11 Top Punk Clothing Brands that Defines the Subculture

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Last Updated on August 12, 2021

Do you love punk but don’t have the time to custom-tailor your clothing to fit the style?

Worry not, there are plenty of punk clothing lines that make it easy to add some spunk to your wardrobe, be it pleated tartan skirts or spiked shoes. Check out our ultimate list covering all types of budgets to figure out which will become your next favorite punk clothing brand.

Before you see the best punk brands, hit play!

Hit play on the ultimate Punk classics and Punk Rock playlist from the 90s and 00s to accompany your reading. You won’t regret it.

First, where did punk come from?

The punk subculture was born in the mid-1970s, in the United Kingdom. It was a reactionary movement against the hard right-wing political standpoint of the English government led by Margaret Thatcher, and towards its cultural predecessor, the hippie movement, which was all about peace and love. Its political, philosophical, musical, and literary views created a very distinct fashion style that identified them and would continue to live on, long after the movement itself. 

Punk gave way to many subcultures like new wave, pop-punk, hardcore punk, rock punk, and street punk while also influencing the alternative rock scene, indie music, and heavy metal in all its forms. The movement was beyond memorable, earning a spot for itself in our cultural memory and countless mentions in following media (like the classic 90s movie Pump Up the Volume & Sid and Nancy). 

What does punk even mean?

Not much of the original philosophy has managed to survive the decades, but the term still conjures rebellion and a “devil may care” attitude. Punks wanted to shake the status quo, they were mayhem, anarchism, and above all, were against the establishment of capitalism. Myriad subcultures have since borrowed on the non-conformist nature of punk that defies the mainstream and rejects authority. In short, to be punk is to rebel, and consequences be damned.

Evolution and absorption by the mainstream

Over the years, punk lost its social revolutionary edge and became a fashion style. If hard-pressed, I’d say that even exemplary and notorious personas from the movement, like Vivienne Westwood, have somehow been assimilated by the mainstream.

Read: Get that Punk Look for Women

Still, punk as a movement has sadly died. What we have today is punk fashion, which is ruled by a nostalgic use of traditional punk elements with a twist. Mainly, a lot of tartan plaids, metal studs or spikes, band t-shirts, black leather, and crazy multi-colored and mohawk hairstyles. 

There are still a couple of brands that punks actually wore during the 70s, like Converse and Doc Martens, but the do-it-yourself quality of the original punk-wear has been replaced by ready-to-wear and high fashion brands that emulate the look. 

Top 3 Punk Brands:

#1. Vivienne Westwood

Credit: Vivienne Westwood

A quintessentially British punk clothing and luxury fashion label that sells accessories, and varied merchandising on a global scale.

The origins

Vivienne started making clothing with Malcolm McLaren in 1971. They opened a store over at 430 Kings Road called ‘Let it Rock’ and in two years’ time, they turned to biker clothing, zips, and leather. They subsequently rebranded the shop with the name ‘Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die’ and added a skull and crossbones to the storefront. When they were prosecuted for infringing on obscenity laws with their provocative t-shirts, they re-branded it again and produced even more hardcore clothing.

By 1974, their shop was named ‘Sex’ and it sold rubberwear and fetishist clothing with black leather, straps, and zips. After the collapse of the Sex Pistols and the absorption of punk by the mainstream in the 1980s, Westwood was left disenchanted and renamed the shop one last time as ‘Worlds End’.

Credit: Vivienne Westwood

The brand and the punk spirit

In 1981 Westwood and McLaren showcased their first runway collection inspired by the plundering of pirates, the Third World, and a romantic view of historical fashions. At this important point, Vivienne developed her trademark rectangle cutting and personal fitting techniques that would create a unique trademark aesthetic and dynamic with the body. She went on her own after 1984 and would continue to reinvent herself collection after collection, taking inspiration from Peruvian women, Blade Runner, Witches, Hip hop, Greek gods, and more.

Credit: Vivienne Westwood
Credit: Vivienne Westwood
Credit: Vivienne Westwood

The brand gained renown for parodying the upper class during the 80s and the beginning of the 90s and turned to English and French topics that further elevated her designs with exquisite tailoring and haute couture techniques. 

