The rise of the plastic punk

The washed leather jacket, chunky patent boots and studded accessories sit in the disarray of my wardrobe as I decide what today’s outfit will be. Influenced by micro trends, celebrity style, and in this case, punk, there is nothing coherent about my choices. But, meaning can be found in every silver spike of a punk’s glossy belt; their aesthetic form of rebellion.

Since the passing of punk icon, Dame Vivienne Westwood, the rising trend of tartan, graphic tees, and distressed denim have made a comeback in a never ending cycle. The commercialization of the punk subculture has seen designers tap into the distinctive looks that feature in the ostentatious scene, with Thierry Mugler, Anna Sui and Jean Paul Gaultier influenced by punk’s symbolic facets. Brands such as Converse and Dr. Martens have long been made the poster image for punk footwear, collaborating with punk legends and labels. But, whilst fashion is a form of expression to all, punk clothing is embedded in their beliefs to express their political views.


With the recent events of The King’s Coronation, it’s a reminder as to why punk’s fashion has been known to be political, a form in which British punks have used their stylistic statements to criticise the monarchy since the days of Vivienne Westwood’s infamous SEX boutique from 1974. Westwood’s God Save the Queen shirt featured an image of Queen Elizabeth II alongside text reading “She ain’t no human being”, taken directly from the Sex Pistol’s single of the same name. Whilst the band has denied that the single was produced specifically in reaction to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the song and Westwood’s design were viewed as an affront to British values of patriotism and the monarchy.


It’s an obvious statement to say that there are no rules in fashion though, as we have seen the likes of media personality, Kourtney Kardashian impelled by punk fashion, a reflection of Blink 182 drummer and husband Travis Barker’s notorious punk-rock image. The scene once known to be dominated by white males has seen a shift since the comeback of this distinctive subculture, with African-American nepo-baby Willow Smith and Filipino-American Olivia Rodrigo diverting to pop-punk. Smith’s latest album ‘Lately I Feel EVERYTHING’, shies away from her usual sound of R&B and neo-soul, and instead reflects a pop-punk performer. Her most well known lyrics being: “I fell in love with an emo girl.”


Irl vs online

So, What do IRL punks think of the current punk trend? After all, punk is a lifestyle, so what would they think of someone imitating it for a passing trend? With TikTok resurging subcultures and trends, it creates an online space for those who wish to engage with others holding similar interests. Despite the mention of British punk, we must not forget the worldwide fanbase that the subculture holds. And, even from the other side of the world, punks unite through their shared agenda. American TikToker Carlita Landrum (@carlitalandrum) who posts to 563.4k followers has also featured on i-D’s TikTok during Vivienne Westwood’s showing at Paris Fashion Week last year, wearing a black Depop found dress with chains and safety pins added. Her style takes influence from punk fashion with chains, studs and ties accessorised to most of her looks. “I think punk is kind of like taking control of your own life and not giving a shit,” Landrum, age 20, says, despite not being a punk herself.  Landrum says: “Real punks could see it as people playing dress up rather than respecting the lifestyle, which I could understand. But, people are meant to try new things and it’s okay, you’re allowed to love it.” And, it doesn’t seem like she’s wrong.

In Korea, punk is loved by many. Yeawon Jeong is a Korean doctor turned full time punk rocker, who dedicates her life to the subculture. With split green and pink hair in a style she calls “Liberty spikes”, her own punk icon is main character Nana Osaki from the Japanese manga series.  Jeong says: “Gen Z are applying their own concepts and transforming punk fashion. It’s fun!”

The future of any trend is always uncertain, but that’s what makes punk standout.  As a Tiktok personality who sees trends moving in real time, Landrum says “These days we go through trends so quickly it could even be out before the end of this year”. And whilst that may be the case for the fashion followers, punk will never be out for punks.


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A post shared by Yeawon Jeong (@yeahwony)

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