Where are African-Americans in punk?
One of the coolest styles of the past fall season was punk. With tattoos, piercings, body modification and colorful, messy hair, punk style was back on the mainstream circuit. Once again, the upper echelon of the fashion industry took inspiration from the common and stylish consumer. Punk has gone from street to chic. Last fall season, punk-influenced styles were seen all over the runways from Versace to Chanel.
Often when people think of punk they envision a certain kind of person wearing the style. The hardcore, fierce style is often associated with the lower class, angst ridden teenagers and most notably Caucasians. Society has a way of putting people into genres, boxes of expectations and limitations. When it comes to style, especially punk style, the ideas imposed on people by society are meant to be shattered. If style is a form of self-expression, then punk is arguably one of the most expressive styles there is – not meant to be restricted to one race or class.
If this is the case, then why is it unexpected or sometimes shocking to see an African-American embrace the punk lifestyle, fashion and music?
The origin of punk is usually attributed to Britain and New York in the mid-1970s and throughout the 1980s. Punk enthusiasts were against the excess of glam rock. They were fans of punk bands, wore “do it yourself” styles and railed against the “establishment” or the popular ideas about their generation.
Today, young African-Americans are given a handful of style options by society and expected to be a fan of specific genres: hip-hop, R&B, pop, baggy jeans, long weaves, graffiti leggings, oversized t-shirts, stilettos and so on. African-Americans are often put into boxes like “urban” or “hood.” Wearing the punk style is a way of saying “No, I’m not who you expect or want me to be – I define who I am and how to express myself.”
One movement that has helped drive this attitude is Afro-punk. Afro-punk is a movement that encourages and accepts African Americans and other people of color that are involved in the punk scene. It is a movement that has grown since the early 2000s into an entire subculture.
Afro-punk is not a new movement – it has grown into an entire subculture. The punk style itself has been around for decades, but what is new is the idea that punk style can be embraced by anyone. Maybe punk being mainstream again will make it less “shocking” to see an African-American rocking a Mohawk and combat boots? Or maybe we still have a long way to go before style truly becomes a form of self-expression.