Vivienne Westwood has continued to showcase key cultural items like tartan, kilts, and corsets while also campaigning for worthy causes for over 40 years. Vivienne’s environmental and social activism has remained uncompromising and been a key factor in her collections with topics like nuclear disarmament, climate change, and civil rights.

Credit: Vivienne Westwood

#2. Converse

An American brand that originally sold basketball shoes and is now recognized worldwide as a key retro sneaker brand. They also sell footwear in general, apparel, accessories, and sportswear.

We have covered all you need to know about this brand and about how Chucks came to be in our previous Vans vs Converse article. However, it is worth noting that the brand was a huge staple in the punk rock brands and music scene during the 70s and beyond.

Why did it become relevant to the punk style?

The style was popularized among fans of the alternative music scene when huge musicians like The Sex Pistols and The Ramones wore Chucks to their concerts. It is a very versatile shoe that you can easily adequate to your own style and personalize with drawings, add-ons, laces, etc. 

#3. Dr. Martens

A British footwear brand that has achieved cult status all over the globe, but particularly so in the UK and the US. They also sell shoe care products, clothing, and bags. Their footwear is characterized by its trademark air-cushioned sole, welted construction, and yellow stitching. 

Check out our detailed article about Docs here for all the juicy tidbits and history of this amazing and inspiring brand. Fair warning, chances are you will develop the sudden urge to shop for Doc Martens after reading it!

You May Also Like: Doc Martens: Off-Duty-Model Look Style Guide for Women

The original combat boots

Dr. Martens was a modest work-wear boot made with postmen and factory workers in mind. Its’ popularity sky-rocketed in 1960 and by the 70s they were everywhere. The emerging, anti-establishment, and underground subcultures, like punk and all the ones that came after, adopted the boots and make them their own one after the other, adding to the spirit of rebellion that the brand symbolized.

Other interesting punk brands:

#4. Underground

Credit: Underground

Undeground is a British-owned lifestyle brand that sells rocker clothing, footwear, accessories, books, and prints. The brand originated in Manchester in 1981 with a love of renegade style and launched its first shop in 1981, going global by 88. Their general vibe is defined as subversive edgy alt-rock fashion, a rough supremely British aesthetic, and by a production that shuns fast fashion in favor of products that are authentic and built to last.

Credit: Underground

They still maintain their punk spirit and they consider their mission to propagate Britain’s rebellious style heritage. They provide both a service and a platform for alternative sub-cultures. They pride themselves on having a firm hold on their origins and history and a clear goal for the future. Their aim is to continue sharing a message of rebellion and acceptance of divergent cultures, not defined by gender, genre, generation, or group. My favorite item is hands down this red beret with patches!

Credit: Underground

#5. Tripp NYC

Credit: Underground
Credit: Underground

An American streetwear fashion label founded by designer Daan Goodman in New York City, East Village. It is heavily influenced by the downtown art scene and by alternative music. Daang is known for the use of innovative fabrics and original designs. His signature clothing items are bondage pants, unique wash techniques, hand studding, and a general counterculture take on streetwear that is dark and subversive.

Credit: Underground
Credit: Tripp NYC

Tripp’s style aims to work for everyone from rebellious teenagers, rock stars, rap artists, and celebrities alike. The brand is continually evolving and reinventing itself to continue being as original and avant-garde as it has always been. If I had to choose one item from them, I would go with this yellow plaid pleated mini skirt that makes me think of Clueless!

#6. Jawbreaker

Credit: Jawbreaker

Jawbreaker is a British alternative brand based in East London that sells clothing for men & women, plus accessories. Their origins are deeply rooted in old Camden Town and their style covers Victorian, gothic, punk, and nu-rave trends. Their vibe is a little bit emo, with a good dash of pop-punk and skate punk added to the mix. 

Credit: Jawbreaker

They have different collections differentiated by style. The one that looks the most like punk is the Edge collection, with a bunch of great clothing items like striped tops, leather pants, tartan dresses, cutout pants, and animal printed see-through tops. My favorite item is without a doubt this plaid long jacket with a waist belt.

