We all want to be different. Why be like everyone else when you can be free? When a suit and tie feel no different to a ball and chain, some denim ripped at the seams, an old pair of combat boots, and a flannel shirt is a way of staying true to yourself.
Counterculture is whatever goes against the grain and what society expects. Punks, skinheads, Teddy boys, and every other subculture came to existence to demonstrate discontent towards the establishment. They knew what they wanted out of life. They dressed in clothing despised by the upper classes, because they resembled the working class.
But what started as some boots, shirts, or jackets symbolizing protest, ended up being mainstream favorites of hipsters and the like. Now people wear them unaware of their history. Because nobody cares about the meaning anymore, they just look cool.
Doc Martens boots and shoes
Skinheads and punks were full of social resentment and self-expression. Their clothing needed to match this mindset. So, they chose rough looking items, such as the Dr. Martens combat boots. According to Gavin Watson, they chose them because they were the kind of shoes “hippies would never wear.” They have become representative of other movements like goth, industrial, grunge, among others. But now you can find them at department stores.
In the past, this item was a symbol of the aristocracy, worn by queens and princesses. It went out of fashion in the twentieth century until the underground cliques of the eighties, particularly those related to BDSM, brought it back. Now A-list celebrities and tweens wear it alike.
Fred Perry polo shirts
Frederick John Perry was born to a working class family in early twentieth-century England. Tennis was his passion, leading him to win Wimbledon in 1929. Eventually he released his clothing brand aimed at the working class. The first to adopt the trend were the Mods, youths who loved Jazz, Ska, and R&B. In the sixties, the London punks would also start wearing them. The Manchester Perry boys were also known to having them. In the eighties, they became synonymous with skinheads and neo-Nazis. In the nineties, these shirts became the Britpop’s response to American grunge.
These shoes with their thick rubber soles were designed during the Second World War to resist the high desert temperatures. Those who returned from the war continued to wear them to go out at night. It wasn’t long before they were popular in King’s Cross and Soho. In the fifties, the Teddy boys and Rockabilly fans wore them everywhere. The punk culture adopted them in the seventies and they were part of the eighties underground scene. In 2009, Markus Lupfer added them on the Armand Basi One catwalk. Then everyone fell in love with the Frankenstein shoes. Prada, Chanel, and even your local stores at the mall have their own versions.
Motorcycle Biker Jacket
This item is a symbol of rebellion and toughness. It goes back to the Rockers, a subculture that stemmed from the Teddy boys. After finishing their military service, these teens from the fifties discovered the film The Wild One with Marlon Brando as the leader of a biker gang. To wear one of these jackets you had to be part of a gang. Now instead of a rough attitude, you just need to shell out about a hundred dollars.
In the nineteenth century, pointy shoes called poulaines were trendy around the young nobility. The longer the tip the more important they were. The trend went away until it was rediscovered in the fifties by those who wanted to stand out from the Teddys. The Mods would wear them with Italian suits and button shirts. These shoes witnessed fights between rival gangs of Mods and rockers. In the eighties, members of the New Wave, New Romantics, and Post-punk movements brought them back. They were then taken in by the goths. Today you can see these at any haute couture show.
All of these items used to be available only at underground scene shops. Now you can find them anywhere, and you can see them being worn by anyone who has the money to buy them.
Translated by María Suárez