The United States

Punk had its roots in inner city America at the beginning of the 1970s. While its inspiration could be traced farther back, as a movement with a set of cohesive identities, New York appears to be its birthplace. But as befits its urban nature, punk cannot be said to have a singular geographic location. Detroit, Cleveland, and possibly Los Angeles are other sites that could also claim an emergent aesthetic and style identified as punk.

One of the many effects of the post-World War II consumer boom within the United States and Europe was an ever-expanding market for goods, particularly within a youth cultural market that led to an active struggle from young people to shape and realize their own identities through the consumption of music and fashion. This popularization of "youth" as "style" and "surface" was in part reflected in the breakdown of distinctions between high and low culture within the pop art movements—of Britain's Independent Group and its U.S. equivalent—of the 1950s and 1960s. In the latter grouping was Andy Warhol and the Factory. Symptomatic of pop, Warhol's work, its repetitive nature, and its insistence in articulating nothing more than the surface engaged with a youth cultural perspective of nihilism that revolved around the adage of "live fast, die young." As such, alongside Warhol's desire to surround himself with a coterie of the young, dangerous, and beautiful, the seeds of an avantgarde music scene began to be established.

Set around Warhol's Factory and the Lower East Side in a time of political and financial meltdown in New York, the music of these artists, in particular the Velvet Underground, reflected the repetitivity and surface of the Factory's output. Playing at seedy venues such as Max's Kansas City, CBGBs, and Mother's, the music of the Stooges, New York Dolls, MC5's, Wayne County, and Patti Smith took their influences from a variety of sources

Punk fashion, 1983. Standing around in London's Brockwell Park, punks show off wild hairstyles and metal-studded black leather clothing, typical of the later punk fashion. While earlier years saw various other styles within the movement, it was this look that became the iconic punk image. © Richard Olivier/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

Punk Movement 1970s

Punk fashion, 1983. Standing around in London's Brockwell Park, punks show off wild hairstyles and metal-studded black leather clothing, typical of the later punk fashion. While earlier years saw various other styles within the movement, it was this look that became the iconic punk image. © Richard Olivier/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

all intent in demolishing what was seen as the pompous, sterile sound of contemporary music in the guise of "progressive" and "stadium" rock. So a disillusionment with all things commercial and the be-suited executives at the record companies led to a desire to perform music that would shock people to their senses, bringing music back to the poverty/richness of the everyday. While this was going on in the United States, Britain was in the grip of glam rock, a pub rock sound characterized in part by the clothing of its performers that looked to the transgres-sive in their stage presence. Of these perhaps the most original was David Bowie. Under a string of different pseudonyms and increasingly bizarre record personalities, David Bowie proved influential in his effect on both music and clothing in Britain and the United States.

By 1975 the American "punk scene" had evolved into a subculture characterized by the music of Television, and perhaps most famously The Ramones who wore clothes that reflected their rent boy street personas. Given that many of the musicians had gravitated from a bohemian inner-city scene detailed in the writings of William Burroughs and Alexander Trocchi, it seemed like a natural continuation of this aesthetic. The black leather jacket, T-shirt, straight jeans, and sneakers of the hustler proved the initial look of an American underground scene. While there were those such as the New York Dolls, who followed an English glam rock look of androgyny—made up with leather and knee-length boots, chest hair, and bleach—the majority pursued an understated street look. It was this musical explosion within the United States that brought a youngish Malcolm McLaren over to the United States to manage the New York Dolls where he fell into the punk scene and made clear his intentions to ship it back to the United Kingdom.

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