Cool reminders about early UK punk
- No Mohawks! Absolutely no Mohawks in punk before the 80s, because no working class kid could afford that much hairspray, and DEFINITELY no leather jackets (…with the exception of Sid, of course.) The leather jacket/Mohawk/political patches formula didn’t get big until the middle class kids got into it (and no safety pin facial piercings, either).
- In the early shows, there were usually under a dozen kids who looked anything like “punk-” and when they did, it was a lot of bright colors, BDSM gear, smudged make up, and glitter. But most just wore jeans and tees.
- Most punks were really small, being British and in the 15-20 age range. Basically a bunch of baby beanpoles.
- Punks weren’t cool until ‘79 or ‘80; up til that point, they were basically targets for Teddy Boy (50s rockabilly fans) aggression. The beanpoles took a lot of beatings.
- Punk wasn’t some huge movement. Like I said before, there were only a handful of kids at every show who dressed up. They never looked alike. They never traveled in big packs, with the exception of the Bromley Contingent. They were just teenagers who loved the music and got creative with their looks.
- Most punks were white, since it was Britain and black kids had their own scenes with reggae and dub (though there was still a lot of overlap there), but most, not all- if you whitewash punk, Poly Styrene’ll kick your ass, and Don Letts will film it.
- UK punk started in gay and drag bars (one of which, The Ranch, in Manchester, is still open!), and there were tons of female punks. Poly, The Slits, Souxie and the Banshees, Soo Catwoman, Debbie Juvenile, and beyond- there was no room for homophobia or hypermasculinity.
- Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m tired of seeing UK punk represented as a bunch of big white men in Mohawks and leather jackets throwing punches at each other. Punk belonged to the poor kids who spent their whole lives being told they were nothing but factory fodder, and punk made them realize that if they were trash, then being trash was awesome. It was about equality and empowerment, about realizing that they deserved more than society threw at them. Don’t take that away from them.
(Sources include both of Johnny Rotten’s autobiographies, The Filth and the Fury, Passion is a Fashion/a biography on the Clash, Bernard Sumner’s autobiography, an article on Manchester punk by a journalist who came of age there, and several other photos and articles I’ve stumbled across.)