Culture

Urban Outfitters 'Punk' Jacket Inspires Scorn, Amusement, Self-Pity

punkjacket1

In the wake of its release, Bowie bemoaned the fact that when he performed [“The Man Who Sold the World“] himself he would encounter “kids that come up afterwards and say, ‘It’s cool you’re doing a Nirvana song.’ And I think, ‘**** you, you little tosser!”

— Nicholas Pegg, The Complete David Bowie

I can’t figure out who saw it first — DangerousMinds? Someone on Facebook? — but I wasn’t surprised when Gavin McInnes jumped on the “Urban Outfitters ‘Punk’ Jacket” meme.

Urban Outfitters, you see, occasionally sells one-of-a-kind vintage fashion finds on their website.

To the palpable disgust of many GenXers, one of these “finds” went on sale this week.

It’s the $375 “punk” jacket you’re looking at at the top of this post.

If you don’t immediately recognize all the factors that make this jacket the exact opposite of punk — and therefore a matter we all need to talk about right away and for three whole days in great detail — then I can’t be friends with you either keep reading or, well, don’t I guess.

I was particularly eager to learn McInnes’ take on this.

You may know him as a regular guest on Fox News’ Red Eye. He’s also the author of The Death of Cool (which used to have a more, well, punk title…)

Canadians of a certain age know McInnes better as a founder of the once awesome Montreal-based Vice magazine, which is now just an international “content provider” phenomenon owned by some giant media conglomerate.

In the old days, Gavin’s “Do’s and Don’ts” section, mocking street fashion disasters with exquisite, withering precision, was some of the finest miniaturist writing anywhere.

McInnes is also, like me, a former punk — although like the Marines, we tend not to accept the “former” designation with graciousness.

The temperaments and attitudes that attracted us to punk are ones we were likely born (and stuck) with, even if our hair is now more likely to be grey than green.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6OKPQpSHAA

There’s also something sort of strange when old farts complain about a 40-year-old musical movement founded so that Malcolm McLaren could sell clothes… being used by Urban Outfitters to sell clothes.

— Commenter at DangerousMinds.net

I correctly pegged that jacket at 1990s vintage even before the sales copy at Urban Outfitters confirmed this.

I knew this because starting in the 1990s and continuing today, the kinds of kids who wear those hideous, tone-deaf jackets are the same ones who call me a boring old fart when I pointedly refuse to throw them spare change while they are wearing obvious knockoffs of my old clothes from the Seventies and Eighties.

I’m talking brand new yet weirdly off-register Dead Kennedys t-shirts, worn by teenagers begging on the street.

When I still drank I used to yell at them:

In my day, we didn’t have hair gel or dyes in twenty colors at every drugstore! We had to use Easter egg kits and sugar water! WE HAD JOBS, TOO! Brats…

So the Urban Outfitters jacket is, at a glance, obviously twenty years too “new” to be authentically punk.

(How can anything Nineties be “vintage,” anyhow? It’s bad enough that “my” music is “retro” now.)

Anyway, as Gavin points out as well:

You can only use a motorcycle jacket with the flip down lapels. The quilted shoulders are also a no no. It’s not really for riding a motorbike. As Joe Strummer put it in “This is England,” “I got my motorcycle jacket but I’m walking all the time.”

McInnes has said this elsewhere, and he’s correct:

Punk was anti-fascist about everything except clothing.

You only wore certain kinds of footwear, with certain heel heights, and pants of a very particular width, length and fabric.

“Like trousers, like brain,” Joe Strummer (also) said, meaning that if you wore flares and long hair you’d start thinking like a hippie, then acting like one, and hippies were the root of all evil.

(At least, after Strummer stopped being one himself.)

If you wore Docs and didn’t want to get beaten up (at least in the UK,) you didn’t wear them with red (Nazi) laces outside a yellow-lace (anti-Nazi) concert.

Viv Albertine of  The Slits looks back:

Because of the atmosphere at the time, everyone was very strict and critical of each other. We were pretty strict amongst ourselves. No one could wear brown, it was considered to be a bourgeois mismatch of colours. You could wear strong blacks, whites, shocking pinks or electric orange. Make statements with your clothes but with something like brown, which is just a mixture of colours, moulded together, very middle class. I had t-shirts I had to throw away as they had scoop necks and it was too soft. Literally even the cut of a collar, the cut of a trouser, the cut of a lapel.

Amusingly, in the photo that accompanies that recent interview, Viv is wearing a pricey looking brown dress.

Also, no one in the 1970s — unless they were completely clueless — would lump together The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Crass.

That’s like blending together ketchup, creme de menthe and sushi:

Individually, they’re fine, but only a clod would speak of them in the same breath.

The differences between The Pistols and The Clash have never been more hilariously spelled out than by John Saleeby:

If The Sex Pistols came to your house they’d set fire to your sofa, try to flush your record collection down the toilet, and shove a firecracker in your cat’s butt.

If The Clash came to your house they’d light up a few “spliffs”, get all excited about some obscure eight track in your collection like “Rufus Thomas Live In Thibadeaux”, and get in a big argument about if Charles Bukowski qualifies as a Beat author or not.

It goes on like that for hundreds of perfectly chosen words.

That he wrote this hilariously passionate article in 2004, decades after these bands disbanded, gives you some indication of just how impossible it can be to get this kind of crap out of your brain.

(Cough…)

Meanwhile, Crass was/is an ultra-purist, musically challenged but lyrically semi-gifted anarchist band — they still live in a commune when they aren’t un-anarchistically suing each other — whose whole “career” was basically designing genuinely cool graphics for their unlistenable albums, and “singing” about how much they hated The Clash:

They said that we were trash
Well the name is Crass not Clash
They can stuff their punk credentials
Cause it’s them that take the cash

By the way, between The Clash singing about themselves, and other people singing about them — either pro or con — is there any other band that’s been name-checked in song more often?

Does anybody wanna hash this out with me in the comments?

I need something else nostalgic and pointless enough to distract me for another couple of days, so I can avoid thinking about turning fifty next year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qP4BGS-Nrns