Matrushka, Punk Fashion, and a Self-Consuming Snake by Quynbi

Posted by Christine Flick on

Punk Reimagines Itself…Yet Again

Time certainly has a funny way of coming back around, doesn’t it? Concept recycling seems to happen in fashion like clockwork, circling back onto itself like the ouroboros, or the mythical snake that eats its own tail. This snake is an image that has been drawn by cultures across place and time from the ancient Egyptians to practitioners of Gnosticism and alchemy.

Matrushka plays an enthusiastic role in this punk comeback. Digging deep into her roots, owner/designer Laura Howe offers inspiration with pieces like the posh-punky Black Shimmer Cleopatra Double-tiered Dress. It looks as though first wave punk Siouxsie Sioux could rock it with some fishnet stockings with ease.

The true fact of the matter is that punk never really went anywhere, only deeper underground to the cold dark of night. We may thank the likes of Vivienne Westwood and company for taking a more polished punk to the runway and beyond, and she certainly played an important part (may she rest in peace).

A punk fashion revival? Consider that punk trends from the early 2000s are already considered “vintage.” Word on the street is, punk has since lived on, in the codified rebellion that sticks it to the man, no matter what generation you hail from. Punk, like many other subcultures, is an ideology more than a fashion statement, a mindset that says there is no authority but yourself (as the prolific art collective/punk band CRASS would say).

Yet, that hasn’t kept fashion institutions like Gucci and Prada from co-opting the style in their sleek, clean, expensive, and decidedly not DIY aesthetic. Runway and red carpet punk offer a different sort of attitude. Here we find a tamer and more watery modernity, barely distinguishing from the 70s disco and glam that the original punks yelled at through their anti-fashion.

Still, clothes are critical, and as ever, Matrushka strives for authenticity. For some of us, it can be bittersweet to see plaid skirts and combat boots parading around the media outlets. But for the real deals among us, and you know who you are, we can wax nostalgic for the good ol’ days. The uniform was relatively simple, and tailored by the individual.

But I’m a Creep

Part of that uniform came in the form of combat boots borrowed from post-WWII soldiers along with thick-soled shoes known affectionately as creepers. In the famous boutique (once called SEX) owned by Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, creepers were kept in stock at all times, it is said. This was to outfit young punks, the ska culture, goths, glam kids, and, later, indie rockers looking to make a statement with their soles. Having been first designed in 1949, over time, creepers (the crepe-soled shoes) marched straight to the runway. But that was later, too.

The Creep hit the Teddy Boy dance floor in 1953 with the hit song “The Creep” and creepers inherited their name. The rock n’ roll/R&B TeddyBoys gave a nod to their Edwardian roots and to the early 20th century dandy, as a sort of precursor to punk that emerged in the 1970s.

There’s another famous song about creepers called “Blue Suede Shoes.” You might know it, sung by Carl Perkins and later, a certain Elvis Presley. The mixing of eras that would happen in the 70s is very punk, where wearing your grandfather’s plaid pants (or shoes) would be considered ultra cool.

Creepers are highly prized footwear with a distinctive sole, one that Howe explains a bit about the fevered underground obsession. “In the 90s I would be desperate to find the kind of shoes people were wearing. I even threatened to go to Japan to find them.”

The Japanese Influence

Perhaps no other magazine gave global rise to fashion freaks than FRUiTS magazine, which offered a platform to Tokyo’s vibrant Harajuku culture. Kids, dressed to the nines in wild and crazy colors and punked up themes, would show up street style to have their photo taken for the zine. The magazine gave voice to the youth of Tokyo, who then ended up influencing the world.

But with the internet takeover and cult of Instagram birthing a new generation of kids snapping selfies, FRUiTS magazine went dark, shuttered up with the complaint that there were “no more cool kids to photograph.” They published what was thought to be their last issue in 2017. However, as the pandemic wanes on and people are venturing out a bit more with a hunger to be seen, the publication has since revamped itself in 2022 after being out of print for half a decade. Again with the ouroboros. See what I mean?

And so dear reader, Matrushka thanks you for reading this post-punk punk post. The heart of punk will never die, let us hope. How about a wardrobe update with a trendy punk look? Instead of mourning times past, let’s celebrate our individuality and our alikeness. Because plaid goes with everything, right?

Author’s Note:
When I was fifteen, I got my first tattoo in a dude’s kitchen and it was an image of an infinity snake feasting upon itself. I was blind to the irony as most youths would be. It has since been replaced, in true allegiance to the form.


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