Oi to the punks and oi to the world!
kitten   August 11, 2003

Tired of your own style? Originality and creativity got you down? Want to rebel against society in a conformist sort of way? You've thought about "going punk" but just can't seem to figure out where to start?

Fear not, troubled one. In a few easy steps, kitten can teach you all you need to know about being totally punk.

STEP ONE : CLOTHES

The first thing you want to do is select the appropriate attire. You're looking for something that proclaims to the world at large: "I don't care!" Ripped, faded, or torn jeans are an excellent choice to begin with - check your local thrift store. It's unlikely you'll find anything that fits you well, but you're not punk because you care about fashion, now are you?

T-shirts are a good choice if you can find one that has tour listings of the Dead Kennedys or the Sex Pistols - but be careful not to wash it too often. You may also wish to get a shirt with a cleverly antisocial phrase on it, such as "Runs With Scissors" or "I Smile Because You've Driven Me Insane". Remember, in choosing these types of tops, your goal is to find something that stands as mute testament to your individuality and nonconformity.

Barring that, a thrift-store shirt displaying the name of a high school team you've never heard of is good, or perhaps a whimsical-yet-edgy shirt featuring an old cartoon character. Even a basic undershirt from Hanes will do nicely - you can top it off with a hoodie or denim vest (frayed at the edges) for that extra rebellious chic. Festoon your attire brightly with dozens upon dozens of sew-on patches and pins bearing the logo of your favorite band - everyone wants to know, and you'll be respected for being a devout follower of non-mainstream music groups, unlike the bourgeois pop-music listeners, the pathetically trendy twits. Make sure you don't sew those patches on with any real grace, though - it should appear as though it's about to fall off at any given moment. If you can't sew at all, just use safety pins - the rugged-yet-haphazard look will do well.

For shoes, something ironic like Chuck Taylors or Vans are a wise decision - something ugly and absurd, so you can show the world that you don't care about such petty details. "Skate" shoes are another option - the types that are completely flat on the bottom, or some combat boots. When buying combat boots, remember that you don't want anything functional - steel plating is a no-no.

Piercings are unique and everyone knows it. If it dangles, put a hole in it, unless your parents won't let you. Anything goes, but stuff with skulls is always preferable.

If your attire would make anyone over the age of twenty-two roll their eyes at you, you've done well. Essentially, your goal in clothing choice is to look as ridiculous as you can possibly get away with without violating decency laws in your area - this way, you can complain loudly and often that people don't take you seriously and how uptight everyone seems to be for not just accepting your unique, individual style.

STEP TWO : MUSIC

Punk music is all about fighting against stagnant culture. If you don't quite know what this means, but think it sounds good, then great! Nobody else knows what it means either, but by repeating this loudly and often, you'll get respect from others for not falling into the trap of crass commercialism and mass marketing. Nobody will admit to not having the slightest clue what you're talking about, for fear of being labelled poseurs, so don't worry.

When choosing bands you like, there are some old standbys. The Ramones and the Sex Pistols, despite not having done anything significant for the past twenty five years, are totally punk. But you can't rely entirely on these - you're going to have to choose others as well. In general, anything that people have probably heard of but can't tell you anything about is a safe choice, and bonus points are assigned if the band includes the word "dead" somewhere in their name.

Most of today's so-called "punk" bands aren't - and you need to ensure that you testify to this as frequently as possible. This is key when learning which bands to like and which to "diss" - the Ataris and Rancid are safe bets, MXPX is borderline, and anyone who likes Green Day is just a poseur. If in doubt, consult this page and select some bands at random from the left-hand list. Bands with ironically dorky names like "The Queers" or "Travoltas" are double-plus good.

For the extra punk touch, obscure "indy" bands just can't be beat. Proclaim your devotion to indy music at every possible opportunity, scorning anything that isn't just a coupla guys rockin' the fuck out with really fast guitars in a rinky-dink, third-rate venue somewhere. These guys are the stuff that punk is made of - they are progressive radicals who truly take that stagnant culture and rip it inside out to expose the soft underbelly of mainstream corporate hell. You betcha.

STEP THREE : ATTITUDE

Repeat this to yourself as often as necessary to make yourself believe it: Punk is not music, it is attitude.

To be truly punk, you have to give off the impression that you couldn't give a flying rat's ass what society thinks - you're doing your own thing, and if someone doesn't like it, well, they can cram it with walnuts. It matters not that you actually crave acceptance to some degree and are really fed up with being disdained by people who actually accomplish something with their lives - you want others to think you don't care, even though you do. As a punk, you are totally in-your-face.

Your clothes, as we have discussed, go a long way towards cultivating this impression. By looking as grungy and ridiculous as you can, you're shoving your individualism in people's faces, forcing them to understand your stance on life. As noted, if they judge you based on the way you're dressed, they're just a bunch of uptight, closed-minded assholes.

But there's more to it. Take this guy for example. Notice the sneer of contempt he holds to the photographer (who has labelled him "nasty punk on bus"). This guy clearly doesn't give a rip what people think - he's totally punk, and it shows. This is the attitude you want to beam out at all times. Sure, he looks ridiculous, and few people will take anything he says or does seriously, but you know what? Screw you, that's what.

Choose an outrageous haircut that exemplifies this and defies society's norms - shave your head, or shave part of it. Apply bleach or hair dye liberally - the more stupid, the better. Don't be concerned if others think you look like a freaking retard, and don't wash it too often either - you're far too busy being punk to pay attention to such matters as hygiene or presentability. Carry yourself with a slouching, vaguely haughty air - you're punk, and therefore above anyone else who isn't.

