“Put on your boots and harrington!”: The Ordinariness of British Punk in Fashion and Social Realist Film

Nathaniel Weiner

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In 2013, New York’s storied Metropolitan Museum hosted an exhibition entitled ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture’. The exhibition featured Punk fashions of the 1970s and highlighted their impact on the world of high fashion. As is often the case with ‘Punk nostalgia’ (Adams, 2008), the exhibition emphasised the ‘spectacular’ elements the subculture. It reflected a narrative that dominates accounts of Punk, whereby Punk is presented as a site of art school creativity, rebellion and radical disjuncture with the past. This is an important aspect of Punk, but there was much more to British Punk in the 1970s than what happened on the King’s Road. Heeding Sociologist Paul Hodkinson’s (2015) call to trouble the boundary between the spectacular and the ordinary in subculture studies, this paper looks at the ordinariness of 1970s British Punk, arguing that we should approach Punk as a part of the mainstream working-class youth culture of the era. This paper uses a mixed methods approach to make this argument. First, a genealogy of the Doc Marten boot and the Harrington jacket, the clothes that Cockney Rejects singer ‘Stinky’ Turner extolled his listeners to put on in the song “Oi! Oi! Oi” is combined with a visual analysis of photos and documentary footage from the era to show how these remnants of the earlier Skinhead subculture were crucial elements of the Punk look prior to the Skinhead revival. In contrast with the expensive Seditionaries items featured at the Met, these mass fashion items were signifiers of ordinariness. An analysis of representations of Punk on film in the social realist films Bloody Kids (1980), Just a Boys’ Game (1979) and Looks and Smiles (1981) is then used to illustrate Punk’s more understated impact on the popular culture of the era. The author shows how the boot and harrington-clad form of Punk stood for a Provincial and ordinary form of working-class culture, in contrast with the more spectacular, metropolitan and artistic version of punk featured in more prominent cinematic representations of Punk such as The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle and Jubilee (1978).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2017
EventThe fourth Punk Scholars Network Conference - University of Boloton, Bolton, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Dec 201713 Dec 2017


ConferenceThe fourth Punk Scholars Network Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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