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A French punk in 1981, wearing a customized blazer, as was popular in the early punk scene.

Punk fashion is the clothing, hairstyles, cosmetics, jewelry, and body modifications of the punk subculture. Punk fashion varies widely, ranging from Vivienne Westwood designs to styles modeled on bands like The Exploited. The distinct social dress of other subcultures and art movements, including glam rock, skinheads, rude boys, greasers, and mods have influenced punk fashion. Punk fashion has likewise influenced the styles of these groups, as well as those of popular culture. Many punks use clothing as a way of making a statement.

Punk fashion has been extremely commercialized at various times, and many well-established fashion designers — such as Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier — have used punk elements in their production. Punk clothing, which was initially handmade, became mass produced and sold in record stores and some smaller specialty clothing stores by the 1980s. Many fashion magazines and other glamor-oriented media have featured classic punk hairstyles and punk-influenced clothing. These have caused controversy, as many punks view it as having sold out.



A punk wearing a leather motorcycle jacket with studs and spikes.
Early punk band: The Ramones

Punk rock was an intentional rebuttal of the perceived excess and pretension found in mainstream music, and early punk artists' fashion was defiantly anti-materialistic. Generally unkempt, often short hairstyles replaced the long-hair hippie look and the usually elaborate 1970s rock/disco styles. In the United States, dirty, simple clothes - ranging from the T-shirt/jeans/leather jacket Ramones look to the low-class, second-hand "dress" clothes of acts like Television or Patti Smith - were preferred over the expensive or colorful clothing popular in the disco scene.

In the United Kingdom, a great deal of punk fashion from the 1970s was based on the designs of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren and the Bromley Contingent. Mainstream punk style was influenced by clothes sold in Malcolm McLaren's shop SEX. McLaren has credited this style to his first impressions of Richard Hell, while McLaren was in New York City working with New York Dolls. Deliberately offensive T-shirts were popular in the early punk scene, such as the DESTROY T-shirt sold at SEX, which featured an inverted crucifix and a Nazi Swastika. These T-shirts, like other punk clothing items, were often torn on purpose. Other items in early British punk fashion included: leather jackets; customised blazers; and dress shirts randomly covered in slogans (such as "Only Anarchists are pretty"), fake blood, patches and deliberately controversial images (such as anarchist symbolism, portraits of Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin or Benito Mussolini).

Punk women in Morecambe in 2003.

Other accoutrements worn by some punks included: BDSM fashions; fishnet stockings (sometimes ripped); spike bands and other studded or spiked jewelry; safety pins (in clothes and as body piercings); silver bracelets and heavy eyeliner worn by both men and women. Many female punks rebelled against the stereotypical image of a woman by combining clothes that were delicate or pretty with clothes that were considered masculine, such as combining a Ballet tutu with big, clunky boots.

Punk clothing sometimes incorporated everyday objects for aesthetic effect. Purposely-ripped clothes were held together by safety pins or wrapped with tape; black bin liners (garbage bags) became dresses, shirts and skirts. Other items added to clothing or as jewelry included razor blades and chains. Leather, rubber and vinyl clothing have been common, possibly due to their connection with transgressive sexual practices, such as bondage and S&M.

Preferred footwear included military boots, motorcycle boots, brothel creepers, Chuck Taylor All-Stars and later, Dr. Martens boots. Tapered jeans, tight leather pants, trousers with leopard patterns and bondage trousers were popular choices. Hair was cropped and deliberately made to look messy, and was often dyed bright unnatural colors. Although provocative, these hairstyles were not as extreme as later punk hairstyles.


Early 1980s punk fashion.

In the 1980s, new fashion styles developed as parallel resurgences occurred in the United States and United Kingdom. What many recognize as typical punk fashions today emerged from the 1980s British scene, when punk underwent its Oi!/street punk, and UK82 renaissance. The US scene was exemplified by hardcore bands such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Fear. The 1980s American scene spawned a utilitarian anti-fashion that was nonetheless raw, angry, and intimidating. However, elements of the 1970s punk look never fully died away.

UK punks displaying elements of early and 1980s punk fashions, circa 1986.

Some of the following clothing items were common on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and some were unique to certain geographic areas. Footwear that was common in the 1980s punk scene included Dr. Martens boots, motorcycle boots and combat boots; sometimes adorned with bandanas, chains or studded leather bands. Jeans (sometimes dirty, torn or splattered with bleach) and tartan kilts or skirts were commonly worn. Leather skirts became a popular item for female punks. Heavy chains were sometimes used as belts. Bullet belts, and studded belts (sometimes more than one worn at a time) also became common.

