It’s A Punk’s World…
Which country’s take on the subculture is your favourite?
It was a spirit and a look that inspired the world. And though exactly which region first established punk remains hotly debated (we like to imagine Vivienne Westwood and Joey Ramone fighting it out celebrity death match style on behalf of London and New York respectively) what’s undeniable is that before long, it had spread like wildfire, and much like fashion, each different place had its own twist on punk. As New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art throws open its doors to its Punk: Chaos To couture exhibit, it’s that global element that we’re intrigued by – the idea that a subculture that rejected conformity turned up in various locations around the world looking consistently similar and yet somehow reflective of its surroundings, all at once. In celebration, we’re looking at the Seventies punk scene in five of our favourite places, and some of the seriously stylish modern street looks they helped inspire…
New York Punk
Amongst the earliest adopters, the New York Punk set were all about the music. Low-fi rockers like The Dictators, Television and The Ramones (surely the blueprint for leather jackets and denim attire) are responsible for a sizable chunk of punk classics and spawned a thousand imitations. Their gigs at the CBGB Club turned the venue into a mecca, both in the Seventies and now, years after its closure.
The London tribe have a strong claim to the punk throne - it was home to the Sex Pistols, the genre’s definitive band with their ripped tartan, safety pins and anti-establishment anthems. And of course, the Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren was married to Vivienne Westwood (together they ran the famous Kings Road boutique SEX), the woman who fused punk and high fashion together and became an industry legend for it.
French punks staged the first European punk-rock festival at Mont-de-Marsan in 1976, favouring the music coming from America and Britain, but as with most areas of culture, the natives still had a big part to play. Guy Debord led the French Situationists, an anarchic political group who heavily influenced the punk movement- through their critique of modern culture, their celebration of creativity, and their stress on the immediate transformation of everyday life.
The German city was famed in the Seventies for its alternative culture and embraced punk wholeheartedly, seamlessly slipping it in amongst the seediness and creativity. Bands like Male and PVC were popular, but where Berlin really excelled was the nightlife, with the movement taking over the Kreuzberg district and spawning the legendary Club SO36.
The sunny skies of Oz may seem like an unlikely location for a flourishing punk scene, but in the Seventies, that’s exactly what happened. Divided up between Brisbane (whose punk scene was one of the first in the world), Sydney and Melbourne, using the subculture and support of bands like The Saints as a way of escaping alienation and oppression from a conservative, authoritarian government.