Phillie Pizza Company
And ordered some hot tea
The waitress said “Well no
We only have it iced”
So we jumped up on the table
And shouted “anarchy”
And someone played a Beach Boys song
On the jukebox
It was “California Dreamin'”
So we started screamin’
“On such a winter’s day”

She took me to her parents
For a Sunday meal
Her father took one look at me
And he began to squeal
Punk rock girl it makes no sense
Punk rock girl your dad is the Vice President
Rich as the Duke of Earl
Yeah you’re for me punk rock girl

We went to a shopping mall
And laughed at all the shoppers
And security guards trailed us
To a record shop
We asked for Mojo Nixon
They said “He don’t work here”
We said “If you don’t got Mojo Nixon
Then your store could use some fixin'”

We got into a car
Away we started rollin’
I said “How much you pay for this?”
She said “Nothing man, it’s stolen”
Punk rock girl you look so wild
Punk rock girl let’s have a child
We’ll name her Minnie Pearl
Just you and me
Eating fudge banana swirl
Just you and me
We’ll travel round the world
Just you and me punk rock girl