Smells Like Teen Spirit: 5/8

Punk Style and Ideology

Jaime Reid: ‘God Save The Queen’ by Sex Pistols



  • British flag, union jack
    • patriarchy; monarchy; establishment
  • Photo of the Queen
    • ‘anti-establishment’; illegal to deface the Queen
    • album cover was banned
  • God Save The Queen
    • over eyes and mouth; ripping around the text
      • like a magazine cut out
    • defacing the Queen; violent act against Her

Style as Bricolage:

Takes existing materials and changes the meaning which is a tend is all subcultures
e.g. safety pin used by the punks

  • ‘Monster’ – working class, ‘blending of dissonant elements’ (Alfred Jarry)

Punk style:

  • directly offensive
  • ‘punk (un)fashion’ ‘a pin, plastic clothes peg, television component, a razor blade, a tampon’
  • safety pins – pierced in ear
  • cheap fabric/ ‘nasty’ colours
  • multiple zips
  • bondage wear
  • bin liners
  • make up worn by boys and girls
  • toilet chain – show disgust/against mainstream perfection/against civil behaviours

Punk: changed attitudes to gender/sexuality/race

  • hair dye: supposed to look unnatural; challenging the values the establishment stood for
  • anything with connotations of the system, they took them and trashed – so anything society didn’t want to address they would make visible
    • e.g. bondage – they took out of context
    • wanted to deliberately shock, wore t-shirts with Swastikas on them – criticising the establishment: QUESTION EVERYTHING
  • music – angry

Style of Homology:

What you wear becomes part of your style.

How can we learn from the Punks that can inform our practice?

Devise a checklist of concepts, approaches, theories that we’ve studied today.
– Bricolage
– Homology
– Punk style
– anti-establishment
– question everything
– visual

What does this case study have in common with previous case studies and checklists we’ve complied so far in this study group? What are we learning about Subcultures?
All subcultures we’ve learned so far are anti-establishment and all break the rules – whether that be with breaking the rules in fashion, like the overuse in fabric with the Zoot suit or in criminal behaviour like how Hip Hop would steal the logos of cars. Each subculture is obviously very individual but they use bricolage with their fashion. Every piece of material they all wear has a meaning; they’re all purposely choosing what material to wear and pushing the boundaries of mainstream fashion. There’s also this idea of ‘re-signification’ (Clarke, Hall, Jefferson) which they all do within their subculture.

Include this checklist in your blog and begin making links to your own practice – what can be applied so far? What would you like to begin developing in your practice that these case studies have started to address?
I really enjoyed learning about all the different Subcultures over the past few weeks. They’re all styles that I’ve seen images off and heard about but I never knew there were so many within so many different decades. I’ve really enjoyed learning about why they were breaking the rules and why they were choosing what they would wear. Especially with the Ted’s, the Zoot suit and Hip Hop; they wanted to redefine themselves in a society that thought nothing of them and I like how they did that through there fashion statements. Fashion gave them a new way of expressing who they were so society would have a different look on them. I find it really interesting how fashion is a huge part of our society. We are judge completely by what we wear and how we look and I think that’s fascinating you can be completely judged before you even open your mouth. What the subcultures in the 60s/70s/80s/etc did was redefine fashion so that people would look at them a certain way. This is something really key that I want to bring into my practice. Though I am a graphic designer and we don’t deal with fashion materials, we do have the power to make someone feel a certain way towards a piece of work. The subcultures really were provoking thought for outsiders about how they felt about them and they did this by challenging values, breaking rules, pushing the boundaries. This is exactly what I need to start doing within my own practice to push my work to create something at the best of my ability and also create something that hasn’t been done before.

  • “to break the rules you must know the rules”
  • talk about things people won’t talk about
    • expose what we consider to be normal
  • bricolage – play about with materials

Author: ellenreiddesign

First year Graphic Communication student at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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