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How to Dress 80s Punk

Updated November 21, 2016

Fashion in the 1980s tended to be loud and provocative, and the styles sported by the punk music fans of the day were no different. Committed punks set themselves apart by rebelling against the status quo, wearing bright colours and intentionally torn clothes decorated with in-your-face slogans and accessories. Whether you hope to emulate '80s punk style exactly or want to incorporate this iconic trend into a more current look, a few indispensable wardrobe pieces should help define your ensemble.

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  1. Pick clothing in materials and textures often worn by '80s punks. Some of the most commonly used materials that defined the era's punk fashion include leather, vinyl, mesh, and shredded denim. For example, girls can put on a leather or faux-leather miniskirt and a mesh over-shirt, while both guys and girls can sport tight, ripped jeans.

  2. Wear clothing emblazoned with provocative slogans and patterns to emulate original 1980s punk trends. Common motifs included a defiled image of the Union Jack or the Queen of England, and anti-authority symbols or phrases. Many punks of the time wore clothing with clashing patterns, such as a striped T-shirt with a plaid skirt or leopard-print trousers.

  3. Accent your outfits with bright colours. Most punks of the day incorporated loud colours from neon green to electric blue into their outfits, and often wore these in-your-face colours in multiple layers. On the other hand, black was also widely worn with standout pieces in black leather, lace or mesh.

  4. Choose at least a few eye-catching accessories, as they tend to distinguish '80s punk style from similar edgy trends. Put on accessories such as leg warmers, colourful necklaces and bangle bracelets, and dangling earrings or other piercing jewellery (for both men and women). Belts are another '80s punk accessory that helped define the fashion genre, particularly leather belts with studs or spikes. Or, don fingerless or full-fingered wrist-length leather gloves. Girls can add to their look with colourful fishnet stockings, or transform old pairs by wearing them as elbow-length, fingerless gloves.

  5. Complete your look by pulling on a pair of '80s punk-appropriate footwear. Some popular picks from the era include military-style boots such as Doc Martens, classic motorcycle boots, creeper shoes and high-top Converse All-Stars. Though the boots typically worn were often black, they also wore sneakers in bright, sometimes clashing colours.

  6. Tip

    Hair styling is a defining aspect of an '80s punk look, and helped launch the fashion trend with conspicuous cuts such as the Mohawk, as well as other closely cropped, spiked 'dos. If you're extra dedicated to the fashion trend, you may want to cut your hair in a spikier style or consider bleaching locks blond or another bright colour.

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Things You'll Need

  • Leather
  • Ripped denim
  • Mesh tops
  • Anti-authority tees
  • Brightly coloured clothing
  • Black clothing
  • Accessories
  • Military boots
  • Converse All-Stars

About the Author

Laura Dixon
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