Sunday, 13 March 2011

Punk - progenitor of Goth subculture...

So if you've read any reasonably-accurate 'what is Goth' post anywhere on the web, you've probably come across something like this: "Goth developed from the punk movement in the late 1970s." OK, great - those are the bare facts. But since in various posts I've covered Goth's subcultural relatives such as steampunk, emo, Lolita, New Romantic, Industrial and Neo-Victorianism, it would be a shame (and, I feel, a little rude) to leave out Goth's safety-pin-bedecked ancestor, the punk movement.

Source: Google Images
Just as the Goth subculture sprang up around post-punk and Gothic rock music, punk is also a subculture with strong music-based origins. Punk rock music developed around 1974, and usually features fast music, political lyrics, and stripped-down, raw-edged instrumentation. Many punk bands started up their own record labels to release their music. Key to punk rock music was technical accessibility - during this time, most mainstream bands featured heavy special effects and a lot of studio 'airbrushing'. The spirit of punk rock was in the DIY ethos also inherent in punk culture and fashion; you didn't have to be a genius on guitar to join a punk band - if you could bash out a couple of chords and shout a handful of lyrics, you were good enough.

Punk rock music has inspired many subgenres, such as hardcore, Oi!, post-punk, straight edge, art punk, anarcho-punk, riot grrrl, glam punk and many more. Just as different subsets of Goth (e.g. cybergoth, deathrocker, perkygoth) enjoy different subgenres of Goth music, these subsets of punk often centre around subgenres of punk music. Punk has also had an influence on other subgenres and subcultures around the world, not just Goth (and emo).

Pop punk is also (obviously) a subgenre of punk rock, however it is generally regarded with disdain by those in both the punk and Goth subcultures due to its uncontroversial, mainstream-friendly sound, media success, and association with big-name record labels. Nonetheless many younger Goths (and possibly a few older ones, too) tend to have at least one pop punk CD lurking as a guilty pleasure in their music collection (yes, including me. I like Green Day).

Goths have garnered a reputation for being somewhat elitist, stereotypically regarding anyone who doesn't live up to their high standards of spookiness being labelled a 'poseur'. In the days of punk rock, being a 'poseur' meant that you wore punk fashions and tried to associate with the movement without understanding its underlying values and philosophies (and probably listened to pop punk). In Goth terms, a poseur is generally someone who dresses in mass-produced, off-the-rack Gothwear and listens to Evanescence and Marilyn Manson, with no knowledge of 'real' Goth music or the origins of the scene.

The ideologies of the punk movement are often expressed in the lyrics of punk rock songs. These values are varied and wide-ranging, stemming from anarchy to nihilism to even the anti-drug message of the associated 'straight edge' subgenre. Most important to punk ideology is the freedom of the individual, often coupled with anarchist or anti-establishment political views. Whilst not all punks hold the same political or social views, common threads often include non-conformity, animal rights, environmentalism, not 'selling out', anti-militarism, anti-capitalism and anti-nationalism.
Source: Google Images
Punk fashion is used by members of the punk movement as a way of making a statement, unlike Goth fashion, which is usually adopted by the wearer merely for aesthetic reasons. Nowadays punk fashion has become very commercialised - a search online for 'punk fashion' will bring up a whole array of off-the-rack punkwear, which pretty much undermines the whole original ethos of the movement. Although, 'back in the day' when punk was a huge social phenomenon, it was not uncommon for punks to purchase the occasional item from specialty 'punk clothing' stores such as the infamous London boutique SEX. The difference is that the items sold in such stores were not mass-produced, made in sweat shops or funded by large corporations.

Early punk fashion, as worn by musicians like The Ramones, was pared down and unmateralistic. The look was very simple (as simple as just jeans, a T-shirt and a leather jacket) and a little unkempt - the clothes were likely to be cheap and/or second-hand. As punk fashion developed, clothes became torn, decorated with spikes, studs, patches and safety-pins, sometimes even splattered with fake blood.

