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A Brief History of Punk in Honor of Vivienne Westwood

   

This May, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will play host to Dame Vivienne Westwood and her treasure trove of punk fashion. It's certainly going to be a change for the museum which featured Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada last year and Alexander McQueen the year before. But, if the 2006 Anglomania exhibition of British fashion can serve as any indication as to what's in store, this is something you can't miss.

The Dame is legendary for her ability to scour history for her creations and punk was one of her earliest (and most enduring) inspirations. Nowadays, a lot of people will hear punk and think of Avril Lavigne, The Warped Tour and maybe Good Charlotte? They're not entirely incorrect in thinking that, but it goes way back and gets way (way) better. To help you better understand Dame Westwood and her style, here is a brief overview of the Punk movement.

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1971: The New York Dolls Form Up

Before regular punk, there was protopunk. One of the most influential bands to emerge from this time were The New York Dolls. Supposedly the band got their name from an old doll repair shop that was across the street from one of their hangouts. At the twilight of their career, Malcom McLaren, then business partner and boyfriend to Dame Westwood managed their affairs before returning home to London.


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1973: CBGB

It stood for Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers, but CBGB would soon become the home of the punk movement in New York City. Legendary bands and style icons such as the Patti Smith Group, The B-52's, Blondie, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Ramones and Television would all find a home there. It is now a John Varvatos store.


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1974: Patti Smith, "Godmother of Punk" and the Patti Smith Group

Patti Smith is no stranger to the fashion world. She's been a long standing inspiration for many in fashion and countless more in music. Long before releasing their album, Horses, Patti was already a strong artistic force in New York. She had found a home with other artists and notables at The Chelsea Hotel and her poetry was read all over the lit scene. Today, she is considered one of the most iconic and influential artists of all time.


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1974: Richard Hell and Television

By the mid '70s, punk was beginning to emerge in its truest form. Richard Hell, one of its champions formed his band, Television and began performing in New York City. He's credited with being the first person to wear safety-pinned t-shirts and spike his hair. His style would serve as an inspiration for countless punk rockers to come.


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1975: Malcom, Vivienne & The Sex Pistols

Upon returning from managing The New York Dolls, Malcolm McLaren finds himself inspired by the young punk movement emerging in New York. He and Vivienne rename their shop "Sex", and began selling S&M type clothing that would typify punk style. He also starts his band, The Sex Pistols which will become one of the strongest forces in punk.


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1976: Debbie Harry & Blondie

One style icon who evolved along with the punk movement was Debbie Harry. Her band, Blondie, was named so because of men who would call out to her. Debbie and her famous hair were fixtures at CBGB and unlike many bands that formed in this time, would go on to have massive global success.


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1977: "God Save the Queen"

The Sex Pistols release their song "God Save the Queen", which is a blatant attack on conformity, establishment and the monarchy. It hit #2 on the charts and caused outrage all over the country. In other words, it was a massive success for punk and the movement and style began to spread further.


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1980s: Offshoots & Post-Punk

Punk began to evolve in the late '70s and early '80s. In the U.S., hardcore punk was born with a much more abrasive edge than traditional punk. Over in the UK, bands wanted to be less pretentious and connect more with the working class, thus street punk was born. Further evolutions included more commercially viable genres like new wave, alternative, no wave and pop-punk. Style began to change as well, becoming less abrasive


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1990s: Punk Revival

The original punk movement that started in downtown NYC and the UK had changed dramatically in the '80s. The '90s saw a renewed interest in the genre with bands like The Offspring, Nirvana, Bad Religion and NOFX. With these new bands, the fashion and style  evolved into grunge, a still present and distant relative of the original punk style.


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