The punk movement has always been so much more than just music- it’s fashion, it’s lifestyle, it’s creativity. It’s pretty much everything.
The punk movement was a springboard for many brands and companies that were either started during various wings of the punk movement or gained popularity during them. Some brands are still going strong; some have completely changed the image and others have disappeared entirely. So, do you know what happened to Harrington? The destiny of Westwood? The metamorphosis of Vans? Well, read on for a where-are-they-now……….
Then: Harrington jackets were short, lightweight jackets that had a pretty funky lining- most commonly tartan or sometimes a two-tone chessboard style. Harrington is the name of the jacket style rather than the brand and they were originally produced by a company called Baracuta in the 1930s. They were popular throughout the 1950s and usually denoted that the wearer was from a rather affluent background. They got the nickname Harrington after a character called Rodney Harrington in a US series called Peyton’s Place was often seen sporting the garment.
They have become most associated with the Mods and Northern Soul aficionados of the late 70s and had a resurge in popularity with the late 80s crust punk scene. The look was coolness personified- teamed with a Ben Sherman shirt it was an iconic Scooterboy look.
Now: Harrington is now a registered trademark and original examples are collectors’ items for the vintage/retro shopper. They’re still being produced and a quick perusal of the interwebs will show you can get one a modern production for 20 quid. Modern men’s spring jackets have all been heavily influenced by the Harrington jacket and everyone from Primark to River Island have their own take on the original design.
Then: Westwood and her then-partner Malcolm Maclaren wielded incredible influence on the style of 1970s London punk. Their Kings Road boutique went through various incarnations (SEX; Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die and Seditionaries) all selling Westwood’s provocative designs to the burgeoning punk scene sprouting out around them. Inspired by BDSM and motivated by the desire to shock, Westwood dressed everyone from Chrissie Hynde and Billy Idol to Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux.
Now: Well, as you know Vivienne Westwood sunk into obscurity and now lives penniless in a flat in Slough without even 50p for her leccy meter. Yeah right. Vivienne went from strength to strength post-punk and is now a global couture fashion brand. She is at the helm of an empire worth approx. $185 million whilst she herself is worth approx. $50 million (according to Forbes). She has dressed royalty (Princess Eugenie; Duchess of Cornwall) and acting superstars such as Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie and Demi Moore. It is worth noting that all of the above have been pictured wearing tasteful, stylish Westwood gowns- not rubber pants and t-shirts adorned with cowboys with their cocks out.
Then: Started in 1944, Vans is an American brand started by the Van Doren brothers in California which specialise in skateboarding shoes and other paraphernalia for the all-American casual look. The link between the skateboarding scene and the pop-punk genre is well entrenched and it was only a matter of time before young pop-punk fans wouldn’t be seen dead without their trusty Vans shoes. The link between the two scenes is further demonstrated by the sponsorship of the Warped Tour which for the last 20 years has been the ‘Vans Warped Tour’. The shoes are comfortable, trainer-like shoes with thick soles which make equilibrium on a skateboard easier whilst still enabling some athleticism to the wearer.
Now: Vans is a global brand, still sought after by those who covet the California-look with brands such as Converse and Dickies. They don’t just do shoes- as well as t-shirts, hoodies, backpacks and accessories, they also set up skate parks all over the world including ‘House of Vans’ skatepark in London. A basic pair of branded skate shoes nowadays can cost anywhere between £65-£100.
Then: Before punk became a bit more mainstream, bands were reliant on some “old-faithfuls” as far as venues were concerned. On both sides of the Atlantic, there were a handful of venues who were so instrumental in nurturing punk during its inception, that their very names have become synonymous with punk itself.
The Roxy was a former fruit and veg warehouse in Covent Garden which became a music venue in the early 70s. Don Letts was the original DJ at the club and early gigs included Siouxsie and the Banshees; Generation X and The Clash as well as pretty much every other punk band you can think of. The club was even mentioned in a song by Crass entitled “Banned from the Roxy”.
The 100 Club in Oxford Street has been hosting live music since the 1940s. It was originally called the Feldman Swing Club and showcased jazz and swing heavyweights such as Louis Armstrong. It was changed to the 100 Club in 1964. Like the Roxy, it has seen punk royalty perform within its walls, as well as hosting the International Punk Festival in 1976. As well as the Buzzcocks, The Jam and the Sex Pistols and their ilk playing there, the 100 Club welcomed bands from the 80s hardcore scene such as Black Flag, Discharge and Skrewdriver.
CBGBs was a New York club opened in 1974 in Manhattan’s East Village. CBGB stands for Country, Bluegrass and Blues which was the original direction wanted by the owner. However, now CBGBs is forever etched into the history books as a punk venue and centre of the scene that brought us Blondie, Ramones and Talking Heads. As its popularity grew, revellers and musicians would travel from around the US to either see music or play it themselves, including Elvis Costello, B-52s and the Misfits.
The Roxy lasted pretty well- only closing down in 2007. It is now the site of a Speedos store but there is a plaque outside the place it once stood, reminding the public of its hellraising former glory.
The 100 Club is still going strong and still a popular live music venue. Many big acts play ‘secret’ gigs within its walls which have remained more or less untouched since the 1970s. It was threatened with closure in 2010 but a concerted campaign to keep it open (and a partnership deal with Converse) has kept its doors open. Even its earlier incarnation as the Feldman Swing Club has been recognised for its significance being named as one of the 12 UK venues that have made an outstanding contribution to the jazz scene.
CBGBs continued throughout the 80s and 90s and then in 2005 ran into financial difficulty after a dispute about rent with their landlord. It looked like the doors were going to have to close and the owner (still the original founder Hilly Kristal) claimed he would be relocating the club to Las Vegas. A who’s who of American punk and new wave turned out to see off CBGBs in style, including Patti Smith, Bad Brains and Flea from RHCP. The club finally closed in October 2006 and Kristal passed away less than a year later.
So there you have it, that is the fate of some of the most well-known brands and companies associated with punk. What’s your experience? Did you have a Harrington jacket? Ever purchase a gimp mask in SEX or party the night away at The Roxy? Let us know!