BDSM elements such as padlocked or spiked collars, rubber or PVC clothing, and fishnet stockings were often incorporated. Female punks rebelled against the typical feminine image by partnering 'girly' clothing with masculine elements or accessories (which is probably where the 'frilly skirts and clompy boots' look popular in many alternative subcultures originated) and wearing extremely heavy, outrageous make-up in shocking colours such as purple, green, black and blue. For both men and women, hair was deliberately messy and often dyed unnatural colours.

In the 1980s punk fashion became more extreme. Patterns such as leopard print or tartan became popular; often worn at the same time. Bullet belts and studded belts were common, and slogans written on T-shirts with marker pen were more often seen (although this look was sported in the 70s, it became more common in the 80s). Leather or denim jackets or vests were more heavily customised, and hairstyles became ever more shocking. Mohawks were now bigger and brighter than ever before. Body piercings and extensive tattoo coverage also came into their own.
Source: Google Images
Just as the Goth subculture applies its preferred aesthetic to a subgenre of art, so does punk. Punk artwork is usually seen on posters, zines, flyers and album covers and generally gives a clear message to the viewer, often with a political bent. Much imagery in punk art is designed to shock or otherwise provoke a reaction in the viewer.

Literature also plays a strong role in both the Goth and punk scenes. Punk literature often takes the form of poetry or song lyrics; however handmade, hand-distributed fanzines, or zines, were common in the heyday of the movement. Zines featured interviews, gossip, news, artwork and cultural criticism.

Is punk dead? Well, no. Punk is now more of an underground movement than it ever was, and as such does not attract as many followers, but punks are still a common sight on the streets of London and other big cities, its subgenres and spin-offs (including Goth) are gaining ever-greater popularity, and the celebration of individual freedom, DIY and the rejection of mass-marketing, and the other various views and ideologies associated with punk are unlikely ever to die. In fact, many of these views are strongly held by many in the Goth subculture today.


daisy.fiend said...

Hi! I love your blog. Keep up the good work :)

**Contuines reading**

Angel of Darkness said...

Really good description of the punk subculture. keep up the good work!

Ashlee said...

I love punk rock! Of course, I love deathrock and early Goth, so it's probably not that astounding. The music is great and they are so well dressed. Well, I love the way they dress. I'm not exactly sure if you could say "well dressed", but whatever.

Stephanie said...

Ah, punk; my love from the minute I first saw it. I remember the first mohawk and studded jacket... within a week, my hair was short and bright pink. It's been this way ever since. =]

Loupie said...

It still amuses me that all those pictures were taken in Camden, though I don't know what that says about me that I could recognise that :p

Colin/ Jeffrey said...

Listen, i enjoy this blog very much and I think you do a great job, but I get sick of see the term emo popping up again and again, I get the sense that you don't know what Emo is, Emo's are not those kids with black hair over their eyes that are always deppressed, Emo was a hardcore music in the late '80's and early '90's, Bands of the '90's such as At the drive in, cristie front drive, mineral, braid, i hate myself, The get up kids ect. While you're really educated in the subject which is: "Real Goth music/ style", I'd like you to understand what real emo music/ culture is.

Ashlee said...

Actually, it could be argued that they ARE "Emo", as they took the name and it's come to mean whatever it is that they are...

and the original emo stuff was never really called "emo", it's emotive hardcore and/or skramz. Also, it was the mid-80's that it started, and it's still going... as strong as it ever was? At least until the middle of the last decade.

Colin/ Jeffrey said...

I know it started in the mid '80's...I was unaware that she may be knowledgable in the subject, Emotivecore was inspired by Minor Threat and carried out by Rites of Spring then came Emotive Hardcore, then Emo-Indie rock, I know much about it and ironically right after I posted this comment I found a page where she defines the culture for a brief few sentences.
But no I don't think these Hot Topic kids should be known as members of a culture that survived about 20 years ago.

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