Pop-punk of the early-2000s is finally having its renaissance. It’s appearing in the passionate Y2K romances of Kourtney Kardashian and Blink-182’s Travis Barker, or Megan Fox and rap-to-pop-punk-convert Machine Gun Kelly, it’s influencing high fashion collections, and informing the styling of the new generation of popstars. Pop-punk is back, and you should order fishnets ASAP.
The era of Y2K continues to define the early roaring 20s, through many reinventions and reimaginations of maximalistic nostalgic aesthetics. The spirit of punk, however, is no trend. It’s ever-present in youth culture, and its thread is non-exclusive to one genre or type of person.
Punk fashion was birthed from an idea of rebellion and desire for autonomy. 1970s Glam Punk emerged in the UK and US in a time when young people felt dissatisfied with political structures and events outside of their control. The generational attitude is layered atop natural teen angst, in a reaction to authority brushing kids off who want to be taken seriously for their perspectives in the world. Fashion naturally became a free vehicle to express that angst, a personal tool to “stick-it-to-the-man,” and a means of protest against limiting expectations of how one should be dressing or behaving.
Now in 2021, as we experience a time of nightmarish politics, widespread trauma, and an overwhelming call for activism, anyone who’s been paying attention has likely bubbled up a little indignation against unjust systems or outdated norms along the way. It’s the teenager’s prerogative to live out their “teen angst” phase, but we all want to throw fit or two these days. What better way to express it than through a good outfit?
The resurgence of Y2K pop-punk in fashion is fronted by the new guard of pop girls, twirling in chains and tartan and stomping around in their Doc Martens. Gen Z, however, is no stranger to grunge and goth. The generation that is currently coming of age, in a swirling world composed of pixels, have worn these subcultures and past decades in recent trends — whether realized or not. As style aesthetics are rapidly shared on TikTok and social media, and as individuals explore them from their own points of view, the distinct elements of genres blend together, creating new style niches like the “E-girl” at the tail end of the 2010s. “E-girls” and “E-boys” represented the up-to-date version of emo-mall-goth style that integrated tech and hardware, donning safety pins, heavy chains, black nail polish, bleached bangs, and streetwear staples.
Now, a fresh edge has emerged in the young mainstream. As Y2K’s influences of futuristic-computerism and hyperfemininity continue to be embraced, it merges with modern edgy styling. Bratz Dolls and Lindsay Lohan à la Freaky Friday are the mall-punk blueprint all over again. A little hotter than Hot Topic.
Willow Smith is leading the wave, as she steps into a new musical era with an all pop-punk album, “Lately I Feel Everything” that dropped last month in the sweet spot of summer. Her sound usually floats between earthy R&B, alternative-pop, and rock, but with two collaborations with Barker, plus an Avril Lavigne feature, Smith’s newest project is verified by the pop-punk OGs, and her experimental fashion styling is an exciting homage to the era (with her own spin of course). “Something <wicked> this way comes — Keep your third eye peeled for some NEW VIBEZ,” she teased in a caption on Instagram.
She stunned in her “Transparent Soul” visuals shot by Dana Trippe, with her new look featuring graphic cutouts, black cargos dripping in zippers, platform boots, a Westwood-esque draped corset paired with a spiked collar, an electric blue prickly Chet Lo bodysuit paired with bulbous vortex boots by Robert Wu, and silver hair hardware. In the music video, she kicks around, wailing the lyrics, “You’re scared of me, wow / It’s clear to me now / I can see right through, just so you know.”
Smith’s tapping into an energy she feels is present amongst her generation, telling Nylon, “I think that people just want to scream and growl and express themselves because this time in life and in America and on Earth is not easy. I think that people just want to live and have fun and not feel like impending doom is always around the corner.”
Not only is Smith reviving the genre in a new light, Lavigne herself is returning with a new album by the end of the year. The two were spotted filming the music video for the song “Grow” off Smith’s record, laughing in plaid and studs — as they should. The song reminds listeners of the coming-of-age themes that are core the genre, the “growing pains” of confusing youth and a hopefulness for the future.
Olivia Rodrigo, pop’s new favorite breakup singer-songwriter, also has a fit to throw, and she’ll do it in a tartan mini skirt. In the song “Brutal,” off her debut album Sour, the Disney+ star sings “And I’m so sick of 17 / Where’s my fucking teenage dream? / If someone tells me one more time ‘enjoy your youth,’ I’m gonna cry.” She’s got a serious case of a broken heart and is sick with teen angst — a constricting feeling her fans can appreciate as they lose their minds and cry on their bathroom floors, a scene she depicts over head-banger beat on “Good 4 u.” Her Hayley Williams-adjacent sound is as exhilarating and comforting as it was for the last generation. Plus, it’s very punk of her to say the F-word under a Disney contract.
Rodrigo’s style, so far, is both sweet and “sour,” playfully mixing a girly puff-sleeve minidress with knee-high leather boots, glittering prom gown with fishnets, or full tulle skirt with Converse. Her punk influence comes through in her affinity for plaid pants, graphic tees, an occasional layered suit vest, chunky boots, and wearing designs by those who forwarded the subculture styles such as Vivienne Westwood — in a full tartan corset and trouser set with Docs on SNL — and a lot of Marc Jacobs.
