In response to my What Do You Want to Look Like? post, reader Queen of Sheba replied:
LOVE this entry! It has inspired me to ask my own question: I love a little punkiness or a little tough, but I have no desire to dress like a 12-year-old Hot Topic wannabe (I’m 27), and most of the places I shop (I’m cheap! thrift/vintage, H&M, sales) aren’t very heavy on the punk influence. How do I add some punk or tough influences to what I wear, and where do I look to find pieces that will help me do this? (I’m a lucky, lucky postdoc, so I can wear whatever I want!)
I was positively gleeful upon receiving this question because I feel the EXACT same way. I’ve heard many arguments about what it means to BE “punk,” a term that has floated around for ages but definitely morphed in meaning. I’m pretty sure that a little London Calling here and there is as punk as I get in real life, but aspects of classic punk style call to me like little rebellious sirens, luring me toward all things spiked and leathery. So here’s what I’d recommend to a woman who wants to add just a dash of punk to her everyday style.
Studs of all types fall in and out of favor, trend-wise, but they’re a classic embellishment for punk looks. The type that tends to get the side-eye from trend hounds is the silver pyramid stud, and it’s easy enough to embrace this accent without investing in a stud-encrusted black leather jacket. The Diesel bracelet shown above is one of my long-time faves (no longer available), and is composed of gunmetal discs in pyramid stud shapes. Studded belts are nearly always chic, and black leather boots with a few studs will never fall out of fashion. Studded accessories might be the quickest, cheapest, and subtlest way to inject a little punk into your look. If bracelets, belts, and shoes don’t send you, cruise around Etsy for some studded inspiration.
Boots of any type – studded or not – are key to many punk looks. Tall or short, flat or heeled, a good pair of black leather, buckle-adorned motorcycle boots is a fantastic asset to have on-hand. The Timberland Savin Hill pair pictured above is a classic tall, two-buckle style, though shorter versions like Frye’s Veronica Short are equally fun. Moto boots can also be thrifted or eBayed for cheap! While the taller style works best with tights during the fall and winter months, short motorcycle boots will get year-round use paired with flirty dresses or slim pants.
Delicate layers are lovely, but for a punk-influenced look, load on three or more chunky chains. This pre-layered version from Kim & Maki is no longer available, but you can make your own layered-look necklace using multiple thrifted or already-owned pieces. I love my pile o’ black necklaces, and plunk it on often enough to consider it a signature piece. Layers can be cheaply acquired via vintage, antique, and thrift stores.
Tartan itself hints at punk, but to really bring out its Westwood-esque potential you’ll need to pair it with something black or leather or studded. Ideally, go for black/red-based tartans. Shirts like this one will work, though wool skirts or jackets are even better. (Never forget that tartans are eternal and can be thrifted!)
Asymmetric/moto style jackets
Notice that this jacket is neither black nor leather? Any jacket in the moto style – with an asymmetric zipper and large lapels – will invoke punk. At least slightly. So if you’re hoping for overtones but not over-the-top, any moto style jacket will do the trick. (This one is J.Crew. Again.) Hit thrift and consignment stores for bargain/secondhand versions!
Those are my easy tips for adding some punk pops to a generally tame wardrobe. All will work with conservative looks, all utilize items that are easy to track down, and all can be done on the cheap. And, just as requested, Queen of Sheba can pull off these punky touches without looking like she raided her local Hot Topic.
Top image courtesy J.Crew