Punk as an Aesthetic

Punk is a aesthetic that is centered around the punk rock movement.  This movement started around the 1970’s and has influenced clothing, music, dance and even politics.  At its creation in the UK, punk was seen as the lifestyle of a rebel.  Those that didn’t fit in with the rest of the community and wanted to be set apart.  These people were loud, offensive, and destructive.

With punk music being made up of yelling and overwhelming drums, it is no surprise that the primary dance style associated is moshing.  Moshing consists of large ‘pits’ of people running around aimlessly crashing into each other and inevitably causing harm.  The mosh dance style was adopted by the fusion metal movement out of the USA and quickly took off with many other aggressive genres including punk.

Bad Brains live in concert. Media by UK Underground.

When you think about the British Invasion on music, most people think about the Beatles or Yard birds, not rowdy punk bands..  The The first major punk band to hit the main stream in the United States was the Sex Pistols.  These four men would go on to set major fashion and music trends amongst the punk rock community.  Their iconic dress style of leather jackets with safety pins in them, and the tall spikey hair remains to this day instantly recognizable as punk.  The Sex Pistols influenced many other American artists including Boulder’s own The Dead Kennedys.  From there, the genre of punk took off and fans sporting all black, dyed mohawks, and studded boots could be seen nation wide angering the older generations for years to come.

The Sex Pistols (Sid Vicious left, Steve Jones center, and Johnny Rotten right) performing in Trondheim, Norway, July 1977






After punk rock took off in the United States, it wasn’t long before we started to see the influence of the rebellious spirits in every day politics.  At the very core of punk was an idea of anti-capitalism.  The front man of the before mentioned Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra, is possibly one of the most famous anti-governments punk rockers of all time.  In fact he still participates in political discussion and has even received the attention of former President Donald Trump during his 4 years in office.  An example of some of Jello’s songs include: Holiday in Cambodia, which reacts to the devastation caused by former dictator Pol Pot and the song: Kill the poor, which exclaims that the US government is doing everything to keep the rich richer and to hurt the less fortunate populations.  Many themes similar to these can be seen in modern punk and the most extreme punk rockers will say that if the song doesn’t posses themes of anti-government then it doesn’t count as real punk.

Jello Biafra Performing Live 1980

As punk has evolved from a music style to a lifestyle, several themes have prevailed to define it.  Weather it be the black clothes, spiked hair, loud music, or political views, punk as an aesthetic is easily recognizable and hard to ignore.



Sex Pistols 1977





Feature image: https://www.printmag.com/post/punk-aesthetic-graphic-design

Image 1: http://papyrus.greenville.edu/2018/10/history-of-the-mosh-pit/


Image3: https://menhairstylesworld.com/punk-hairstyles-for-guys/

Image 4:https://br.pinterest.com/pin/7107311885057074/

image 5: https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/sex-pistols-artwork-punk/

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5 Comments. Leave new

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  • Hey Hunter,

    Thanks for commenting on my post. I’m glad you noticed my black and white aesthetic with my images haha, I thought it looked cool. Anyways I think that you can see punk in a couple different places today. These include other aesthetics like skater and emo. The same way that punk grew out of metal, I think these other aesthetics kind of carry on the traditions of dress and that rebel attitude now that main stream punk has kind of faded away.

  • Hi Ben!

    As a fan of 70’s British punk myself, I was really interested to hear your take on the aesthetic that it creates. I really liked that you stressed the origins of punk, and it’s pioneers. I think that the Sex Pistols and their music exemplify exactly what is at the core of the punk aesthetic. Thinking of anti-government and edgy-topic songs like “Anarchy in the UK”, “God Save the Queen”, or “Holiday in the Sun”… Simply listening to those classic punk songs instills a feeling that I think exactly matches the aesthetic that you have described. I can think of many other aesthetics/sub-cultures that punk has influenced such as skate culture, pop punk, or emo. Why do you think punk has influenced so many other aesthetics? What is it that so many people find inspiring or relatable about the art and lifestyle that the punk aesthetic encompasses?

    • Maya

      Thanks for responding to my post! I’m glad to see that there is another punk rock enthusiast in this class. I think that punk has influenced many other aesthetics such as skate and emo due to the fact that anyone can identify with it. Punk is really about doing whatever you want and not caring what others think. You can see this in skate culture by the fact that skaters are often looked at as being rebels by the older generations and they don’t care. Also, I really liked your post about climbing and it inspired me to incorporate climbing gear into my upscale project.

  • Hunter Meissner
    January 31, 2021 6:27 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your post. The way in which you kept your images consistent throughout your post essentially developed your own aesthetic. By this I mean that by keeping your images consistent with the black and white color scheme along with the grainy, or blurry pictures, really set the scene for your post. In terms of what you presented, your description of punk rock and the transformation from a musical genre to a lifestyle was very interesting. One other interesting part of your post was how you connected punk rock to a Boulder established band. One question I had while reading your post was what does punk rock look like today? At least from what I see in public I don’t really notice a punk aesthetic.


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