At the same time, you don't want to overdo it. If questioned - or even if you aren't - make sure to expound at nauseating length about what an accepting person you are, completely uncritical of anyone. "I mean, whatever," is an excellent way to sum up your views - people can do whatever they want and you frankly don't care. After all, you're demanding that people accept your choices uncritically, and therefore you should return the favor in kind, even if others don't.

However, you are treading a fine line here. On the one hand, you want to rebel against stagnant culture and fight all that is deadening in society, and this means acting like a jackass whenever possible, no matter how juvenile and immature. On the other hand, you want everyone to know that you won't judge them, and have no beef with anyone's choices but your own. Therefore, reserve your disdain in some cases, but gripe often in other cases. What those cases are, I cannot say - only those who are truly punk will understand.

However, as a general guideline, here is a helpful index:

THINGS TO CARE ABOUT:


  • Stagnant culture.
  • Accepting others for who they are, unless they're just poseurs.
  • Accepting others' opinions as being perfectly valid, unless they're of the opinion that you're an idiot, in which case they suck.
  • Indy music, as long as the band doesn't become a total sell-out.
  • Anything you can label as "old school".

THINGS TO NOT CARE ABOUT:


  • What anyone else thinks about you, no matter how valid. Fuck 'em.
  • Pretty much everything else.

Whtaever you do, don't be too articulate about it - forming coherent sentences may give the undesired impression that you care about what others think of your presentation. When in doubt, integrate the phrase "fuckin' whatever" into your speech.

It's okay if you can't explain your opinions to anyone because you really have no idea why you hold those opinions. Keep a few catchphrases in your linguistic stockpile and apply them as necessary - you can use vapid yet deep-sounding platitudes to bluff your way through any interrogation by some fascist prick who can't mind his own damned business.

STEP FOUR: HANGING OUT

Literally, this is what you do: You hang out. Do not, under any circumstances, actually do anything. You just kind of, well, hang out somewhere, smoke a lot, drive around with a bunch of your punk buddies, come back to the place you were hanging out, and continue to hang out.

Starbucks is a prime choice to hang out - but don't buy anything, unless you want to be a part of the corporate machine. The only exception to this rule is if the staff - or a cop - demands that you either buy something or leave, at which point you should get something cheap, while loudly whining that the local independant coffee shop down the street is way better, and you don't even know why you come to this place.

This does not apply specifically to Starbucks - this should become your modus operandus wherever you happen to find yourself. You're there, you're punk, but you're not actually doing much of anything other than throwing your cigarettes on the ground and getting in people's way. Make sure you look vaguely annoyed with the general goings-on in the vicinity, and constantly harrass your friends to tell them "let's go do something", but never actually do - the impression you want to establish is that of an impending event, and that you're just killing idle time until it occurs. A well-known trick is to check your cellphone every couple minutes as though you're waiting for a vitally important call, or checking how much more time you have to waste at this loser joint. Alternatively, pester your friends constantly for updates on every little nuance, as though something big is going down.

STEP FIVE : TRANSPORTATION

In general, anything goes as far as transportation - skateboards, bicycles, cars, or damn near anything else. You do want to avoid rollerblades, and with any mode of transportation, there are specific rules to follow. We'll focus primarily on your car.

First, don't choose anything "yuppie" - this means anything less than ten years old. You want it to look its age if at all possible. Basically, any beater you can get your hands on for under two grand will do nicely.

Next, fill it with garbage. This is absolutely key in establishing your couldn't-care-less view - again, you are far too busy living life to worry about the metric ton of garbage in your car that is threatening to undergo gravitational collapse and become a black hole.

Third, and perhaps most importantly: Stickers. Lots of stickers. Anyone looking at your car should immediately understand that you don't care about your car, or what it looks like, and they should also get an instant understanding of what bands you like. Slap those bumper stickers on everywhere you can - the more, the better, even if it means obscuring the rear window to the point where you can't tell if anyone is behind you. This guy has the general idea, although he doesn't quite have enough stickers. This is more what you're going for (but not with that car).

Choose your stickers well. Anything that lets people know what bands you like are good. Any sticker that is so obscure that nobody will have any idea what it is or what it means - including you - is also good. Anything that's a clever send-up of other popular bumper stickers is good (e.g., "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student"). Anything designed to annoy the middle-class majority is good. To confuse people, throw in a few environmentalist stickers while you're at it.

With all these stickers, you'll be a cop magnent, but that's okay - getting pulled over more often than you really deserve, on the basis that you look like a hooligan, is worth it. For that added bit of punk flare, adorn your car with random trinkets: stick an old fast-food drink cup on your antenna, jam a tennis ball on the trailer hitch, have random bits of fabric hanging out of the trunk. Be creative, but be obnoxious - show the world that you don't take material things like cars seriously, because you have loftier concerns, like the stagnation of popular culture, and stuff.

WRAPPING IT UP

Well, there you have it. Follow these simple steps and cultivate your inner rebel, and you'll be well on your way to being a real punk, proudly announcing your disdain for social conformity in a nice, mostly-socially-acceptable fashion. Dress like an idiot, listen to really fast power chord music, act like a jackass, and above all, pretend you don't care about what anyone thinks. You're the man now, dog!