CHAOS TO COUTURE: SAFETY PIN, PADLOCK, PUNK ROCK

A subversive little rockopedia of safety pins and padlocks, how they have evolved over time: from household items to punk subculture to New York/London/Paris/Milan Fashion Week to nonviolent resistance.
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Padlock is punk rock: Sid Vicious. | Photo: New York Post.

Early punk fashion was defiantly anti-materialistic and initially handmade, trying to stay true to egalitarianism ideology. That’s why accessories like gold necklaces or silver braces, they were rarely seen in the punk scene. Items that were easily found around us, part of our everyday life, those were used more as accessories in punk fashion. Especially these two: padlocks and safety pins. They have become the integral parts of punk rock fashion.

The bass player of Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious, often seen wearing padlock necklace. While Johnny Rotten, the singer, he used many safety pins as important components of his outfit.

Safety pins became associated with punk (in the UK) in the late 1970s. Some claim the look was taken originally from Richard Hell whom the British punks saw in pictures, and whose style they adopted. This is disputed by a number of artists from the first wave of British punk, most notably Johnny Rotten, who insists that safety pins were originally incorporated for more practical reasons, for example, to remedy “the arse of your pants falling out”.

Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren played significant roles in punk fashion. Their boutique back then at 430 King’s Road, London, SEX. Mainstream punk style was influenced by clothes sold in SEX. Glen Matlock and Sid Vicious, both bass guitarists of Sex Pistols, respectively, used to work at SEX.

These days, punk fashion has been commercialised, and well-established fashion designers—such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Comme des Garçons, Martin Margiela, Helmut Lang, Ann Demeulemeester, Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Sui, and several more—have used punk elements in their production. Punk has invaded Paris/Milan/London/New York Fashion Week’s catwalks. In Indonesia, the infamous clothing label Suicide Glam pretty much having similar spirit with SEX: angsty and subversive.

Back in spring 2013, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York held an exhibition with a specific theme: punk fashion, examines punk’s impact on high fashion and culture in general.

Safety pins have shifted recently onto a symbol of solidarity with victims of racist and xenophobic speech and violence after the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom in 2016. Later that year the symbol spread to the United States after Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. Some commentators and activists derided the wearing of safety pins as “slacktivism”, while others argued it was useful when connected with other, more concrete political actions.

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Rudolf Dethu

Rudolf Dethu

Music journalist, writer, radio DJ, socio-political activist, creative industry leader, and a qualified librarian, Rudolf Dethu is heavily under the influence of the punk rock philosophy. Often tagged as this country’s version of Malcolm McLaren—or as Rolling Stone Indonesia put it ‘the grand master of music propaganda’—a name based on his successes when managing Bali’s two favourite bands, Superman Is Dead and Navicula, both who have become two of the nation’s biggest rock bands.
Rudolf Dethu

Rudolf Dethu

Music journalist, writer, radio DJ, socio-political activist, creative industry leader, and a qualified librarian, Rudolf Dethu is heavily under the influence of the punk rock philosophy. Often tagged as this country’s version of Malcolm McLaren—or as Rolling Stone Indonesia put it ‘the grand master of music propaganda’—a name based on his successes when managing Bali’s two favourite bands, Superman Is Dead and Navicula, both who have become two of the nation’s biggest rock bands.

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