Theoretical Angles

It is this notion of authenticity and working class that, in part, has always demarcated a British and U.S. understanding of punk as a philosophy or cultural experience. Whereas in the United Kingdom youth counter cultures had generally been a central experience of working-class youth—an expression of dissent and isolation from their parents and a reaction against a dominant ideology that on the surface worked to repress their ambition, in the United States the readings had not taken on such class-bound strictures.

The result in the United Kingdom was the publication in 1977, the peak of punk in Britain, of Dick Heb-dige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style. Using punk as its central example, Hebdige employed a series of methodologies from Marxism to Structuralism and Semiotics to chart a view of post-World War II British youth cultures that were constructed through their working-class credentials and a desire to react against the dominant powers that appeared to shape their lives. In this analysis, Hebdige applied the notion of "bricolage" as the stylistic combination of disparate coded objects to juxtapose and create fresh meaning to punk dress and style. The safety pin's original meaning as something to hold together a diaper and to prevent injury to the child was pierced through a nose or stuck onto ripped jeans and jackets. Its once certain assigned meaning through was contexually redefined through its wearing as a stylistic device.

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