Rodrigo wears Jacobs’ Gen Z-focused Heaven line often, whether it be psychedelic printed pants or logo ringer tees. The polysexual brand, which launched late last year, is a punk resurgence in itself. With it’s double-headed mutant teddy bear logo, spiked accessories, and pleated tartan, Heaven centers subversion and youthful fluidity, and encourages a D.I.Y spirit that is integral to punk culture. The line strives to “connect subcultures around the world and recontextualize them for a new generation,” in its influences and homages to Tokyo’s punk history, such as the iconic street fashion Fruits Magazine. It’s also reminiscent of the anti-fashion and counter-culture streetwear brand Hysteric Glamour, known for it’s graphic-driven clothing depicting American pop culture, pornography, Andy Warhol, and rock-and-roll rebellion.
The runways are going punk too. Chanel sent fishnet stockings, fringe, leather collars, and graphic tees down its Cruise 2022 runway, and before that Dior presented tulle, black and red stripes, and chokers for Spring/Summer 2018. For Fall/Winter 2020, Monse paid homage to the British style movement with shredded denim, plenty of tartan, and clunky R13 moto boots, while Coach created a collection with the estate of Jean-Michael Basquiat, famous punk artist, with runway performances by Debbi Harry and garage-punk band the Coathangers.
Many up-and-coming brands this decade are creating with the spirit of punk in mind too, whether it’s aesthetically literal or not. Any designer who views fashion without bounds, either to gender, sizing, sexual expression, and political commentary, and challenges the status quo, has the right idea. Isn’t that the point of punk? Isn’t that the point of fashion?
So what do Smith, Lavigne, and Rodrigo have it common? They’re all being styled by sister duo Chloe and Chenelle Delgadillo. They’ve almost exclusively clothed Smith’s press run, including her intoxicating shoot with Trippe, in a notable Chopova Lowena upcycled pleated skirt, and also played their hand on a Rodrigo set, showing the star wearing a vintage tartan and leather buckle skirt on their Instagram.
“The worst elements of early 2000s pop punk style is really what makes the best elements,” laugh the stylists, who’ve also worked with stars like Alexa Demie, Devon Lee Carlson, and Charli XCX. “But maybe that is what naturally attracts us to certain fashion trends… ‘it’s-so-bad-it’s-good mentality.’”
“The ties paired with anything, low rise embellished pants, worn-in shoes, excessive accessories, lots of chain and safety pins are really making a come back, and (hopefully) more tasteful this time around— though taste is so subjective.” They also note, “It makes sense fashion is naturally leaning into this alt-route along with music due to the past year and all the social, political, economical, and environmental impacts.”
Smith and the Delgadillos met in March for the first shoot of her new era, when she stepped into her fashion vision she describes as “punk Picasso” — the Chet Lo x Robert Wun look being one of the sisters’ all-time favorites from the promos so far.
“We just rolled with it,” said the Delgadillos, “Collaborating with Willow is a dream, we all really just play around with what feels right at the moment which in our opinion allows for the most creativity. We love all her looks because she is so dynamic and embodies everything she wears.”
The Delgadillo sisters see Rodrigo’s style as very authentic to herself, where trends and labels aren’t a priority, pointing to her love of vintage. The sisters recently dressed Rodrigo in archive 1995 Chanel tweed for her visit to the White House, complete with platform Giuseppe Zanotti’s of course. “Developing her style has been so natural and is really still happening which is so fun to be part of,” they say. “It’s safe to stay we will continue to play around with silhouettes, styles, and fashion in general as she grows in her artistry.”
Lavigne is teasing her collaboration with the stylists as her fans wait for new music, tagging them on a recent all-black “fit pic,” with white Docs, a safety pin necklace, and a smokey eye. We’ll have to see what looks come of the pop-punk princess’ return, because the Delgadillos are keeping those surprises a secret.
“Pop punk fashion is mirroring music trends but this time around, pop-punk clothing is really whatever you want it to be,” say the sisters. “It’s mixing different eras and styles which makes the overall look more individualized, less status-driven and more about personal style. The mixture is also what makes each look feel young and fresh.”
Punk’s attitude of eclecticism and nonconformity allows for anyone and everyone to pick up whatever elements of the style genre speaks to them, where they can express another version of themselves, embrace an inner edge, and bare their “transparent souls.” A punk person is unapologetic, and their style begs you to listen up and don’t interrupt. And when artists like Smith reclaim a historically white male-dominated genre like pop-punk and put their own spin on it, they authentically honor the spirit of punk, because they’re being authentic to themselves.
Smith told The Face, “Black people created rock music. But we have been so indoctrinated, so conditioned to believe that we only thrive in certain categories of creativity and entertainment. And that’s just not OK.”
The moral of the story is that punk is fluid, it’s heart lies in the subcultures of the younger generation, and angst is forever.END
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