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‘Put on your boots and Harrington!’: The ordinariness of 1970s UK punk dress

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In 2013, the Metropolitan Museum hosted an exhibition of punk-inspired fashion entitled Punk: Chaos to Couture. The exhibition emphasized the ‘spectacular’ elements of the subculture, reflecting a narrative that dominates accounts of punk dress, whereby it is presented as a site of art school creativity and disjuncture with the past. This is an important aspect of punk dress, but photos of bands and audiences reveal that there was much more to British punk style in the 1970s than what was being sold on London’s King’s Road. Heeding calls to trouble the boundary between the spectacular and the ordinary in subculture studies, this article looks at the ordinariness of 1970s British punk dress, arguing that we should understand punk dress in terms of mass-market commodities, not just customization and designer fashion. Many of these commodities were worn by the skinheads who preceded punk, and this article explores this subcultural continuity by focusing on the role of the Dr. Marten boot and the Harrington jacket in first- and second-wave British punk dress. It does so through discussion of the Cockney Rejects, the 1979 BBC television dramatization of the Sham 69 album That’s Life and the Undertones.
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Keywords: Cockney Rejects; Undertones; men’s fashion; punk; skinhead; subculture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the Arts London

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • Punk & Post-Punk is a journal for academics, artists, journalists and the wider cultural industries. Placing punk and its progeny at the heart of inter-disciplinary investigation, it is the first forum of its kind to explore this rich and influential topic in both historical and critical theoretical terms.
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