A Little History Lesson In Punk Fashion
Continuing on with our month long celebration of punk fashion, coinciding with Selfridges punk exhibition, this week we're exploring what punk fashion was all about back in the hey-day of the Sex Pistols and The Clash...
Ask the person next to you what punk fashion was in the 70s, and their minds will be swamped with images of leather jackets, drainpipe checked trousers, safety pins, ripped clothing, studs, badges, and patches. Basically the average Camden Town punter trying to sell you god-knows-what. The instigators of punk fashion, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, opened their second shop on Kings Road, London in 1972, named 'Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die.' They sold mainly leather clothing fixed with zips, chains and studs, and t-shirts emblazoned with slogans and pornographic images, whatever was deemed 'anti-fashion' at the time. After they admittedly 'got bored of the shop', they redesigned it under the name 'Sex' two years later, and sold rubber and leather fetish gear, becoming quite renowned in the burgeoning punk scene after Westwood designed clothes for the band The New York Dolls using this S&M style. However, it was in 1976 when the Sex Pistols wore clothes from their next store 'Seditionaries', at their first gig, that their fate was sealed. This was the moment when punk fashion was born, many believe, as the Pistols played such a huge importance in advertising Westwood's and McLaren's designs, much in the same manner as the young starlets at the Oscars we saw the other night.
Malcolm McLaren has since said that their intention 'ultimately was to fail, and fail in the most flamboyant manner possible'. They aimed to create clothes that were anti-fashion, that the bourgeois shopping along Kings Road with their Gucci bags would despise. Their clothes attracted punks in the late 70s, due to the certain lifestyle the clothes portrayed, as many of them were unemployed or from low working-class families. If they were unable to afford the 'Sex' or 'Seditionaries' clothes, they would cut up clothes from thrift shops, destroying the fabric and refashioning them with crude construction techniques so as to attract attention. Torn fabrics, frayed edges, defaced prints, laddered tights, all accessorised with chunky Doc Martens boots, safety pins, chains, padlocks, and razorblades were popular also, anything which was a world away from the pages of Vogue magazine.
Many designers and high street shops still take inspiration from the punk fashion of the 70s. In 1977 a British designer, Zandra Rhodes, took inspiration from these rough, destroyed clothes, and created elegant versions with bright colours. She used gold safety pins and chains, along with gold thread, making them acceptable to the rich and famous, as shown in the photo below, with her safety pin jewellery. Versace were also known to take influence from punk fashion, most famously in the black dress Liz Hurley wore to the 1992 premiere of 'Four Weddings And A Funeral', which was hanging precariously by a few large gold safety pins, seen below. Beloved by chavs all over the world, Louis Vuitton's infamous graffiti-style handbags took direct inspiration from Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, as the designs are dirty, rough, with words splashed over the bags in the popular graffiti style of the 1970s. Some could say even French Connection's logo, 'FCUK', came directly from the 70s, as it is crude, in your face, and could be deemed as offensive. The sleeveless top in one of the above photos with the swear word emblazoned across it could have very well been the inspiration in which French Connection's designers took from. Malcolm McLaren once asked 'does passion end in fashion?', as it appears all the punk values from the 70s and 80s have disappeared with the birth of a new society. It would seem that all we have left from those wonderful, anarchic days are the clothes. [Katherine Hannaford]
Selfridges are celebrating punk's 30 year anniversary for the month of March. Keep reading Catwalk Queen weekly for updates on all the exclusive designer garments and accessories available, along with the history of punk fashion. It all kicks off this Friday night with a Buzzcocks gig at Selfridges Ultralounge bar. See you there!