Punks: Anarchy and High Fashion

“Punk was a protest against the complacency of the hippie culture” (Misiroglu 2009) with spiked hair, studded leather jackets, face and body piercings and hand painted slogans on the body and clothes.  Sometimes compared to Dada and futurism through the ideology of anti-establishment which made its relevancy as a countercultural movement. (Misiroglu 2009)

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Figure 1 Permanent (Source: Permanentdist.com)

Punk is centered around ideals of dissention and anarchism “summed up in the lyrics to ‘I’m Against It’ by the Ramones is now epitomized by the destructive titles of Zines such as ‘The I Hate People Gazette’” (Duncombe 1997) This ideal reinforces how anarchism came to be defined within the punk movement in that it embraces the synthesis of many potentially differing ideological strains of anarchism and distrust of capitalism.  (Duncombe 1997)

Historically, the mods were the underlying influence to this counterculture, as some began to merge with the hippies, the hard mods turned away to form an edgy identity giving birth to the skinheads which constituted an aggressively systematic exaggeration of the stylish elements with the mod style in direct opposition of the bourgeoisie’s ideology of beauty. “It is here that the punk movement formulated in the widening gap between artist and audience.” “Both Mod and Punk innovations fed back directly into high fashion and mainstream fashion” (Hebdige 1997) The illustration below clearly indicates this claim.

Figure 2 L’Officiel Magazine (Source: styleblazeer.com 2011)

The magazine cover, although it retains the angst of the underground is somewhat objectified in the positioning, facial expression and body language. The sexualization and clothing style on the face of a high end fashion magazine illustrate how this culture has been absorbed by blurring the lines between authenticity and poser.

Arguably, the homogeneity of a style itself isn’t a function but could depend on the wearer’s identity. The visual signifiers of media and commerce are interrelated but also perceived by their relationship to media which makes the countercultures innovators rather than followers. The claim of the wearer’s uniqueness and the authenticity is observed as evidence of a fashion sensibility and wearying ready-made countercultural clothing is the difference between authenticity and the distinction of originality being of great significance to these cultures. (Muggleton 2000)

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Figure 3  Gothic Life (Source; Gothiclife.com)

The interaction between mainstream ideology and the underground is conflict, this runway further morphs the punk styles with popular culture into high fashion absorbing the core signifiers of anarchy and angst the punk culture identifies with. The absorption of style becomes increasingly evident with time. As each new counterculture creates new trends the innovation that once signified the social group in which they identify with ceases to exist as their cultural code during the process of cooptation.

“All youth countercultures begin by presenting symbolic challenges but end by creating new commodities.” (Hebdige 1997)

It is with the awareness associated with this vantage point the counter culturist conflicts arise from the abstraction of an inappropriate relationship distorted by the ruling class ideology as the only possible view. The newer sophisticated marketing schemes have overpowered this concept of resistance as a social and artistic movement and its connection to the current means of production with the subject; conflict is change. (Ollman 2003)


Duncombe, S., 1997. Notes from the Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture. Second ed. Bloomington, IN: Microcosm.

Hebdige, D., 1979. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. New York: Routledge.

Misiroglu, G., 2015. American Countercultures: An Encyclopedia of Non Conformists, Alternative Lifesty

les, and Radical Ideas in U.S. History. https://www.amazon.com/American-Countercultures-Encyclopedia-Nonconformists-Alternative-ebook/dp/B00VA3W28O/ref=pd_ybh_a_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=MWB4R2JHY2EZ9RH1VC4Y ed. New York: Routledge.

Muggleton, D., 2000. Inside Subculture, The Postmodern Meaning of Style. New York: Berg.

Ollman, B., 2003. Dance of the Dialectic An Investigation into the dialectical method of Karl Marz. [Online] Available at: http://www.press.uillinois.edu/f03/ollman.html
[Accessed 05 03 2017].


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