FROM THE NEW YORK PUNKS TO THE HARAJUKU GIRLS OF TOKYO, WE EXPLORE THE STYLE TRIBES WHO BROUGHT THEIR DIY CLOTHES INTO THE MAINSTREAM
Whether the clothes have simply been shaped by the life of their wearer, or whether they were altered to suit, the narratives which accompany subculture fashion are often much richer and more compelling than those that accompany virgin ready-to-wear.
Here RedMilk explores some of the ways people have impressed themselves on the clothes they wear, and, likewise, allowed their lives to shape their garments.
Denim and leather provide the perfect blank canvases for personal embellishments: the back-panel of a jacket or the pocket of a pair of jeans becoming a billboard through which the wearer can pledge allegiance to gangs, ideologies or favourite bands.
Hippies would often wear pre-owned clothes, which they would patch and embroider by hand. The personalized garments functioned as political statements against the material-driven consumer culture of post-war.
Soon after the hippy movement, homespun touches began to be applied to mass-market clothes in the factory. Ironically, the capitalist system that love-worn denim and embroidered motifs had originally offered an antidote to eventually found a way to monopolise on those unique currencies. It aped the naivety of hand-embroidered designs with machines, creating false stories of lives that were never lived in them.
Although the US and British punks emerged simultaneously in the 1970s, their contrarian attitudes manifested in their clothing in distinctly different ways.
The British take was intentional and considered, the American counterpart nihilistically battered. While aesthetically similar in some respects (rips and studs featured in abundance) there were fundamental differences underpinning the philosophies that brought them there.
British punk emerged from the bleak political backdrop of the three-day working week, and for all its anarchic tendencies, the movement had an escapist glamour to it. The clothes were artfully cut up, then closed again with studs and safety pins. Details like makeup and slogans scrawled on the backs of blazers were radical, but highly considered.
Across the Atlantic, American punk arrived as an antidote to hippy style: though it still railed against mainstream capitalist culture, it did so by opting out of the fashion circus. Their clothes were stained and shredded too, but they got that way through relentless wear, and body-to-body contact at shows. The American and British punks were visually similar, but one was shaped to fit the life of the wearer, while the other achieved its aesthetic through his lifestyle.
From the 1970s onwards, the Harajuku area of Shibuya, Toyko, became home to an emerging fashion scene, and from 1978, Takenokozoku girls began occupying the pedestrianized area, boomboxes in tow.
Where traditionally, young Japanese girls learned to sew to make their own kimonos, these women were sewing of bright pink clothes (different colors and embroidered logos identified each groups) covering themselves in accessories, before choreographically walking in the street. Subsequently, the Harajuku girls took inspiration from the American rock’n’roll, the worlds of Japanese cinema, comics and animations, putting together outfits to replicate pastel-hued Lolitas and kick-ass superheroes, each identity realised with a cartoonish flair.
Style Tribesalways desired looks so far from anything that can be purchased off the rack that they must create their own pieces.
Eventually retailers caught on and began selling their own version of these styles, but the objective amongst wearers will always be authenticity and individuality.