Credit: Jawbreaker

Read: 10 Ideas for What to Wear at a Rave (That’ll Turn Heads)

#7. Punkdesign

An online clothing company founded in 2017. It provides its customers with gothic, grunge, punk, and steampunk-inspired apparel. Its unique style and character allow its customers to develop a unique ensemble by mixing and matching what they like best without limiting their creativity. They sell multicolor sleeveless dresses, hoodies, buckled belts, and cargo pants among other things.

Credit: Punkdesign
Credit: Punkdesign

Their brand identity is based on creating looks that stand out from the crowd and unleash their client’s imagination. The brand’s goal is to create a different style with clothes that test the boundaries of what is accepted by society. By cultivating an alternative style their aim is to be subversive and break apart from traditional norms. My absolute favorite creation from them is this two-piece little black dress that is both absolutely wearable and different.

Credit: Punkdesign
Credit: Punkdesign
Credit: Punkdesign

#8. Disturbia

Credit: Disturbia

Is a family-owned subculture fashion brand that was founded in 2003. They focus on apparel clothing that somehow disturbs the comfortable notions of onlookers. Disturbia is all about the wearer’s state of mind and shifting the conscious appreciation of style to a place where the mainstream meets the underground vibe. A great brand for hoodie lovers and for everyone that appreciates a print shirt or belted cargo pants.

Credit: Disturbia
Credit: Disturbia
Credit: Disturbia

If I had to choose only one item to add to my shopping cart, it would be this spider-web top

Credit: Disturbia

#9. Punkrave

Credit: Punkrave

Punkrave was founded in 2006 and was formerly a brand called ‘Punk, Gothic, Lolita’ that was famous as a designer clothing brand in China. They are an apparel company with their own design team and production supply chain. 

Credit: Punkrave

Their main clothing include shirts, sweaters, dresses, skirts, pants, and coats, which are mainly exported to Europe, the US, Russia, Japan, and Korea, to name a few countries. 

Credit: Punkrave

My favorite item from this brand, although it was super hard to choose, is this multi-piece half skirt with red plaid pleats.

Credit: Punkrave

Alternative Shoewear

#10. Demonia

Credit: Demonia
Credit: Demonia

Is a cult brand and direct retailer of all things Demonia. The brand has been in business since 1993 and is based in Southern California, US. They have specialized in providing specialty and innovative footwear, as well as scene clothing, that redefine outfits and draw gazes everywhere. By staying in touch with the alternative communities, the brand has managed to stay up to date and continues to create fresh footwear styles. I would absolutely love to wear their over-the-knee black boots!

Credit: Demonia
Credit: Demonia

#11. Newrock

Credit: Newrock
Credit: Newrock

A Spaniard brand based in Murcia, it was founded in 1929 by Antonio Ortuño Martinez who began making shoes with double-stitched Goodyear high quality. Today, the company is run by third-generation relations that continue to expand the brand worldwide. They have a trademark system called the ‘comfort plus’ that achieves an anatomic sole with injected protection against water and cold.

The brand has managed to retain its indie punk clothing design and quality over the years and continues to offer its best products online, selling to over 60 countries. I would absolutely welcome these flower vegan pair of boots in my closet, by the way!

Credit: Newrock

You May Like: Punk Styling Guide for Men

Bibliography:

  • Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century – The Collections of the Kyoto Institute by Fukai Akiko. Taschen Editorial. 2007.
  • Fashion: The Century of Designers 1900-1999 by Seeling, Charlotte. Koneman Uk Ltd. 2000.
  • 100 Ideas que cambiaron la moda by Sims, Josh. Blume Editorial. 2015.
  • AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion by Bolton, Andrew.  Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2007.
  • Vivienne Westwood by herself and Ian Kelly. Picador Editorial. 2014.

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Lorena Lombardo is a fashion designer specialized in trend forecasting and fashion journalism. She studied at the UAL (University of London), ORT (Universidad ORT Uruguay), and taken various courses about traditional craftsmanship while living in Tokyo. Some of her favorite memories during the 90s include wearing bucket hats and trying to copy Rachel’s hairstyle. Her absolute favorite show was Buffy: the Vampire Slayer but she was also a huge fan of Clueless because of its amazing fashion choices. Her top track of the decade is currently disputed between How soon is Now? by the Smiths and Here with me by Dido. Both also happen to be the opening songs for two great 90s shows: Charmed and Roswell. Coincidence? I think not!