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80s punk hair styles & clothes

Punk took off as a mainstream fashion trend in the mid-70s. It was given this high profile by English designer, Vivienne Westwood and the ambassadors of punk - The Sex Pistols. Their unique look was largely created by Westwood - it utilised zips, rips, chains, bondage, porn and slogans. The fashion tapped into anti-establishment feelings of the time with The Sex Pistols' music (God Save the Queen/The Fascist Regime/She aint no human being) and general punk motifs featuring Queen Elizabeth II.

One important point to remember - most aspects of punk had been around much earlier than The Sex Pistols. Punk's musical influences can be traced back decades through bands such as The Who, The Rolling Stones and even Elvis. However, as a mainstream fashion trend - the one most people equate with punk - it started in the UK in 1976 and lasted for around two years. The full-blown fashion didn't find such strong acceptance elsewhere in the world, but it was common to see small pockets of UK-style punks in larger cities.

70s punk hair and clothes
Even though punk had its roots in street culture, this was largely destroyed by the fashion treadmill of the late 70s. To see how low the punk trend fell, check out Belgium's Plastic Bertrand (in pink, below). However, it didn't completely die out. With a world-wide recession in the early 80s, punk's anti-government theme struck a chord with the unemployed and others dismayed at the Thatcher Government (ie middle-class university students). Even though the 70s punk fashion was about the clothes and body piercings, early 80s punk was based on bastardising the more mainstream trends - particularly hair styles.

Pre-80s, the punk hair style was surprisingly subdued. Bright orange hair was about as far as it went - this was frequently worn by Johnny Rotten during 1976. For men, hair was more likely to be unkept, but not too long. For women, hair was mostly decorated to match their outfits (see the photographs below for examples of both punk hair styles).

80s Punk bands
As music trends shift, it is easy to forget where many bands had their beginnings. Well known 80s artists like Billy Idol and Siouxsie and the Banshees started out in the punk scene. Other notable punk bands still kicking up dust in the 80s were The Clash (formed in 76), The Ramones (who managed pop-punk hits in to the 80s), Bad Religion, Black Flag and The Damned. The Saints almost made it to this list, except they split in 1979.

80s punk hair
When the clock stroke the 80s, hair became a greater part of the outfit. The 80s punks used hair colourings and asymmetric hair styles with great impact. Coloured mohawks, bleaching, colouring, teasing were all techniques used by many 80s punks. On occasions, the punks even borrowed from the new-romantic movement by applying makeup (in particular, eye-liner) for extra effect. By this time, punk had been well and truly taken over by the middle-class and it would seem no university was complete without a few punks sitting up the back of lecture halls - complete with spiked 80s hair styles and ripped clothes. The best parody of the 80s punk was Vivyan from the series The Young Ones - with studs across his forehead and orange spiked hair. It has always made us wonder if his name was a subtle nod to Vivienne Westwood.

Punk photos starting top left - Vivyan 1983 (The Young Ones), Vivienne Westwood Punk Fashion 1976, Plastic Bertrand 1977, London 1982, Sex Pistols 1976.

Images Copyright Vivienne Westwood, BBC

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