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WWD Gets Punkadelic

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“Punk? It’s only rock ’n’ roll, but you wear it,” said WWD in December of 1977. Rock music and counterculture had solidified their bond in the Fifties and Sixties, but Seventies punk was arguably the biggest shock to the establishment yet. Punks dethroned hippies, at least in fashion. “It’s a rebellion against Frye boots, Indian things, beige and tweedy stuff,” said Gina Franklyn, co-owner of Manic Panic on Manhattan’s St. Mark’s Place. Another hot spot for the New York punk scene was CBGB on the Bowery, infested with black leather, stretch pants and “a plague of T-shirts,” according to WWD reporters.

 

Over on the West Coast, Tinseltown punked out at a new underground club called The Masque. Though the Los Angeles scene was less authentic — mainly more mainstream students by day who just wanted to have fun at night — the fashions still had a kick: ruffled anklets, stilettos and plenty of animal prints. The Masque — which was literally underground — was like a cross between a Fellini set and the catacombs. The floor was covered with broken dolls, and WWD described the crowd as what genuine punkers would call posers: “kids bobbing up and down to innocent rock ’n’ roll. It is a game of pretend and of dress up.” 

 

Seditionaries, where Vivienne Westwood was designing, was considered the only “genuine” punk shop in London in the Seventies. But punk culture was a part of the city’s life, from Derek Jarman’s film “Jubilee” to the recently launched Deluxe magazine, to clubs like The Vortex. The movement was transported across the channel to Paris when a jet-setting nightclub owner known as Régine — aka Regina Zylberberg — threw a party at New Jimmy’s, one of her French hot spots. The party was so wild that anyone without chicken guts and fake blood was too terrified to step out and dance for fear of being stabbed.

 

But the harsh Parisian scene faded when trendsetters anointed “After Punk” the new black. “It’s too soon. It’s still very hazy,” said Paris’ self-proclaimed “Queen of Punk,” Edwige Gruss of the new movement. The idea was generally the same, but the “After Punk” style was more toned down: no more safety pins stuck in the body or displaying grotesque objects. But pollution masks, rubber gloves and survival food kits? Absolument de rigueur.

 

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