Punk Rock Then and Now: A Styling Guide for Men

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Last Updated on April 20, 2022

Punk is a style of music which is deep rooted into American and British history, so much so that it can still be seen to this day.

First born into existence by the music industry of the 70’s, punk became the way that artists could rebel against the norm and what they felt were the injustices of society.

This included everything from social stratification and the oppression of the working class by politicians, to the fact that record labels and radio stations would take no notice of such alternative bands at the time, and would refuse to promote their music.

In this article I will be telling the story of how punk first hit the scene, and revealing to you how you can pay homage to the iconic style in your everyday wardrobe – it’s not just a phase, mom.

How Punk has Evolved through the Years

Much like the ideology of punk rock itself, the style in which these men and women chose to present themselves was specifically designed to make a statement; to fit outside of the box, and at times be quite shocking and even offensive.

The original punk rockers that revolutionised fashion in the 70’s included bands such as Blondie, The Clash, Ramones and The Stooges.

Fans of the genre could be recognised by leather studded jackets, ripped stockings, multiple layered belts, and yes – the Mohawk.

That said, many individuals who strongly related to the messages that these bands communicated also happened to be from poorer backgrounds, and so they resorted to reinventing the looks with everyday items such as spray painted t-shirts and even binbags.

The 90’s saw a resurgence of popularity within punk and punk fashion, but not like it’s ever been seen before. The culture was no longer recognisable by one defined image, but rather a plethora of different subgenres such as Pop-punk, Emo, and hardcore punk. (I’ve said punk too many times now it sounds weird.)

Read: 11 Top Punk Clothing Brands that Defined the Subculture

Anyway, musicians such as Rancid, Green Day, Blink-182 and Offspring rose to the scene and are now considered 90’s icons who shaped the way for a modern take on the original grunge look.

The trend finally began to make its way into the mainstream media and magazines such as “Thrasher”, “Uncut” and “Sniffin’ Glue”.

It was at this point in the late 90’s that celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Johnny Depp, and Winona Ryder began adopting their own interpretations of the style, and it skyrocketed in popularity, especially among teens.

Johnny Depp of 21 Jump Street

Read:

Rock the 90’s Punk Look at Home

Ok – now that you’re fully caught up it’s time to try it out for yourself. I would recommend starting out with a few essential pieces before you fully commit and decide to shave your head and stick a safety pin through your earlobe. These are:

Leather Jacket (or faux leather)

The leather jacket or black biker jacket is a must-have to achieve the punk look, and the great thing is you don’t have to spend a fortune to get one! Visit a few charity shops or vintage fashion stores and you are very likely to come across a leather jacket.

You can then choose to leave it plain or customise it yourself with pin badges, chains, studs, and even acrylic fabric paint!

Skinny Jeans

Get yourself down to Levi’s and get yourself a good pair of 519 Extreme Skinny Jeans. Why Levi’s specifically, I hear you ask?

Well, pretty much all Levi’s stores have an instore tailor, which means you can get your jeans customized with badges, lettering, unique stitching and distressed knees/hemline. Levi’s jeans also last forever so they are great long-term investment.

Studded Belt

Much like the leather jacket it would be a good idea to check out some thrift stores before investing in a brand new belt. If you don’t have any luck finding a bargain, you could try online stores such as KILLSTAR, Wondaland and Rebel Circus who all specialize in alternative clothing for men and women.

For a 70’s punk rock vibes, try layering belts with multiple different textures and designs. For example, you could wear a chain belt, a studded belt and a thin leather belt for added depth.

Tartan Shirt

Tartan entwined into the punk scene thanks to controversial designer and activist Vivienne Westwood. Westwood fit effortlessly into grunge culture because of her seriously edgy and provocative designs that included combat clothing, bondage-inspired couture and in later years, her tartan and Harris Tweed.

Layer a long tartan shirt of your colour preference under your leather jacket and you will instantly create a rock and roll look. You could also style it by tying around your waist, or by fastening a tartan scarf to your belt.

Read: 3 Brands That You Can Shop at if You Love Vivienne Westwood

Combat Boots

Get into the 90’s spirit from head to toe by completing the look with leather or PU combat boots with a thick sole. A great example of this accessory is good ol’ Doc Martens 1460 boots. They may be a pain to break in – but they last forever and elevate just about any outfit into a cool, edgy ensemble.

Don’t be afraid to stand out, express yourself, and explore a new style that youve never tried before. Fashion is a way in which we can freely express ourselves and make a political statement without even speaking a word. In the words of Green Day Guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong:

Punk has always been about doing things your own way. What it represents for me is ultimate freedom and a sense of individuality.”

Blazers

Though blazers may make you think of school uniforms or officewear, they were actually worn by some punk bands in the 1990s! A common punk blazer involved a colorful tartan print, referencing the popularity of tartan in the 1970s punk scene. Some punk blazers were ripped up with added safety pins, but it was up to the individual how much it got destroyed.

Shorts

Shorts were another popular style for punks in the 90s. As baggy shorts offered a laid-back alternative for hot days, punks in the sunny states of the U.S opted for shirts in tartan prints or thicker materials like canvas. These shorts were paired with long socks and combat boots for a complete look.

Skinny Jeans

Jeans are a must-own in any subculture, but they were especially popular in the punk scene. While the skinny style wasn’t initially popular, it came as one of the top styles in the late 90s and popular bands started wearing it on and off the stage. These jeans were almost always worn low-waisted and with studded belts to hold them up. Sometimes the jeans also featured rips and general wear to add some edge to them too.

What are the key 90s punk styles?

Whenever people talk about punk, the conversation can become confusing as there are so many subcultures within the subculture. Here are some quick definitions of popular 90s punk styles for men!

Anarcho-Punk

As the name suggests, Anarcho-punk promotes ideas of anarchism. This punk style is what you think of when someone mentions the 1970s punk style. Think pins, mohawks, tartan, rips, and bondage pants.

Hardcore Punk

Similar to Anarcho-punk, Hardcore punk started in the late 70s, and fans of this style tend to enjoy harder and faster punk music. Defining hardcore punk bands include Minor Threat, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and Bad Brains. Harcore punk style includes statement tees, leather jackets, eyeliner, and gelled-up hair. Body modifications like piercings and tattoos are optional!

Emo Punk

While emo music and culture were most popular in the 2000s, many of the defining bands were active during the late 90s. This subculture is described as a form of “post-hardcore” music with punk rock influences. The emo style includes dyed hair, eyeliner, skinny jeans, converse or vans, studded belts, and band tees. Check out our guide to emo fashion here.

Pop Punk

Pop-punk and emo were similar music styles that were popular around the same time. Pop-punk was closer to standard punk aesthetics, however, the style was more casual. Baggy shorts, skinny jeans, slogan t-shirts, and spikey hair were all popular for men in this subculture.

Steampunk

Steampunk is a more theatrical take on the punk aesthetic. Inspired by Victorian-era ideas and the European industrial revolution, this subculture brings a historical take to the punk aesthetic. Suits, vests, coats, top hats, glasses, and facial hair are all common in steampunk style for men. Steampunk also has distinctive colors, usually fans of the style dress in gold, burgundy, brown, black, olive green, and mustard.

Preppy Punk

Preppy styles and punk styles oppose each other on paper, however, some alternative fans combine the styles to create another hybrid of punk fashion. Shirts in tartan with skinny ripped jeans are popular, especially when mixed with traditional accessories like braces and dress shoes. Piercings, tattoos, and classic gentlemen haircuts are also popular in this mixture of styles.

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