Artwork by Jan M. Verburg.
“PUNK NEVER DIES!”, yells a man outside the store as I stand listening to music on a quiet and dreary Amsterdam day. It’s probably because of the sign we have outside “Gast Art!”. It kinda sets me to thinking. I hear a lot of people saying punk is, in fact, dead. And here I am in a punk fashion store listening to Post Punk New Wave, the irony of which does not escape me. But is it really dead? I feel like I’m punk, but I’m not about to start a pub-fight or carve a swastika in my forehead. I feel like Laurie’s punk, but he once told me: “I hope no one starts talking to me about “The Ramones”, because I don’t know who they are.” And to be honest I don’t really either. We can’t deny that the punks who stood on corners scaring people in the streets, aren’t really around anymore, but here wè are.
Like the title of this post states, I don't believe punk is dead. It’s still here kicking around, just different. We’re not all unclean, unemployed struggling musicians with a lot of product in their hair… Okay, well I am, but it’s not because I’m punk.
In this post I would like to share my views on modern punk. These are my views on a wildly splintered subculture that has been around since the 70’s, so if you feel like true punk is smashing a beer over someone’s head in a mosh-pit, by all means be my guest, I’m not about to tell you how to be punk.
For me punk is an aesthetic more than a way of life, or even a music genre. I have believed for years that the fashion of the punk scene defined the subculture at least as much as the music and the attitude has. Without the late Vivienne Westwood, bless her soul, I don’t think we would have as clear a view of punk as we do. This strong visual identity is making a comeback in the fashion industry, although it never completely left. We have young designers like Luke Neil in London queerifying punk fashion (of which I am a big fan) and Ledgebound reviving the bondage suits, right here in the Netherlands. And of course, all the people making their own clothes, cause although it’s evolved, punk still involves a lot of DIY.
DIY is one of the things I associate a lot with modern punk and punk in general. We can all agree most of the clothes we buy new nowadays are shit, planned obsolescence being a disease plaguing most of the fashion industry, including sadly, a lot of the current Vivienne Westwood garments.
Yet within the younger generation of designers upcycling is gaining popularity, buying vintage clothes and remaking them to fit your ideal is a great way to design durable clothing without harming the environment as much. This also inspires countless people who are, like me, awful with a sewing machine, to still give it a try. “Who cares if the seam is crooked, I made it and it looks fine to me.”
That to me is Punk. It’s not “not giving a fuck about what anybody cares”, it takes me 4 hands and one and a half hours to get my hair into those impossible liberty spikes, it would be a bit hypocritical to claim that. It is caring about what you look like, it just doesn’t have to be the newest Gucci or for fuck sakes the newest Primark. It’s being unique, creating your own things and appreciating them, not throwing them out after wearing them once. It’s going all out at a party, but rather than picking a fight, it’s about creating a safe space for everyone, being a bit careful not to poke someone's eye out with the hairspray daggers stuck to your head. I bet a lot of punks would beat me up for saying shit like this, but honestly they can go fuck themselves.