Written by Amber Bessner ’19
My friend Hailey (who also went on this trip) helped me get excited for what I might see in the more edgy side of society in the UK when we went on this trip. Of course, we saw more of this subculture when we were in art districts and areas near universities in the more urban areas when we were in the three countries. But, there were a few instances when we were in some of the other areas (when we either traveled to or traveled through) where I could see some punk culture peeping through the seams of society.
One of most obvious markers was through the colorful hair that many people were rocking. Brightly colored hair was a trend that emerged out of the late 70s and 80s punk movements. After a time though, it began to flow through other fashion trends and subcultures to get us to where we are now in present day fashion. Back then, it was a way of self-expression that gave a clear sign that you were against the rest of society since you were making a statement against the social-norm. This was a trend that became popularized at a time of music where there was a disdain of politics and other social issues of the time. Punks wanted a way to express their disdain of society and that was through music, fashion, and rioting. Examples of popular bands/artists that helped this movement are the Sex Pistols, Green Day, Black Flag, and The Clash.
But, to get back to present day United Kingdom. On the trip, I saw examples of the whole spectrum of life, children to the elderly, rocking some hue of the rainbow. I thought it was amazing. The boy who looked to be 10 years old with cobalt blue hair was at the same train station as the older woman we had lavender streaks peeping through her grey hair. Though this punk originated trend is now a part of high fashion, it just shows the acceptance of it since I saw more people with colorful hair over on the other side of the pond than I have seen over here in America.
Another example of this was through forms of everyday life and sales. While we were in London, I saw a few instances of punk culture coming out to the public through the form of art. One instance was as we were roaming the area and we came around to Camden Town. There had to of have been at least ten shops that had punk aesthetics to them with-in a mile radius from the Camden Town Underground Station. There were anarchy symbol stickers stuck to a couple telephone poles, a pub that had live concerts on the weekends, and at least half of the places that I would mention in my estimation that sold leather jackets, torn denim jackets and or Doc Martens.
The last instance was through the medium of art. During the second stay in London, two friends and I saw an art gallery. Jo Brocklehurst, an artist, created a legacy for herself with how she portrayed this and other countercultures of the 70s-90s. At the House of Illustration there was an exhibit called Nobodies and Somebodies that showed off Brocklehurst’s artwork. At the exhibit we saw a couple of people in there didn’t exactly seem like the fit into the subcultures that Brocklehurst was documenting back in the day. They were accepting of the subcultures by admiring her works. Since I don’t have the rights to show the photos here directly, I’ll just link y’all to websites that do if you want to see some of the images for yourself.
But the experience as a whole was life-changing. I got to see things, places, and other cultures that I didn’t expect to in person things that I could only experience through the power of the internet otherwise (since I don’t actually have the funds to travel world-wide any chance I want to). And I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.