Flip-flops should not be worn unless you're at the beach or pool. Girls have a bit more leeway but not much. I don't have too many rules but that's one of them. I know that in warmer climes even the punks wear flip-flops. In New Mexico I've seen punk bands rock living room concerts in footwear that is ordinarily only appropriate for sand-bound applications. I'm not a haberdasher or tailor but some things just have to be said. Enough with the flip-flops. Israeli combat boots, Goodwill penny-loafers, topsiders, sweatshop-free Adbusters gutties, box fresh ltd. ed. kicks etc, I don't care. Just put some proper shoes on. And no sweatpants either. OK the more I think about this the more rules I apparently have. I suppose it's about being casual. Casual=hippy and not in a good way. I'm not talking about football casuals, obviously they are far from being hippies. Not a lifestyle I'd recommend emulating either.
I realize I'm talking about fashion here and punks are supposed to be anti-fashion. Of course, that's total bullshit and everyone knows punks are as into fashion as anyone else, if not more so. I don't think it's a bad thing at all. Style is hugely important. Would the Ramones have been as iconic without the leather jackets? Would Discharge have been as enduring without the charged hair and bullet belts? The Misfits without the devil lock? Even the supposed 'non-style' of the flannel shirt around the waist suburban skatepunk hardcore vanguard became a fashion pretty quickly.
I suppose I equate loose, casual clothing with loose, casual thinking. As Joe Strummer allegedly had it, "like trousers, like brain" although you could read that to imply that narrow trousers equals a narrow mind, which is the opposite of what he was getting at I'd guess.
To me, looking like you think about what you are wearing demonstrates that you actually think about things. I don't mean that you scour the pages of fashion magazines looking for the latest craze, but the way you dress says something about you whether you like it or not.
Years ago my mate Colin suggested I dye my hair bright red. He had some leftover dye. At the time I thought of myself as a serious political activist punk rocker and wouldn't consider anything so frivolous. He called me out on this. "Of course, you can't be constantly thinking of the problems of the oppressed peoples of the world and have dyed hair" or words to that effect. He was right, I took myself way too seriously. Since then my hair has been a few different colors but now it's back to its normal mousy brown with bits of grey. I'm 36 now and I'm through with dying my hair.
What the fuck is a 36-year-old man doing writing in a punk fanzine about clothes? I know it's ridiculous but it is something I think about. I've been through some embarrassing stages. Someone sent me a photo recently of me from about fifteen years ago with a short Travis Bickle mohican and baggy chinos. What a combination. Baggy trousers will be to nineties punks what flares are to anyone who grew up in the seventies. I wish I'd had the foresight or self-possession to forego that fashion disaster but we all make mistakes. Unfortunately both flares and baggy jeans are still with us. "Like trousers like brain," remember it. Live by it.
The Correct Use Of Soap is the title of an album by Magazine, the band started by Buzzcocks founder member Howard Devoto when he left the band after recording the Spiral Scratch EP. It is also the name of an instructional pamphlet that may or may not exist, but which ought to be handed out with the membership cards at Gilman and maybe slipped into mailers with crusty distro orders. You're not too busy thinking about the world's problems to take an occasional bath or shower. Or to shave, while we're at it.
What's with the beards? I've been boycotting Gillette since before I was old enough to shave. Got some leaflet about them testing on animals off some crusty at a gig once and never looked back. All my post-pubescent life I've used the crappy shop brand of razors and my poor beautiful mug has suffered as a result. As if whatever faceless Taiwanese manufacturer Superdrug gets their blades from doesn't test on animals anyway! I tried tracking down the PETA-approved razor blades and while they might be okay for hippies who hack their beards off once a year to visit mummy and daddy and ask for another loan they don't stand up to the rigorous frequent shavings of the manly McNaughton beard. On a recent trip to Los Angeles I forgot my shaving kit and was forced to purchase the predominant brand for once. The scales fell from my eyes! It was a revelation. Gillette really IS the best a man can get. The smoothest, most comfortable shave I've experienced. Over twenty years of inferior shaving products. Well I've learned my lesson.
I've just re-read this column and it's ridiculous. All 20 readers are now nodding their heads in unison, in agreement with the previous statement. However, it's deadline day and I've been late a few times lately. I'm determined to get this one in under the wire. I know it seems frivolous but what we wear is part of who we are, it's part of our culture and it's something we have in common, whether we're serious political punks or crusties or bike punks or garage punks or bandana thrash skate punks or ageing bmx riders with a knack for tracking down discount mod clothes or whoever. Maybe I'll write about something serious next month. Or maybe I'll dye my hair and write about that, who knows?
If you've got any green size M Paul Weller limited edition Fred Perry shirts you don't want you can send them to PO Box 22971, Oakland, CA 94609. For fashion advice or shaving tips email firstname.lastname@example.org or check www.dropout.cc. I know what's what. Or you could make it easy on yourself and just go to www.maximumrocknroll.com and click on 'merch' to buy a Maximumrocknroll t-shirt. P.S. This column goes out to MRR's consistently most stylish shitworker, Sean Dougan, with Shane White a close runner up.