At various times throughout history, music has reflected established culture, rejected the status quo, and created cultural phenomena that went far beyond melodies and lyrics. The folk music of the 1950s and 1960s, for example, represented a sea change in attitudes about everything from the Vietnam War to premarital sex. Rock ‘n’ roll was, at its heart, a rebellion against the staid and sedate post-World War II era. Heavy metal kicked music up a notch in the late 1960s and early 1970s with its emphasis on sound distortion, volume, and the central role of guitars and drums. These anti-establishment roots took hold and formed the foundation of punk rock’s popularity in the mid-1970s. Like the musical genres that came before it, punk rock generated a subculture and spawned several other sub-genres of music.
Today, punk rock T-shirts, Oi! gothic clothing, and emo bondage clothing are still widely worn, each reflecting the more encompassing punk rock attitude or the more specific sub-genre. Punk rock songs are characterized by bare instrumentation, hard-hitting lyrics with themes that are nihilistic or extremely political, and fast tempos.
Punk rockers encompass not only those who play the music, but also those who identify with and live the punk rock lifestyle.
Punk rockers share attitudes of self-reliance, rejection of the mainstream, and progressive or liberal political leanings. They are less likely to engage in activities for person gain and are more likely to focus their efforts on change for the greater good. Punk rockers are also widely known for their creative fashion statements. Punk rock T-shirts often have outrageous images on them, and punks often use tape and safety pins to hold together torn garments. Likewise, they employ a variety of nontraditional items as jewelry, such as safety pins and razor blades, and often have extreme hairstyles and colors.
Oi!, a punk genre, generally draws from the working class. Oi! gothic clothing is popular, as is the Doc Marten and Levi look. Another genre of punk, emo, is short for emotive hardcore or emotional hardcore. Emo bondage clothing has a distinctive style that is designed to shock the status quo with its use of leather, rubber, and latex.
Since the 1970s, punk rock has experienced both hills and valleys. After becoming a phenomenon in the mid-1970s, by the end of the decade bands like The Go-Go’s become popular with the mainstream. Punk then seemed to morph into New Wave, with the Talking Heads, Devo, and The Police emerging on the scene. In the 1980s, punk’s progeny, alternative rock and emo, took hold, while the 1990s saw the dawn of riot grrrl and queercore. In the past decade, punk has again entered the mainstream – to the consternation of traditionalists who view commercial success as the antithesis of the punk philosophy.
While battles over capitalist philosophy and musical style rage on, those living the punk lifestyle continue to express themselves through punk rock T-shirts, Oi! gothic, and emo bondage clothing.