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What are the Different Types of Punk Outfits?

By Candace Goforth Desantis
Updated May 21, 2024
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Punk fashion is defined by a general refusal to conform. As a result, punk outfits can range from a simple white T-shirt and ripped jeans to a studded-leather corset with torn fishnet stockings and spiked knee-high boots. In addition, various style subsets exist within the larger class known as "punk." From the classic anarchist punk clothing of the late 1970s and early 1980s to the brooding emo style of the early 2000s, all have roots in anti-establishment subculture.

Traditionally, punk fashion has intended to provoke with T-shirts featuring swastikas and other controversial imagery. Over time, many of the most definitely counterculture styles have made their way into popular culture. Some of the first punk outfits originated in the UK in the 1970s and reflected the rebellious youth movement of the time.

Classic punk outfits mix combat boots and customized blazers. Dress shirts with anti-establishment slogans written on them may be worn under distressed leather jackets. Denim jackets also are commonplace.

Glam punk fashion is a more flamboyant expression of individuality. This style makes use of glitter, bright colors, animal prints, and makeup for both males and females. A glam punk outfit might include an electric-blue satin shirt and tightly fitting leopard print pants. The origin of this style is associated with the early 1970s band the New York Dolls.

Punk style often serves as commentary on society's commonly held attitudes. For example, grunge clothing makes a statement against materialism. An example of this look is an old, plaid flannel shirt worn open over a band shirt with old jeans and canvas shoes. A worn-out military jacket could be paired with a second-hand-store dress to create another grunge outfit.

Gothic clothing embraces society's taboos, adopting the symbolism of fantasy and death. Punk outfits in the goth style use primarily black or gray, with the exception of red or dark purple accents. Gothic outfits for women often include long velvet jackets, heavy brocade skirts, and lace-up boots. A man in goth style might wear a black satin shirt with ruffles, black pants, and a cape.

Emo-style punk fashion typically includes slim-fit jeans, tight-fitting short-sleeved shirts, and studded belts. Emo style hair is usually worn with straightened, side-swept bangs.

Punk outfits are completed with details and accessories, like dyed hair, black wristbands, belts, and body piercings. Pierced noses, eyebrows, lips, and cheeks contribute to the punk rock style. So do ear gauges and colorful, spiked Mohawks.

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Discussion Comments
By Speechie — On Aug 24, 2011

@runner101 - I remember when I was a kid, while I did not know a lot of about punk, it was a cool thing to try and dye your hair crazy colors with Kool-aid.

Other trends I have noticed are studs being put on high heels which are pictured to go with pencil skirts and button up dress shirts, and bright neon clothing (but I guess that trend could simply be attributed to the eighties), but again like you said - the punk that has made it to the mainstream is typically done in pieces rather than the entire look, which saves those who wear punk from feeling like they have been sold out!

By runner101 — On Aug 23, 2011

Whenever I think about punk clothing I also think of punk music, and in particular one punk music concert I went to.

I thought it was interesting that by dressing in regular clothes just jeans and a t-shirt; I was the one who looked like i was rebelling against the establishment or something like that as I stood out like a sixth finger on one hand.

However, I realize that in the bigger picture, these people push boundaries of clothing and have done such a great job that parts of their regular everyday look are now in mainstream culture.

For example, every year we see one of the kids at my small school sport a mohawk. Sure it is not usually a neon mohawk; however, it is still quite the statement.

I think touches of punk can really be fun and make quite a statement such as a child with a mohawk or a studded belt against khackis and a white button up.

As far as going all out punk; I leave that fashion to the punk professionals!

Has anyone else noticed parts of punk fashion coming into mainstream fashion fads?

By AnnBoleyn — On Aug 23, 2011

@Denha - Your comment reminded me of that old movie called "SLC Punk!" starring Matthew Lillard. If anyone is unfamiliar with it, it's about a punk who starts to grow up and realizes that in some situations you just have to conform. Eventually he mentions how being punk is more of a mental attitude than a physical one. Do you think that punks today understand this ideology, or are they just in it because it's an alternative trend?

By EricRadley — On Aug 22, 2011

Despite what everyone has said already, I think the true irony is that punk clothing as we know it today originated in the mainstream with none other than Vivienne Westwood! Today she's a highly sought-after clothing designer, but back in the seventies, she was coming up with all sorts of punk rock outfits accessorized with bondage inspiration and the unforgettable tartan and plaid prints. I'm sure many younger punk kids today would shun the style if they knew that she was behind it!