Some punks bought T-shirts or plaid flannel shirts and wrote political slogans, band names or other punk-related phrases on them with marker pens. While this was not without precedent in the 1970s, the depth and detail of these slogans were not fully developed until the 1980s. Silkscreened T-shirts with band logos or other punk-related logos or slogans were also popular. Studded, painted and otherwise customised leather jackets or denim vests became more popular during this era, as the popularity of the earlier customized blazers waned. Hair was either shaved, spiked or in a crew cut or Mohawk hairstyle. Tall mohawks and spiked hair, either bleached or in bright colors, took on a more extreme character than in the 1970s. Charged hair, in which all of one's hair stands on end but is not styled into distinct spikes, also emerged. A hairstyle similar to The Misfits' devilocks was popular, espcially amongst female punks. This involved shaving the entire head except for a tuft at the front. Body piercings and extensive tattoos became very popular during this era, as did spike bands and studded chokers. Some hardcore punk women reacted to the earlier 1970s movement's coquettish vibe by adopting an asexual style.

Different styles

Punks at a music festival.

Current factions of the punk subculture have different clothing habits, although there is often crossover between the different subgroups.

Standard punk

In general, modern punks wear leather, denim, spikes, chains, and combat boots. They often wear elements of early punk fashion, such as kutten vests, bondage pants (often plaid) and torn clothing. There is a large influence by DIY-created and modified clothing, such as ripped or stitched-together pants or shirts. Hair is typically dyed in bright, unnatural colors such as red, blue, green, pink or orange and arranged into a mohawk or liberty spikes. Hair could also be cut very short or shaved. Belts with metal studs, and bullet belts, are popular. Leather or denim jackets and vests often have patches or are painted with logos that express musical tastes or political views. Pants are usually tapered tightly. Metal spikes or studs are often added to jackets and vests.

Glam punk band Prima Donna.

Glam punk

Glam punk is the oldest punk style, associated with the early groups of the 1970s like the New York Dolls. Glitter, androgynous makeup, brightly-dyed hair, drainpipe jeans (in reaction to the flared trousers worn by hippies), bright colors like electric blue and unusual costumes like leopard print or satin shirts are frequently worn.


Henry Rollins of Black Flag, like many others in the US hardcore scene, eschewed elaborate punk fashions in favour of a basic style.

There are several styles of dress within the hardcore scene, and styles have changed since the genre started as hardcore punk in the late 1970s. What is fashionable in one branch of the hardcore scene may be frowned upon in another. Clothing styles are often chosen to make moshing easier to perform. Plain working class dress and short hair (with the exception of dreadlocks) are usually associated with hardcore punk. Mute colors and minimal adornment are usually common. Some elements of hardcore clothing are baggy jeans or work pants, athletic wear, cargo or military shorts, khakis or cargo pants, band T-shirts, plain T-shirts, muscle shirts, and band hoodies. Many hardcore punks wear sportswear and sneakers, including Pony, Vans, Adidas, Puma, Nike, and Converse apparel, or boots such as Doc Martens. Personal comfort and the ability to mosh are highly influential in this style (Jewellery, spikes, tight clothes, flashy hair and chains are highly uncommon and discouraged in hardcore fashion.)


Anarcho-punk fashion is a politicised adaptation of traditional punk fashion. This all black militaristic fashion was pioneered by Crass in the United Kingdom and by Crucifix in the United States. A prominent feature is the heavy use of anarchist symbols and slogans. Some who define themselves as Anarcho-Punks may opt to wear clothing similar to traditionalist punks or crust punks, but not often to the extreme of either subculture. Mohawks, and liberty spikes are rarely seen, but can still be worn. Tight pants, bands shirts and boots are common. Hair styling products are often used only on the basis that the company who manufactures it did not test it on animals. Leather, often avoided as part of Veganism, may be replaced with imitation leather or cloth in a similar design as leather products.

Crust punk

Crust punk fashion is an extreme evolution of traditional punk fashion, and is heavily influenced by bands such as Doom, Amebix and Antisect. Typical crust punk fashion includes black or camouflage trousers or shorts covered in patches (heavy work pants are popular for their durability), torn band T-shirts or hoodies covered in patches, studded vests and jackets (commonly black denim), bullet belts, jewelry made from hemp and other natural/found objects, and sometimes bum flaps. Patches, even band patches, are often of a political nature. Clothing tends to be unwashed and unsanitary by conventional standards, and dreadlocks are popular. Crust punks sometimes sew articles of clothing with found or cheaply-bought materials, such as dental floss. Baseball caps with patches sewn on or studs implanted are popular headgear. Pants are often held up with string, hemp, or vegan-friendly imitation leather (sometimes avoided due to the style's connection with animal cruelty)

