Last Updated on December 18, 2020
The 90s (namely early-mid) was such a wonderful decade of different fashion styles (some questionable, some forever iconic). We had preppy, goth, hip-hop, grunge, pop-girl cute, and even the greasy-haired style of the hardcore rock dudes. But in this article, we are focusing on one of the coolest yet hard-to-nail looks…punk.
Not to be confused with Seattle grunge, punk style (born in the 1970s) endured throughout the 90s with the help of music icons Green Day, and the English Queen of punk style, fashion icon Vivienne Westwood.
Punk style is best demonstrated by alternative streetwear and stages buzzing with punk music late into the night through decades-old images.
Ladies, if the punk trend is evading you but you’d love to try, read on for our ideas to help you get the 90s punk look.
If leather and pins aren’t quite in your ballpark right now, start slow with tartan. Tartan was and still is, a stalwart of true Punk outfits.
If you flip through images of 90s neo-punk fashion looks, you’ll come across pleated tartan skirts or kilts paired with leather jackets and frayed, sleeveless shirts. In Japan, the punk style took on a kawaii (cute!) look with tartan mini skirts, pink hair, pigtails, and bows.
Try a pair of fitted tartan trousers in green and black check, a worn-in band tee, and chunky lace-up boots for casual wear. Or, go for a tartan mini dress with a fitted sweater underneath, paired with sneakers or ankle boots for a punk-meets-modern-hipster approach.
For a more polished, work-friendly look, pair your fitted tartan pants with a collared shirt, tie, heels, and an extra nod to punk with kohl-lined eyes.
Even if you only know the barest basics of 90s punk fashion, you’ll know that leather is a cornerstone of the punk aesthetic. The favorite leather jacket, worn night after night, punk show after punk show, slowly evolving with added studs, pins, and patches. The leather jacket is to the punk what the plaid shirt is to the grunger.
If such an item is missing from your wardrobe, never fear. You can incorporate leather into your ensemble by way of mini or pencil skirts, embellished with a row of studs, or a sleeveless cropped leather jacket with inky black eyeliner to match. For a subtler take on leather, try fingerless gloves, leather patches on tartan pants or jackets, and studded leather accessories.
Hardware: tough as nails jewellery
Jewelry adds extra texture and dimension to your punk look, even if your clothes are veering toward the mild. Craft your own punk-style necklace by threading various-sized safety pins through a metal chain. If you’re still testing the punk waters, this is a great way to get punk-ish, without completely changing your usual style whether it’s total hipster or modern-chic.
Thrift and get creative
One of the best ways to introduce the punk trend to your repertoire is to trawl the thrift stores. You can find well-loved items that have the all-important worn-in appeal.
For example: Take a vintage (or near to!) oversized denim shirt with holes and frayed edges. You could cut the sleeves off, add an oversized pin (or ten) to the collar or hem, and you’ve got a custom-made punk top.
You may even find a lived-in leather jacket you can pair with “holy” jeans or a tartan mini over fishnet tights. To make it unique to you, add your own studs, patches, or metal embellishments. Beware, you may become hooked on thrifting and repurposing…which we totally endorse.
Lived-in makeup and bold hairstyles
Punk doesn’t stop at the outfit, it extends to the hair and the face. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean a 12-inch mohawk and full dye job. Interpret the core trends your own way, and make them work for your world. For example, those with shorter hair could spin the mohawk look by getting a subtle side shave to the left or right of the part.
Use a texturizing product to give the hair lift and create a soft mohawk or side-swept asymmetry. For long hair, try sweeping the hair over to create an extreme side part, texturize the lengths, add a braid to the shorter side and thread it with different-sized safety pins.
For makeup, there are no hard and fast rules, as long as it’s bold, brave, and you wear it like you mean it.
You could start with a black or charcoal shadow smudged into the top and bottom lash lines, with a little taken along the inner corner alongside the nose. This creates a unique punk shape, a clear deviation from the modern Insta-trend of the extreme inner highlight and cat eye.
Or, take your liquid liner and create interesting shapes with various wings around the eye. If you’re more lip-focused, try a deep burgundy or purple lipstick shade to start with, then double-up on deep lips and smudgy eyes when you’re feeling bold.
Another way to embrace punk is to veer toward the Japanese Kawaii direction by using ombre shades of pink and red over the face.
Take a matte red or pink blush and use the “draping” technique to fluff the color onto the temples, high points of the cheekbones, and outer corners of the eyes.
Or, take a sheet of paper, lay it diagonally across the cheekbone under the eye, and buff saturated color toward the temple. Remove the paper and you’ve got a crisp angle. A stunning example of when style-meets-art, a cool-romance take on the original.
Play with layers and different textures
You can create your own brand of punk in the way you assemble your central items as well as your accessories. Take a look at what you’ve got waiting in your wardrobe (shop your stash, as they say!) and find contrasting textures and patterns.
You could layer a tartan shirt with a leather jacket or sleeveless denim vest, and juxtapose the look with tailored slimline trousers and pumps. Or, pair a midi skirt with your boyfriend’s t-shirt, tucked it, with a tartan shirt tied around the waist and fingerless leather gloves and safety pins dotting the hemline of the skirt.