I have a problem. Well, I have a lot of problems, but one problem in particular has been gnawing at my brain now for some time. It is the Punk Rock Image Complex. What I mean by this is the recent obsession with Looking The Part. This is generally an issue with people who may very well enjoy the music, but who Just Don’t Fucking Get It. Punk rock is not about Image.
At the time of punk’s humble beginnings(way back in the mid-70’s), there was a distinctive look generally associated with punk rockers: mohawks, dirt, Docs, etc. But that was done for a purpose, which was to separate themselves from the people who had created the institutions that they were rebelling against. They simply did not give a rat’s ass about fitting in with society. In most cases, they were slobs from the slums of London who were too poor to afford nice clothes, which is exactly why punk rock began. Punks were sick and fucking tired of trying to belong to a shallow, hedonistic, superficial society that would ultimately never accept anyone who was different anyway. It was not an issue of who was wearing what. It was about not caring. That is the basis of punk rock. Punk rock is about being who you are and not being afraid to show it. It is not a fashion show. It is not a competition. Most importantly, it is NOT elitist.
Today, punk rock is being plagued by those who feel they have to, as I said, Look The Part. In other words, they go out of their way to be different when they are really all the same, playing into the ills of the society we are supposed to be fighting against. This is what is known as the Punk Rock Image Complex, which I affectionately refer to as PRIC. PRIC causes a reverse effect in the progress of Mankind. I say this because it is plainly obvious that the punkers are the ones with the insight and observational skills to change the world, and when Image-Obsessed assholes come into the picture and try to overrun the place, this could only be detrimental to the world’s already fragile state. But I digress.
PRIC is particularly rampant among really insecure people. They put on their leather jackets and their Screeching Weasel t-shirts, but they have no clue that THEY are the ones Ben Weasel is mocking. They hide behind the Image to mask their insecurity. The Image gives them somewhere to belong. It gives them a concrete definition for who and what they are. They can be lumped in with the others who are like them, and that makes them feel safe.
The PRICs compete with each other to see who can get the most piercings, and who can make their nice clothes look the scummiest. They exclude anyone who does not look like them, because everyone knows you are just not punk enough if you don’t own a leather jacket and Cons.
Now let me relate this theory to my own personal experience. Punk rock has been my life since I was 12 years old. I can’t say that I ever got caught up in the PRIC because “different” was just something that I always was, no matter what I had on. I was the Queen of the Dorks throughout my entire high school career (I still am, but that’s another column). I wear J. Crew sweaters, and on the exterior generally “blend in” with the kids at my college, but on the inside I am rockin it out, and that’s all I need to be comfortable with my “punkness.” As long as I know that I am a kick-ass dirty rock and roller, I could honestly give a shit less about how people perceive me. I love punk rock for what it says, what it stands for, and its total fucking intensity. I leave the worrying about Image part to the morons.