Starting in the 70’s, Punk sub-culture turned the fashion world on its head. The punk scene originated from the United Kingdom with Vivienne Westwood and The Sex Pistols being significant contributors, but it made waves across different cultures worldwide.
Punk culture was born out of the desire to fight against the government an the status-quo in Europe between the 1960s and 1980s. The earliest practitioners of the movement were typically low-income Londoners who felt that the system had failed them. Combat boots, leather jackets, piercings, shaved heads, and mohawks, were all some of the signature pieces of punk culture.
“I feel like even with fashion it just turned fashion from a bunch of boring stuff to a new uncomfortable kind of wave which opened up the doors for lots of trends.” Said Shunji Roka, owner of Irui Studios.
Along with being anti-establishment, the punk movement also places heavy emphasis on fighting for equality and individuality.
Unlike the Punk movement in the UK that followed World-War II and left young Europeans with a bleak economic future, the Punk movement in the United States came after the Vietnam War ended and political/social tensions increased.
The Ramones, a punk-rock band in New York, punk music scene in The States in the 70s. From then, numerous acts like Green Day, Blink-182, Generation X, and hundreds of other bands took the stage and fueled the audience’s hearts.
Unfortunately, the Punk scene was heavily influenced by white culture and adversely pushed out Black practitioners who were subject to racism within the community.
The Afro-Punk movement was fueled right in our backyard – Detroit. Death was a trio of brothers that took the scene by storm with their proto-punk music. The group adopted attitudes from their white counterparts and used controversial lyrics to incite change.
“Always tryin’ to be slick when they tell us the lies. They’re responsible for sending young men to die,” – Politicians In My Eyes, Death.
In 2003, James Spooner directed a documentary that highlighted the experiences of Black people in the punk scene that was, at the time, predominately white. The movie followed four Punk practitioners and how they navigated the world being both alternative and Black.
In 2005, James Spooner launched Afro-Punk Festival in Brooklyn, New York. The festival was made to be a safe-space for alternative Black people who wanted to share music, fashion, and stories. Over the years, Afro-Punk Festival expanded from one borough in New York, to places like Atlanta, Brazil, and London. In addition to added locations, the festival has also added different genres of music ranging from Punk-Rock to Neo-Soul and Jazz. Thousands of people attend the festival each year to connect with other Black alternative people and freely celebrate their contributions to the Punk scene.
Today, while the Punk movement itself has died down a little in terms of mainstream attention, there is still a lasting impact made on recent movements , pop-culture, and personal aesthetics.
“It’s all about self-expression and not aligning with the status-quo. Listening to whatever you want and not giving a (insert explicative) you know? Even though it’s just self-expression, I guess it’s just mostly seen as a rebellion and heavy music. Definitely reminds me of Pierce the Veil and Bring me the Horizon.” Said Ateeyah Abdul-Wasi, one of N Crowd’s make-up artists.
The Punk movement laid the groundwork for creatives to freely express themselves outside of what is expected. The movement also allowed for average people with no political power to call for social change through the use of art. Black Punk practitioners took a subculture that excluded them and created their own space for their creativity to flourish freely.
"In a country of lost souls rebellion comes hard."
- Stevo, 'SLC Punk!'.