Comment | They Wanna Make a T-shirt Outta Your Dreams


Sadly punk has died a slow death once again. The Met has launched it’s ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture’ exhibition which aims to examine punk but only through it’s fashion. Well, I am a twenty-something woman who can’t say no to a pretty printed dress so I can see how fashion could possibly have an impact on people but obviously you can tell this is gonna go downhill soon.

Curator Andrew Bolton seems to think punk began and ended with the Sex Pistols so visitors are presented with a long line of ironic union flags, grotty jumpers, ripped shirts and a fuck load of safety pins (punks can’t sew ya see). You would have thought they would have showcased vintage Vivienne Westwood or that ridiculous PVC top that Johnny Rotten wore to a gig and passed out in (punks were also kinda dumb back then). They haven’t though, all the collections are new weak attempts to remake this effervescent culture by ripping a few dresses and bringing out grandad’s old jumper that’s been sitting in the back of the wardrobe since 1992.

God knows how this became an actual thing. The 70s image of punk is so far away now that it’s become edgy, hip and, most importantly for fashion, easy to copy. Once again a subculture gets appropriated by the mainstream to be sold to the elite who would have fainted at the sight of a punk back in the day. Punk can’t be bought or sold. It’s an idea, a concept not a fashion and it certainly wasn’t the long white, male list that is presented at the Met.

Since no one else can do it properly here are a list of punk icons who also happened to wear super cool outfits. Like I said before I don’t mind fashion but call it what it is. Punk isn’t a fashion and punk wasn’t just Johnny Rotten and his drugged up crew.

Poly Styrene

Poly was always a hop, step and massive jump ahead of the rest. With futuristic lyrics came futuristic clothes. Day glo outfits and army helmets were paired with Poly’s infamous braces. She later changed her style to a more military, masculine look to try and command more respect leading a band of rowdy lads. She was so punk that she even shaved her head because she thought she was becoming too much of an sex symbol. This woman should be everyone’s idol.

Pauline Black

If you’re looking for a clean cut, sleek style than Pauline’s your woman. Never far from her trusty black suit and trilby hat Pauline always cut a particularly sophisticated path in the punk and ska scenes. If you’re looking for butch / masculine chic Pauline always knew how to do it best.

Betty Davis

I don’t care what anyone says Betty Davis was punk and totally DIY. She married Miles Davis, was a model, and wore afro-futuristic outfits like it was nothing. That funky space age number is probably just something she threw on to go down the cornershop in. If ever I decide to take a lot of drugs and make a electro-dub space confusion noise project this is what I’ll be wearing.

Kathleen Hanna

I guess it’s hard to think of Kathleen Hanna as a style icon but I say she is because number one she used to go on stage in her pants and a t shirt (that’s bloody hard to do you know), two that love heart bikini top is to die for and three she spurred on the trend of scrawling insults in marker pen on your body. I believe her reasoning was that she’d call herself it before anyone says that to her. Although it seems like a brash way to go about things you can’t deny the power that statement makes.

Courtney Love / Kat Bjelland (The Babydoll look)

I don’t know who started this as both Kat and Courtney have a rightful claim on those peter pan collared dresses. Disheveled hair, trashy lipstick and cutesy dresses made up the babydoll look as girls channeled feminine glam through riot grrrl fury to create a look that hipsters are still trying to recreate today. They don’t look as good as Court and Kat obviously.


2 thoughts on “Comment | They Wanna Make a T-shirt Outta Your Dreams

  1. Awesome! Thanks for this. I’m still hoping to make it to the exhibition so I can write my criticism.

    LOVE Poly Styrene and Betty Davis. What about Ari Up (those dreads… her whole style looks NOTHING like anyone else in punk) and the lesser-known Anya Phillips? Anya created her own DIY designs for herself, Debbie Harry, and Lydia Lunch.

    • I know! I was gonna include Ari Up and Debbie but I thought I’ve written enough already so I should probably stop talking. Don’t think I know Anya Phillips but I’ll look her up x.x.x

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