When I was in high school, the trend of being emo was in full thrive. A few of my friends would sport a fringe covering half their face, fell in love with Alex Heartbreaker, and would perfect the art of wearing thick eyeliner.
It was never really for me, the emo style. It wasn’t the most cheerful of looks or attitudes, a lot of the music was awful, and the link to self harm and suicide was worrying. So what was a young, naive teenage girl to do when the alternative scene was calling her, but she wanted to be in more control of her image rather than jumping on the [EMO]tional bandwagon.
She chose punk.
To the thirteen year old me, punk was amazing. The whole “fuck you” attitude could take me away from the little dramas of high school: fall outs, grades, and cliques. I could emerge myself into a world that didn’t try to impress- instead it encouraged a sense of individuality from customised clothing to the broad range of punk rock sub-genres. The famous “Punks Not Dead” saying rang true: to me, punk was alive.
Of course for a thirteen year old who wanted to be something that was in its prime 30 years previously, it wouldn’t be a perfect discovery of the self. Whilst on paper punk was an expression of individual freedom, I found that if you weren’t the perfect example of ripped clothing, mohawks and safety pins in your skin, you apparently were not a “real punk”.
Who could be considered a real punk? Was it the underground bands who toured in a van? I remember once reading a YouTube comment complaining that Green Day* were sell outs because they have air conditioned tour buses. So the true meaning of punk is to give up home comforts? And using the punk subculture to make any political or individual statements is irrelevant?
I realised that the supposed freedom of punk was very limited, I grew up and took my image and style into my own hands. I will argue that punk was different to other subcultures, trends or labels, as it included art, literature, social commentary and more. When I pull my old tartan drainpipes out of the wardrobe to wear, the confidence a punk attitude gave me is still alive. But I would advise any thirteen year old girl that their own style is there to create and evolve, and is only a fraction of their identity that they project onto the rest of the world. What others think or do is of little importance.
Which, in a funny way, is what drew me to punk in the first place.
*There’s a lot of debate over what genre Green day actually is: punk, emo, pop rock…personally I just like to say alternative.