Skip to main content
Select Source:

Punk

PUNK

Punk was a radical style of the mid- to late 1970s marked by unconventional combinations of elements and materials and a high shock value. It emerged out of London, England, and New York, feeding off of the cities' angry, rebellious participants of music concerts where a new type of music called punk was developing. What began as an antistyle aimed at thumbing its nose at the established norms of high fashion ended up having a great deal of influence on the fashions of the late 1970s and beyond.

There was always a punk element in rock 'n' roll. The Beatles famously wore black leather jackets and played a loud, fast, aggressive brand of rock music before softening their look and sound. What is now called punk is generally dated to 1972, however, when the British fashion designers Malcolm McLaren (1946) and Vivienne Westwood (1941) opened their London boutique. First called Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die and later renamed Sex, the shop sold a variety of black leather and rubber designs and became a central meeting place for those in the emerging punk music scene. An aspiring music manager, McLaren himself helped set the styles that many British punks would emulate. Some of these he imported from the United States. From the U.S. punk musician Richard Hell of the band Television, for example, McLaren copied the idea of the spiked haircut. Achieved by applying large amounts of gel or Vaseline to one's hair and then rubbing talcum powder into it to dry it into spikes that stuck out away from the head, the hairstyle became emblematic of the punk look. Johnny Rotten (1956), lead singer of the band McLaren managed, the Sex Pistols, helped popularize the style in Great Britain. Other early elements of punk style that migrated from the United States to England included the concept of deliberately ripping one's jeans below the knee, a practice of the New York-based bands the Ramones and the New York Dolls.

In contrast to the colorful, naturalistic garments worn by the hippies of the 1960s, punks preferred almost entirely black, self-consciously menacing clothes. They often composed their outfits little by little from items bought at second-hand or military surplus shops, mixing, matching, and layering as they saw fit. Quite often the garments were torn, colored, or otherwise altered to create a more individual look. Mainstays of the punk's closet included black turtlenecks, short leather skirts for women, tight leather pants or jeans for men, leather jackets customized with paint, chains, and metal studs, and Doc Marten boots. Jackets and T-shirts were often decorated with obscene or disturbing words and images. Besides leather, materials favored by punks included rubber and plastic; besides chains, they liked to adorn themselves with dog collars, razor blades, and safety pins which became a symbol of the punk style.

Punks also blazed their own trails in the area of hair, makeup, and jewelry. When not spiking hair, they were coloring it in a variety of bright hues. Or they shaved part or all of their heads, creating mohawks. Makeup was used to blacken eyelids and lips. Finally, the most dedicated punks pierced their cheeks, noses, and eyelids, often with safety pins.

Punk remained a rebellious style until 1977, when designer Zandra Rhodes (1940) brought it into the high fashion mainstream with her Punk Chic collection. Her designs offered a tamer version of punk style, including tattered hems with exquisite embroidery and gold safety pins. Her designs helped bring punk to the attention of the rich and famous and paved the way for its acceptance by the mass market. By the end of the 1970s, new wavea tidier, less threatening variation of punkhad largely replaced it as the style of choice among New York and London youth. However, the punk spirit proved a major influence on the goth, grunge, and some hip-hop styles of subsequent decades.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Punk." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Punk." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/punk

"Punk." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/punk

punk

punk / ngk/ • n. 1. inf. a worthless person (often used as a general term of abuse). ∎  a criminal or hoodlum. ∎ derog. (in prison slang) a passive male homosexual. ∎  an inexperienced young person; a novice. 2. (also punk rock) a loud, fast-moving, and aggressive form of rock music, popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. ∎  (also punk rock·er) an admirer or player of such music, typically characterized by colored spiked hair and clothing decorated with safety pins or zippers. 3. soft, crumbly wood that has been attacked by fungus, sometimes used as tinder. • adj. 1. inf. in poor or bad condition: I felt too punk to eat. 2. of or relating to punk rock and its associated subculture: a punk band a punk haircut. DERIVATIVES: punk·ish adj. punk·y adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"punk." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"punk." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk-1

"punk." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk-1

punk

punk an admirer or player of a loud, fast-moving, and aggressive form of rock music popular in the late 1970s, typically characterized by coloured spiked hair and clothing decorated with safety pins or zips; also, this form of music. The terms punk rocker and punk rock are also used.

The word is recorded from the late 17th century in the sense ‘soft crumbly wood that can be used as timber’, and from the early 20th century in the sense ‘a worthless person’; it may also be related to archaic punk ‘prostitute’ and spunk, ‘courage’.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"punk." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"punk." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk

"punk." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk

punk

punk Term used to describe music and fashion of the mid-1970s, characterized by raw energy and iconoclasm. Heavily influenced by US bands, such as the New York Dolls, punk was pioneered in Britain by the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Often anti-establishment, the associated fashions in dress, hair and make-up were also designed to shock.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"punk." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"punk." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/punk

"punk." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/punk

punk

punk2 rotten wood, touchwood XVIII; something worthless XIX; person of no account XX. of unkn. orig.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"punk." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"punk." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk-3

"punk." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk-3

punk

punk1 (obs. or arch.) prostitute. XVI. of unkn. orig.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"punk." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"punk." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk-2

"punk." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk-2

punk

punkbonk, clonk, conk, cronk, honk, Leblanc, pétanque, plonk, tronc, zonk •honky-tonk • oink • Munch •bunk, chunk, clunk, drunk, dunk, flunk, funk, gunk, hunk, junk, Monck, monk, plunk, punk, shrunk, skunk, slunk, spunk, stunk, sunk, thunk, trunk •chipmunk • quidnunc • cyberpunk •punch-drunk • countersunk

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"punk." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"punk." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk-0

"punk." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/punk-0