By LTimmins — On Aug 21, 2011

@Monika - I totally see your point of view, but at that age especially, even though you look like all the other punks, that type of style and dress makes you stand out in a crowd of regularly-dressed people. To be honest, I think much of it originally stems from that sort of teenage desire to be different when they're figuring out their own unique style and identity.

So many people simply know that they don't want to be like the preppy nine to five crowd so they turn to the most opposite alternative. In this case it usually includes goth or alternative clothing. Many people grow out of it, but you can still occasionally spot the odd aging punk who never seem to grow out of that style.

By orangey03 — On Aug 20, 2011

My favorite local glam punk band went all out when they performed. Three guys and two girls dressed like the glam bands of the eighties whose music they covered. They all wore makeup.

The guys all had long bangs with spiky hair in the back. One of them had blue streaks in his hair, one had orange, and one had green.

All of the members would color-coordinate their outfits. I remember one night, they all incorporated leopard prints into their costumes in some form. One guy wore leopard pants, one wore a head band, and the other wore a shirt, while one of the girls wore a dress and the other had a skirt. All other parts of their outfits that night were bright blue, as was their lipstick.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 20, 2011

I remember loving the grunge trend, because it set me free to dress sloppily and go out in public without feeling conspicuous. I already had a collection of band t-shirts and flannel long-sleeves, so I got the chance to wear them somewhere besides at home.

I loved my canvas shoes. Like many of them during this time, they were black with white laces, and they seemed to go with everything. They also were very comfortable for walking.

Another freeing trend of this era was wearing my long, straight hair the way it naturally looked. I didn’t feel the need to style it with a curling iron, rollers, or a flat-iron. A few kinks here and there were totally acceptable.

By StarJo — On Aug 19, 2011

I have never considered my style punk, but when I joined a punk rock band, I had to start dressing to match the music. I had my long-established punk friend help me achieve my new look.

The first thing she told me to buy was a pair of tall black lace-up boots. They were kind of chunky with a wedge heel, and they felt heavy when walking. Luckily, I would not be doing much walking on stage.

Next, she took me to a store that had lots of shirts with rips or holes in the sleeves or stomach area. The ones with giant slits were meant to be worn over brightly colored, tight-fitting undershirts.

She told me I either needed to dye my hair solid black or some bright color. Since my pale skin would make me look like a witch with black hair, I opted for a fire-engine red shade. It looked good on me, and it seemed to go well with my new wardrobe.

By wavy58 — On Aug 18, 2011

I knew a kid in college who went completely punk. He got his tongue pierced, and he had barbels through both eyebrows, as well as one through his septum. He wore a black leather choker with silver spikes.

He had spiked hair that stood out about four inches from his scalp in all directions. He dyed it black with some strands of hot pink.

He wore blue eyeliner that really made his light blue eyes stand out. He often wore tight black jeans with fitted graphic tees, usually with a black background and some brightly colored image or words splayed across the front.

By FernValley — On Aug 18, 2011

@Denha- I still think that punk rock clothing challenges boundaries, though. What I like are the kids I see who can pair what looks like a vintage cheerleader costume with a ripped flannel shirt, or can wear an almost formal-looking dress with something really casual.

That mixing of looks is what I think of as challenging constraints. But then, I still end up wearing really basic things, and nothing that would be seen as "indie" clothing by the people who write about trends.

By Denha — On Aug 17, 2011

I actually think that the real young people who are "punks" these days are probably the people who dress in classic styles. Not preppy by the definition of mainstream stores, but things like nice-looking pants and simple shirts, button downs, and the like. When the fashion houses and celebrities are all wearing sweats and ripped pants and dirty looking shirts, suddenly polished is the new punk.

By behaviourism — On Aug 17, 2011

@strawCake- You and @Monika bring up a point I think about all the time with "goth" dressing. I had a few "goth" friends in middle school, but I realized later on that they were just buying clothes from the "goth" stores. Most of the things they were were not one of a kind at all.

By strawCake — On Aug 16, 2011

@Monika - I see what you're saying. The sad thing is a lot of these fashions start out as being kind of underground, but then end up being worn by every teenybopper with access to a mall!

I remember when I was younger some of my friends were into dressing this way before it became so trendy. Eventually they abandoned these styles, because they were too mainstream!

By Monika — On Aug 16, 2011

I think it's kind of funny how being punk is all about being against the establishment, but most of the people that dress that way look exactly the same! There are even chain stores that sell punk, goth, and emo attire.

I know a lot of people who are part of these subcultures would hate to hear it, but this kind of clothing is really pretty trendy. They may be making some kind of statement by wearing it, but they sure aren't rebelling against established fashion standards!

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