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How Punk has Drifted from its Roots

Originally a subculture that sprung from the likes of New York City and Detroit, Punk became a movement with the foundations of garage rock before spreading across the Atlantic to the UK. Bands like the Ramones, Blondie, and the Sex Pistols were some of the establishing acts that pioneered how the subculture would develop. Their raw lyrics and disregard for the rules of fashion helped to promote this idea of rejecting normalcy. As Punk grew over the decades, it became a space where people could freely express themselves, and it was not based on wealth and status.


The music industry shifted gears when punk hit the scene, and musicians were breaking all the rules of music. Many artists had little vocal and instrument training background, so they created what they could from their limited knowledge. Punk music became a violently raw event as artists chose to be unabashedly political in their songs. Especially with newer bands that emerged like Green Day who had a refined political sound with lyrics like “I’m not a part of a redneck agenda // Now everybody, do the propaganda”. This new sound of ‘trashy rock’ became popularized, and the atmosphere of shows began to start their traditions as people went wild with the music, thrashing around crazily. As for the performers, they let loose on stage and became electrifying with their outrageous fashion sense and on-stage presence. It began to change the scene, and soon, punk would branch off into many subgenres, expanding on what punk was. 


The subculture’s DIY clothing hacks and ripped seams look first started because a large portion of people making up the scene was of lower income. In the early stages of the scene, torn and ripped fabric was shocking as clothing was intended to be kept neat and put together.  Clothing with wear and tear meant that buying more excellent clothing was an unaffordable option for some. Safety pins, razors, and chains were giant in building outfits as they helped keep pieces together while also keeping them budget-friendly, as silver or metal was a cheaper accessory than gold. But punks often patch threads together by sourcing garments they found on the low in thrift stores. As for footwear, most would don the now popularized Doc Martins boot, fashioning formal shoes for workers.


As the scene has evolved, fashion has strayed from its roots. With punk becoming popular, more people are filling spaces but forgetting about the history. Now you can buy stud and safety pin packs on amazon for cheap or look to fashion brands for patch jackets and other such looks. The problem is that though fashion has become more easily accessible, most of the time, this newer influx of people is purchasing from fast fashion or large brands that are working against the anti-capitalist mindset of punk. It is becoming more about the aesthetics of the subculture over everything else for many, especially as the alternative style is flooding back into the mainstream. Losing this history of fashioning clothing is part of why the punk scene is losing its edge. 


The punk subculture is cracking in other areas, though—specifically, its treatment of women involved in the scene. The punk scene did not start with many women in the background, but with subgenres like riot grrrl that came in the early 90s, the space expanded. Soon women were making noise within the subculture and paving new areas. Women like Joan Jett and Kathleen Hanna fronted their bands and took a grip on the spotlight. Specifically, Kathleen Hanna was big in becoming proactive about feminism and activism. She and other frontwomen alike were ensuring the added factor of making the scene safe for women. However, that has led to a significant problem within the scene. While many true punks are devoted to creating a feeling of acceptance for others to embrace, they open a path for abusers to cause harm. Both musicians and listeners alike were men who saw an opportunity in people’s acceptance. In recent years many band members have come to media attention with allegations from years back. 


        Some of the bands that have been wrapped up in the conversation of this abusive behavior were laid out in a google sheet shared online to keep track of all the accusations. These bands have ripped off the backs that built them and hurt them due to their fame gained. They hold power and know it, using it to earn their way. The fans aren’t the saviors, though, with many punk shows turning violent in times they shouldn’t. Moshing is a typical dance form in the punk and metal crowds, and while it’s seen as fun shoving peers around in the pit, it is not always done safely. Most times, in male-dominated groups women get caught in the crossfire of male aggression and are harmed with fists to the face or worse. The worst part is they get off on the accountability that artists find hard to escape because of the liberating anonymity of concert-goers.


This new attitude that has risen in the punk scene is a problem. It’s a behavior that has become a commonality within the community. As more unique people join the subculture, namely younger teens who discover the scene from social media, it becomes dangerous. Luckily the scene is still filled with many dedicated to the core of what punk stands for and is fighting to get punk back on track.


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Tags: #punk #punkmusic #punksubculture #subcultures

1 comment

1 month, 4 weeks ago by NehaKumari

This a great introductive piece for those who are unaware of what Punk is. Thank you for such information.

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