Appropriating Punk

Scoff if you will at the comparison of pricey, meticulously sewn couture to thrift-store altered 1970s punk attire, but let’s face it, fashionistas and punks both spend a fair amount of time in front of the mirror. Whether or not you think punk is dead (I myself do after seeing Ramones merchandise sold at Johnny Ramone’s grave), it’s definitely been reincarnated in high fashion design, which incorporates various aspects of the movement’s aesthetic while keeping it runway.

Johnny Rotten’s safety pin straitjacket has inspired a Versace cocktail dress. Sid Vicious’s holey shirts have paved the way for designer pre-tattered shirts and dresses, along with mass-marketed ready-to-wear clothes for people who are too cautious to tear holes themselves.

The intent might have been lost somewhere in the process of appropriating – and charging thousands of dollars for – a DIY style that once embodied ideals of youth in revolt. At the same time, both punk and couture rely on the pursuit of one-of-a-kind clothes as a spurious source of individualism. While the famous CBGB club has been turned into a clothing store, if you want, now you can visit the Met Museum’s recreation of its grimy bathroom

Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibits original punk garments alongside their modern imitations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through August 14.

-Sola Augustsson

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    The CBGB bathroom, as recreated in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Punk: Chaos to Couture.
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