A Ready-to-wear Revolt

09 September, 2016

"Fashion is not an island; it's a response!" says Amanda Hallay, the self proclaimed Indiana Jones of fashion history and a professor at LIM. “It must be looked at in context.” For the punk movement, that context is the chaotic streets of 1970s London. Power outages were frequent, garbage would pile up on the street for weeks at a time, and it wasn't uncommon to stumble upon occupied yet unburied coffins.

Suddenly it all makes sense. Black eyeliner and dark colors became a form of camouflage in light-deprived London alleys. Old folks’ rubbish piling up on the sidewalk was just asking to be altered, tampered with, and upcycled in a most subversive way (and the casual corpses gave the future punks just the fearless edge they needed). Punk style was about making the best with what you had. And if you could piss off the status-quo, why not do that as well?

“The movement wasn’t entirely grassroots: it had its architects.”

For Hallay, it’s about the recycling of symbols. The traditional plaid patterns worn by the Royals were suddenly adorned by working class boys, pairing the sacred British uniform with face make-up, studs, and torn pants. But Hallay also reminds us that the movement wasn’t entirely grassroots: it had its architects. Vivian Westwood, still rocking on four decades later, opened up the landmark punk boutique SEX. Its name, flashing in big pink latex letters over the door, would later become synonymous with the most prominent band of the era, the Sex Pistols. The local conservatives did eventually get Vivian to change the store's name to BOY, but by then, the punk virus had spread. And with it, a new way of sparking change and challenging the establishment. The era of raising your hand and waiting to be called on was over. The youth would now make themselves heard.

Words by David Shargel.

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