Gothic rock, deathrock and horror punk

Deathrock and horror punk fashion is similar to goth fashion. Black is the predominant shade. Deathrock and horror punk incorporates a sexier image, incorporating fishnets, corsets and elaborate make-up for men and women. The use of occult and horror imagery is prevalent on T-shirts, buttons, patches and jewellery. Other common adornments include band names painted on jackets or bleached into clothes, as well as buttons or patches indicating cities. The initials D and R (for Death Rock) may part of a crossbone logo, accompanied by other initials, such as C and A for California, N and Y for New York, or G and R for Germany. Hair may be in deathhawk style (a wider teased-out variant of the mohawk hairstyle), an angled bangs style, or in a devilock style. The traditional 80's Gothic Rock gave birth to the teased mohawk, unlike the Punk mohawk which was often fanned or spiked the Goth mohawk which is often referred to as the Death Hawk was slightly wider and teased, often crimped as well.


Contemporary psychobilly band: the Horrorpops

Psychobilly emerged in the 1980s and combines punk with elements of 1950s Greaser and British Teddy Boy fashion: brothel creepers are frequently worn, as well as leather jackets, gas-station shirts, black or white retro T-shirts and vintage motorcycle/work boots. Hair consists of a quiff or pompadour, usually with the sides shaved into a mohawk. Clothing is usually adorned with motiffs inspired by classic American horror films or art-styles inspired by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. This style of punk is strongly associated with the Kustom Kulture movement.


Cowpunk blends punk with outlaw country, Southern rock and rock and roll. Fans of cowpunk base their look on Southern United States poor boys: vintage western wear like checked shirts, Perfecto motorcycle jackets and cowboy boots. Hair can be a short quiff, crew cut, long, or a psychobilly-style mohawk.

Skate punk

Common skate punk clothing items include: T-shirts, open plaid button-down shirts, hooded sweatshirts, wristbands, webbed belts, and shorts, jeans or work trousers. Some skate punks have been influenced by the Cholo/gang style. Popular skateboard clothing and footwear brands include: Baker, Emerica, Toy Machine, Fallen, Spitfire Wheels, Vans and Zero. While skateboarders often have long and messy hair, skate punks usually have short hair. Examples: Pennywise, Millencolin, and no fun at all

Pop punk

Billie Joe Armstrong, singer of the 1990s pop-punk band Green Day

Pop punk fashion sometimes overlaps with skater punk fashion. Contemporary pop punk fans often wear items such as band T-shirts with ties or scarves; blazers; Dickies pants, jeans or shorts; studded belts; Converse All-Stars or Vans skateboarder shoes, and sometimes fitted hats. In the mid 2000s pop punk fashion, influenced by indie, hip-hop and the middle class emo subculture, evolved to include cartoon print hoodies and drainpipe pants. Spiky hair was gradually replaced by skater styles with long fringes or bangs.


Some punks dress similarly to the droogs in the film A Clockwork Orange. This involves white boiler suits, bowler hats, black Dr. Martens or combat boots, suspenders and sometimes black eye makeup (on one eye only). This look has been displayed by bands such as The Adicts and Lower Class Brats, The Violators and Major Accident.


Suicidals (and some individuals in the later hardcore scene) dress in styles associated with the Cholo gang member look. Cholo punk is another term used, but is better suited for those who are more heavily influenced by the Cholo/Mexican-American gang culture. This look, influenced by the California band Suicidal Tendencies, involves wearing bandanas (primarily blue in color) on one's head, Converse sneakers and other skateboard shoes, and blue plaid flannel shirts (usually worn with only the top button done up). Other commonly worn items include knee-high white socks, khaki shorts, baggy Diesel jeans and blue basketball jerseys with the number thirteen on them. Suicidal Tendencies T-shirts, as well as related band T-shirts (e.g. Beowülf, Excel and No Mercy) were popular, as well as white tank tops. This style sometimes includes a shaved head, short mohawk, crewcut or long Jay Adams-style hair. Another item associated with the Suicidals scene is a baseball cap or trucker hat with the bill upturned, and with text written or painted on it. Another associated item is a white dress shirt with hand-drawn Suicidal related iconography on the back (e.g. Skulls, satanic imagery, the number 13 or the words Suicidal, Venice or Cyco).

See also


  • Dick Hebdige (1979). Subculture: The Meaning of Style (Routledge, March 10, 1981; softcover ISBN 0-415-03949-5). Cited in Negus, Keith (1996). Popular Music in Theory: An Introduction. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6310-2.
  • Paul Gorman (2006). The Look: Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion (Adelita, May 10 2006; softcover ISBN 0-9552017-0-5)

External links

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