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You Know What’s Not Punk?

The fashion industry. 

Honestly, I'm losing my mind trying to pretend this year's Costume Institute punk exhibit ("PUNK: Chaos to Couture") isn't really happening. I realize that I haven't yet seen the show and also that curator Andrew Bolton was aware of the complexities inherent to putting together a museum exhibition which essentially celebrates the way the fashion industry helped commerce appropriate and defang the punk subculture (or, as he puts it: "Although punk’s democracy stands in opposition to fashion’s autocracy, designers continue to appropriate punk’s aesthetic vocabulary to capture its youthful rebelliousness and aggressive forcefulness.”) — but the way the fashion Internet is vomiting up the word "punk" right now… it's giving me emotional problems. "I'll show you punk," I say as I punch my Apple computer in the face.

Even if the exhibit itself turns out to be thoughtful, all the hoopla surrounding the upcoming Met Ball ("fashion's Oscars") is anything but. In The New York Times, Eric Wilson reports that a lot of gala guests are having a hard time planning their outfits for the big event (because rich people don't actually want to look like crusty gutter punks, go figure): "Gill Linton, the chief executive of the site, said she suspects most guests will end up playing it safe, as in safety pins as accessories."

The problem is: safety pins were originally worn by punks in a utilitarian, non-decorative way — to hold tattered clothes together. Punks didn't want to spend money on clothing, in part because they were broke, in part because they objected to the fashion industry on principle and didn't want to feed it. Punk is anti-fashion at its core.

Look, I completely sympathize with anyone who wants to experiment with their look, express some hidden part of their personality, or just wear something fun — I just think that the best style is also substantive. 

Image via Getty