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Punk's Not Just a Fashion Statement
Reducing punk culture to a fashion statement is not only ignorant, but demeaning. Most of us never grew out of punk rock. We grew into punk rock. The older I get, the more I identify with punk rock and the culture surrounding it.
If punk rock is a phase, then most of my life has been punk phase that has no end in sight. Although my appearance might reflect my punk passion, it is not the sum of the punk rock experience like so many people make it out to be.
Punk is an attitude, not a fashion statement. And no, it's not just some cliché that punks throw around to make themselves seem more profound than they actually are. Only the most basic bitches of punk seriously judge you by your appearance. But most people don’t know that. Some people are intimidated by the creative liberties we take over our images because they don’t align with societal conventions of attractiveness. We tend to disagree with rules like dress codes like every other needless infringement upon our freedom. As individuals with predominantly anarchistic leanings, most of us strive to be as sovereign as we can the from oppressive legal, social, political, and economic systems that practically terrorize us on a daily basis. What those oppressive systems are and how they function might be up for debate, but one thing is for sure: rebelling against forced conformity is a huge theme in punk. Yet people continually mistake the fashion associated with punk for the whole cake when it’s just an icing. Punk fashion as most people imagine it—spikes, dyed hair, studs, DIY jobs, etc.—is a manifestation of the punk attitude. They think it’s some kind of uniform instead of us having fun with our personal aesthetic.
These people couldn’t be more wrong. This includes other punks as well as people who speculate our culture from various distances. We wear things like band shirts to support the music we love, not to look cool for each other. It's because we love this music so much, we enjoy incorporating them into our day by wearing their merch.
I’m not saying I’m the personification of punk, but I am astounded by the amount of people who talk to me as though I know nothing about punk. I didn’t grow up in a punk house, but I had the luxury of spending most of my life involved in a punk rock-positive atmosphere. Both of my parents frequented CBGB’s and got to see all of the bands I can only fantasize about seeing live today. I grew up on CDs that my other friends’ parents would throw in the trash. However, I got serious about punk rock when my dad introduced me to the Dead Kennedys in 7th grade. By that point, I was already wearing black lipstick and getting bullied for being a bonafide goth. People teased me more about my style than they did about my weight, which was a lot to begin with. Fortunately, that didn’t stop me from going to shows and hanging out with actual cool people. They, too, did not judge me negatively for my appearance or expect me to fulfill any sort of fashion code. One of the things I love the most about punk is how it affirms my true freedom to be myself.
But for someone who’s spent most of my life involved with it, I sometimes feel like I’m getting my punk cred “checked” by some other punks when I go to certain shows where less people know me. Most of the time, someone will start talking about bands that I know more about than they do. I can tell they’re feeling me out by their pointed questions about certain albums or bands coupled with the look in their eye. Or worse, they don’t bother talking to me at all. My friends experience the same thing. For instance, one of my friends asked about a band that was playing, only to have the person condescendingly “correct” his pronunciation of the band with the wrong one. I never make fun of people for mispronouncing words because it means that they probably read them and never heard them spoken aloud. I’m guilty of mispronouncing bandnames in ways that are simply full of failure. For instance, I discovered Bauhaus in a paranormal magazine and I hadn’t heard anyone say their names. I used to pronounce “Bauhaus” like you’d pronounce The Baha Men’s name (Bah-Hah). No, you’re not mistaken—it’s totally the one-hit-wonder band that sang “Who Let The Dogs Out?” so long ago. My mother still makes fun of me for it. But at least I didn’t have the nerve to go out of my way to incorrectly “correct” someone as part of some general acting-like-a-snob repertoire. People like this are serious vibe-killers.
Way less people pulled this crap on me when my hair was still purple. What they don’t know is that I love radical hairstyles. I’m just keeping my hair its natural color because after how long I’ve spent dying it, I’m having as much fun with my natural color as I would with a more exotic color. I know I’ll probably succumb to the temptation to dye it black or purple. But until I’m in a financial position that’s free from the possibility of discrimination, my natural hair color shall remain. The premise of why I’m not dying it unsettles me to no end. Still, like any other capitalist casualty, I am practically coerced into play by corporate rules. Still, they never find out about my deep thoughts on the issue because they were too busy making assumptions about me.
It’s funny—Most of the people I know who’ve been into punk for a while never treat me like that, no matter how I dress.
I don’t judge punks by their covers because I don’t judge people by their covers. Like I said, something like a swastika is the only exception. However, growing up in the Long Island punk scene further enforced this thinking. When I’ve taken friends to their first Long Island show, they remark that they’re surprised to see so many people with button-up shirts and generally conventional styles of dress. Most of the time, the observation was neutral, but there were a couple of times when I could tell the remark was tinged with judgment. As though my friends were wrong for going to a show straight after work or imposing their “uncool” fashion sense upon us.
It’s these people who really don’t get understand what punk’s actually about.
My father introduced me to the Dead Kennedys because he loves them and wanted me to love them as well. But he had another agenda — he noticed I was beginning to develop an affinity for pop punk bands. He explained to me that not only was this music not punk at all, but it went against everything punk rock stood for. This music greased the corporate machine instead of destroying it. He also explained to me how I was betraying my roots and cheapening something that’s been a very powerful force in music, history, and my family’s life.
Growing up, my headphones were my safe space because punk was there. Punk reminded me that I wasn’t the one doing anything wrong. Punk sympathized with my struggles and kept me woke by teaching me how I was the pawn, not the problem. Punk validated the fact that I didn’t need to shave, wear bras, or conform to any particular social rules that weren’t beneficial or fair to me. That includes bigotry and beauty standards. If someone insulted my size at a show, I would say something along the lines of, “Being brainwashed by the media’s beauty standards? How punk of you.”
Surprisingly, it shut them up. Every. Single. Time. Why? Because they knew I was right.
Because Long Island’s punk scene is small, most of us know each other. If we don’t know each other by name, then we know each other by face. It’s hard not to feel familiar with someone if you spent your childhood going to the same shows. The last time someone tried to challenge my punk cred, everyone laughed them out of the room. Literally. Punk continues making sense as I age. Loving it comes naturally to me and I like being surrounded by people with similar tastes I can relate to.
The next time someone insults you about your appearance, remember: Their thoughts and behavior are reflections of their character, not your worth.
#Real #PunksNotAFashionStatement #PunkRockPersonified #Anarchy #Posers #PunkKeepsMeWoke #ThanksLongIsland
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