Punk: A Lost Movement | Teen Ink

Punk: A Lost Movement

March 2, 2020
By zuzkak SILVER, Paisley, Other
zuzkak SILVER, Paisley, Other
7 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”
― Thomas Keneally, Schindler's List

Safety pins, razors, and leather – in the late 70s, you’d be hard pressed to go anywhere in London without spotting these, as the underground subculture moulded into its iconic statement. But punk was never just made up of fashion or music... it was the attitude that shaped the community – a collective “up yours!” (or an “Oh bondage, up yours!” if you’re a fan of the Xray Spex) to the establishment, a middle finger to the monarchy, and a cheeky raspberry at Margaret Thatcher. Punk has echoed and influenced decades since it debuted - but are all the screams of “punk ain’t dead!” accurate? Or was the movement’s phoenix-like rise from glory too intense, burning it to the ground before it could take root? 
It may be obvious that the music genre – the soundtrack to the hubbub of anarchist groups forming on urban streets – is still very prominent. In fact, it has split off into several alternatives; pop-punk, punk rock, indie punk... the list goes on. New punk bands have emerged – PUP, established in 2010, who reminisce about their stolen childhoods and fleeting hope for the world as it is right now, and Rare Americans, who sing about how according to the establishment - “numbers matter, we’re all stats”, clearly echoing the sentiments of old punk bands when they expressed their disdain for the political landscape. Speaking of old punk bands, it would be a mistake to believe that most of them are burned out – although a lot of the iconic stars of the era have sadly passed away - icons like Sid Vicious, bassist and singer for the ‘Sex Pistols’, who is believed to have killed his girlfriend Nancy Spugen, and who died in 1979 (aged 21) of a heroin overdose, or Ian Curtis, lead singer and song-writer for ‘Joy Division’, who committed suicide shortly before the release of Closer, in 1980 (The sad reality about the punk movement is that due to the chaos and violence running through its veins becomes evident in the many casualties of the situations and/or oppressions they were fighting against.), it doesn’t necessarily mean that the old gods of the genre have been vanquished. Bands like ‘The Ramones’, often attributed as being the first punk rock group due to their establishment in 1974, who released a remastered album in 2018, Patti Smith, often labelled the queen of punk, being one of the breakout musicians of the era, released tour dates for 2019/2020 (most of which are already sold out), and Rancid, who admittedly were established relatively late (1991), but are credited with the revival of mainstream punk interest, released a song in 2017 – a whole 26 years after their birth. The punk music genre feeds itself, forming an unbreakable chain. 
Similarly, the defining features of punk or alternative fashion is constantly reinventing itself – plaid, oversize, rips, patches, crust and dirt (I could go on) are fading in and out of trends indefinitely. Currently, we are seeing yet another punk fashion renaissance – rebellion is back to being ‘en vogue’ - stylist Jan-Michael Quammie, known for his punk look, said this in an interview for Elle magazine: “[…] It was never meant to be trendy – it's timeless, it’s a lifestyle […]” which is a sentiment that rings true – punk is immortal, down to the attitude. Even over 2 decades later, brands like ‘Dollskill’ and ‘Attitude Clothing’ preach individuality and maintain a strong “IDGAF” frame of mind, as gospelised by Vivienne Westwood. It’s suprisingly liberating to be able to put on that ratty coat your mother hates so much because who cares what you look like when the country is burning around you, when your brothers and sisters are being bruised and even murdered in the streets around you, when it finally give you th courage to take control – which is the spirit behind the sharp edges and soft rips. 
“What’s all well and good,” I hear you say, “but is it just the fashion and music?”. Dear reader, punk isn’t a trend – it's a lifestyle. Punk culture stemmed from working class communities seeking mobilisation and ambition of a better life, (arguably correctly, if we consider the times) perceiving that they were being kept from it by the government and upper classes. Through and through, punk is a working-class rebellion – and as much some would like you to believe, the working class still exists. 14.3 million people are working class in the UK, and according to Full Fact, working age families are increasingly likely to be in poverty. The sad reality is that as long as a distinction between classes and an inequality gap remains, resentment and the culture of seeking a better life will too. Due to most punks living in bitter poverty, a defining feature of the punk community developed – DIY. If you imagine yourself walking down a street in Soho in 1976 – you will predictably behold a scene of hand-made and sewn clothes, self-crusted jeans and jackets, hand embroidered or painted patches, probably with homemade wire jewellery adorning every head. It’s also possible you may see the quintessential punk zine – photocopied booklets detailing locations and times for secret gigs or instructions for DIY projects, a spit in the face for mainstream publishers everywhere, but an important key in the found-family, tight-knit feeling of punk circles. 
The idea of social class and rebellion is deeply political – it is a frank admission that punk is also this way. It’s all well and good to coo over the music and fashion of the 70s, you cannot discount its gritty roots. Unfortunately, it is also a true statement that the political scene globally in our age isn’t any better – in March 2019, the government was recorded as having an 86% dissatisfaction rating. In a period of deep uncertainty and reopening of old wounds, spilling old bad blood, punks have sprung back to the mainstream visibility expressing Brexit anger among other views. A great quote to sum this up is from Nabil Aliffi for Now Fashion: “As the general public reels back from the atrocities of late, the fashion community has developed an appetite for revolt and a latent distrust for authority, making anti-establishment en vogue again” - although punk has many faces and iterations, one thing unites them: a beautiful and awestriking bravery to stand up for what they believe in – with no fear in saying “f*ck you” to injustice. 
It’s safe to say – punk is not dead – punk is everlasting. A punk from the British streets said it best: “Punk will never die – as long as we have something to fight against and something to argue against which we always will.”. Would it be a stretch to say that every era had a punk movement? Maybe not – although it has gone by many different names, there has always been a lobby of warriors fighting tyranny and challenging the bigger picture at every turn – can we equate the French revolutionists that beheaded Louis XVI to the punks of Thailand fighting their militant dictatorship? Can we liken the suffragettes, brutalised and force-fed fighting for their political rights to ‘Pussy Riot’, the band whose members were arrested and tortured for speaking out against President Putin? Would the Black Panthers approve of the afro-punks, and would Marsha P. Johnson smile down on the punks who walk in rainbow patches with pride? Yes, I think we can. Yes, I think they would. Yes, the world is terrible, and always has been, but we can’t complain without doing something to make it better, piece by piece, brick by brick. As the air in parliament turns stagnant and stale with repeated arguments, punks are thriving like the black death, crawling out of the woodwork to bark about anarchy. History never forgets the martyrs, and I hope it never forgets us. 

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