“The popularity of punk rock was, in effect, due to the fact that it made ugliness beautiful.” Malcolm McLaren
The current Dsquared2 collection is called MANGAPUNK. Leaving aside the asian comics theme, that leaves us with Punk. This very theme tends to resurface in the fashion world in cyclical, well…fashion. Every few years when the public is tired of classically high-end looks, models walk the runways at fashion week shows sporting heavy boots, ripped clothes, fishnets, zips, chains and so on, with the make-up and hairstyle people having carefully messed up their mascara and crafted their hair into spiky Mohawks.
Of course each designer will bring his/her own touch to the style, but there is an undeniable common denominator, whose origin can be found on the London King’s road over four decades ago.
In 1971 Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood opened their shop on that particular road, selling second-hand Teddy boys clothes as well as their own designs. It was originally called “Let it rock”.
After a time under the new name “Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die”, it would later be renamed “Sex”, a rather provocative shop name for the England of the mid-70’s, where conservative values were still the norm despite the swinging ideals of the previous decade. And by the time the Sex Pistols started to ruffle feathers of the establishment, it had taken yet another name: “Seditionaries”.
- Teddy boys items would include drape jackets, skin-tight trousers, and “brothel creepers”.
- However the shop also sold fetish and bondage wear (labels such as Atomage, She-And-Me and London Leatherman). They used to say “rubber for the street, rubber for the office” about these.
- On top of that mishmash, original designs by McLaren and Westwood consisted of plastic clothes, zippered items, bleached pieces, dyed stuff, a lot of badges, studs and patches (going from Karl Marx picture to the upside down Swastika holding eagle) hand-painted slogans, and the ubiquitous safety pin. Note that American artist Richard Hell actually had a major influence on McLaren’s vision; just look him up and you will see the extend of what I am telling you.
In an interview back in those days Vivienne says that the main theme of her clothes was urban guerrilla; that there was something tribal, primitive in them, and she gives the example of a little kilt that she states is “reminiscent of greek peasant costumes“.
The thing is that until then only Teddy boys would wear Teddy boys clothes. Only S&M aficionados would wear bondage gear. But the teenage kids hanging out at Sex just wore what was on offer there regardless of what urban tribe or sexual fetish was behind the history of the item. This element, coupled with the DIY ethos of Vivienne Westwood gives the early Punks their unique look, which can be appreciated today by looking at photos of the Bromley contingent, a group of youths who would become the first Sex Pistols fans, and from whose ranks would emerge stars like Siouxie Sioux or Billy Idol.
Leather jackets on the other hand had to be purchased at Lewis leathers Ltd in london, which was the only place that sold them. It too became part of the archetypal Punk look, albeit slightly later (in December 1976 members of The clash were seen with leather jackets and this was picked up by a lot of the fans). The reason for the incorporation of this classic to the style is that the motorcycle jacket, already worn by the rockers, was the mark of the rebel and outsider thanks to the character of Marlon Brando in “The wild one”.
Note also another factor: the fact that all members of the Ramones wear one on the cover of their first album, a record which would be extremely influential in terms of defining a musical genre to complement the new look.
Sid Vicious was at the vanguard of the style, unwittingly representing a transition from the early art college DIY ethos, which allowed for a great variety of individual styles, to the more military-like uniformity of the second wave of punks, which will take the look to extremes not seen at the time of the Pistols (Mohawks, piercings, army boots…). Bands like The Exploited would epitomise this avatar.
Music historians, fashions historians, youth cults sociologists…all agree. Punk changed everything, and its influence reached well beyond music and clothes, as it majorly influenced mass media, film making, attitudes, gender roles…
Nowhere more than in the fashion industry can this influence be felt to this day. As we already said when we analysed the Dsquared2 “Mangapunk” show, it combines in reality many elements, but Punk is one of its main components.
Below are a few pieces from the collection, in which you will not fail to see the heritage of punk.
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