Rebel Without A Cause

Marita Maloney looks at the resurgence of the rebel fashion.

It’s no secret that fashion regards nostalgia with high esteem, and this season it paid homage to the anti-establishment 1970s punk movement by bringing all things rebellious and grunge back into the sartorial spotlight. The Spring/Summer collections showed hints of a revival of this trend, but for winter the designers threw themselves into the modern-era of punk pin-up, transforming this youthful street culture to couture. Anarchy was rife on the catwalks; models stomped the runways in tattered biker boots, bound in PVC and intimidated in studs, spikes and zips, paired with excessive kohl eyeliner and a “hell hath no fury” air. The Scottish Highlands also made their presence felt; their native cloth was inescapable as tartan reigned supreme in the form of dresses, kilts and shirts. From Alexander McQueen to Zadig & Voltaire anti-conformity prevailed, and this has inevitably trickled down to the high street with Topshop and ASOS in particular leading a Doc Marten-clad foot forward.

The resurgence of the rebel can be largely attributed to the recent Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s exhibition “Punk: Chaos to Couture.” This exhibit, which displayed more than 30 designers, including Christopher Kane and Givenchy is a testament to punk’s unequivocal power to shock, inspire and make an impact, a statement concurred by Andrew Bolton, its curator, in saying that “no other counter-cultural movement has had a greater influence on fashion.” What’s particularly captivating are the origins of punk in the 1970s and how what began as a radical lifestyle favoured by a Mohawk- sporting, piercing and tattoo-bearing crowd soon propelled itself en masse and defined a decade. This can largely be attributed to the eccentric genius of Vivienne Westwood and her then partner, Malcom McLaren, who were the innovative powerhouse of punk purveyors in bringing this underground trend to the fore.  Their signature piece was the humble t-shirt, emblazoned with controversial political slogans or motifs, such as swastikas and portraits of Joseph Stalin, and sold from their shop, “Sex.” This unconventional name also reflects on the era, as fishnet tights, spiked jewellery and safety pins were commonplace, as attributed to the highly influential BDSM scene.

Punk continued to gather pace in the 1980s, and evolved in Britain and the US to an aggressive amalgamation of military boots, tartan, leather and chains, while still upholding the aesthetic of the preceding decade. Women’s’ style became more androgynous, Mohawks grew increasingly taller and slogans on t-shirts captured the rebellion of the time with aplomb. Then came the 90s, where the grunge outburst which had taken over Seattle at the end of the 80s exploded onto the world stage and firmly marked its place as a perennial fashion favourite. Bands like Nirvana, in a uniform of flannel shirts and ripped jeans, as well as designers such as Marc Jacobs, who created looks that appeared as if they had come straight from a thrift shop, pioneered the grunge revolution which lives on today.

The rebel trend this winter is a combination of the history of these three decades, yet with a modern spin, an approach which is very welcome if we are to attempt pulling off this style without looking like a try-hard or Courtney Love. So if dog collars or Nazi slogans aren’t your thing then balance is key; biker boots and leather jackets paired with dainty dresses, or an outfit teamed with one item of plaid can make this trend very accessible. So channel your inner punk rocker with the confidence and renegade attitude that would make even Dame Vivienne proud.