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The 1980s was an incredible decade for the punk subculture. There were the hardcore punk bands such as Dead Kennedy’s and the ultra-famous, iconic punk bands such as The Ramones and The Clash. These bands brought the punk sound and punk fashion to the mainstream, with ripped stovepipe jeans, black leather jackets, Converse, and too-small tees. 

However, it’s the incredible ladies of 1980s punk we’re focusing on here today, so move aside, guys. The decade saw many punk-rock icons such as Patti Smith, Joan Jett, Poly Styrene from Xray Spex, and Siouxsie Sioux with more soft-rock pop-punkers such as Debbie Harry, Cyndi Lauper, and Chrissie Hynde. 

80s punk girls rebelled against society and refused to be purely feminine, pretty, and demure. Some of them fused traditional markers of femininity such as pearls and lace but fused it with tougher features like leather, studs, and messy makeup (a look Madonna famously brought into the pop world). Either way, these women were trailblazers. 

Let’s reject the status quo and get provocative with our 2020 fashion, inspired by the punk goddesses of the eighties and beyond. 

Tartan, high-top boots, and leather 

The inspiration: when we think of punk, especially British punk, we often go straight to tartan, leather, and chunky boots. Vivienne Westwood, the sartorial queen of punk, wore tartan herself as well as incorporating it into her designs. She wore full tartan suits with bondage-style straps and created full tartan skirts with tailored jackets in her 1988 Time Machine collection. 

Cyndi Lauper, a pop-punk-rock icon also embraced tartan with her in-your-face outfits, full of layered fabrics and rows upon rows of beaded necklaces. Male punk rockers often wore tight, cropped, bondage-style tartan pants with sleeveless tees, leather jackets, and high-top laced black leather boots. Let’s put it all together!

How-to: 

  • Try a red and black plaid tartan pleated skirt with black stockings, black Doc Marten boots, and a plain black tee accessorized with pins along the neckline. Or pare down the look for a sleeker aesthetic with straight-leg tartan pants, sleek heeled booties, and a cropped wool-knit sweater
  • For Winter fashion, wear a red tartan wool coat or trench over wide-leg black trousers and a bustier-style bodysuit, with studded black boots 

Studded leather accessories, fishnets, feminine jewels, and graphic makeup 

The inspiration: as well as the punk staple, studded leather, 1980s punk also involved a lot of fishnet mesh, most badass-ly worn by Siouxsie Sioux. Her goth-punk aesthetic is best remembered with fishnets covering the arms and legs, a leather vest, thick studded leather bracelets, and thigh-high, lace-up boots.

Siouxsie Sioux’s makeup was incredibly artful and graphic, with black shadow and liner drawn in bold, blocky, angular shapes. 

Punk rocker Beki Bondage also rocked the studded leather and fishnet aesthetic, but her look had a certain feminine side to it. For example, she wore short mini skirts with tight waistcoats showing her killer figure and dyed her hair a bold shade of candy pink. 

Other feminine shades detailing tough metal and leather were layered pearl necklaces, brooches, chunky earrings, and over-the-top faux lashes as worn by Siouxsie Sioux and Cyndi Lauper. 

How-to: 

  • Pair a black leather mini with fine fishnet stockings and black heeled knee-high boots. Add a tucked-in white shirt buttoned to the top, with strings of pearls layered over the shirt
  • Pair a black leather or thick cotton 60s shift dress with fishnets, knee-high boots, and a studded leather jacket. Add large gold or jeweled earrings and ultra-dark eye makeup drawn into graphic shapes extending toward the temple 

The look: pink mohawks, spiky black mops, and dark lipstick 

The inspiration: female punk beauty trends in the 80s often involved colored hair in the form of a mohawk, with dark lipstick and Bowie-Esque graphic blush and eye makeup applied heavily to the face in tones of yellow and red. 

Cyndi Lauper is the obvious reference here, with her red and orange dyed hair and bright makeup colors. However, lesser-known bands such as Vice Squad rocked the dyed-hair look, with guitarist and vocalist Beki Bondage with spiky-frizzy blue or pink locks, depending on the day.

Others, like Siouxsie Sioux, Joan Jett, and Chrissie Hynde took to murky black do’s, either mullet-style and flat on the head, or outrageous, big, and spiked to the heavens. 

How-to: 

  • Gather your hair in a mohawk shape from your hairline down to the back of your neck, pin it down, and slick down the sides to create a faux-hawk. Use pink hair spray or a temporary hair dye to add bold color
  • Pick a deep brown or plum matte lipstick depending on your skin tone, and apply an opaque layer. Use a tissue to blot the opacity to create a softer, smudgier application 
  • Add matte pink or red blush to the cheekbones and temples and onto the brow-bone for authentic hazy, watercolor, bold 80s beauty 

Ripped denim jeans, oversized shirts, tees, waistcoats, and Converse 

The inspiration: Punk wasn’t always defined by layer upon layer of leather, studs, tartan, and mohawks. It was sometimes fused with grunge-rock aesthetics to create a hybrid, famously worn by the iconic punk-rocker and female hero Patti Smith. She was punk, but her style was softer and more grungy, with shades of menswear such as shirts, ties, and waistcoats. 

This branch of punk involves ripped jeans, slouchy t-shirts, billowing white shirts, waistcoats, a leather jacket, and white Converse shoes stained with night after night of punk rock gigs. Carrie Brownstein from 90s punk-rock band Sleater Kinney and Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders also wore this look like the utter queens they were (and still are). 

How-to: 

  • Pair ripped blue jeans with Converse lace-ups, a baggy white cotton tee (loosely tucked in), and an open black waistcoat. For an extra layer during Winter, add a slouchy trench coat or menswear blazer 
  • Pair tight black leather or denim pants with an oversized white shirt, worn out and loose, with a pair of black Chelsea boots and one wrist stacked with studded leather bracelets. Finish the look off with smudgy, next-day black kohl eyes 

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