Toward the end of high school I became obsessed with looking “punk rock.” A lot of the guys I knew from my hometown were punks and I wanted so badly to emulate them, which led to me dressing more androgynously. I not-so-subtly stole elements of their style: bullet belts, Doc Martens, leather jackets, t-shirts found in the little boys’ section at the Goodwill—eventually I had my friends give me a mohawk and started dying my hair wacky colors. I had never really had a specific style before and I felt good about my physical appearance for the first time. Having weird, short hair and tomboyish clothes also made other girls less of a threat to me; we weren’t going for the same look so the comparisons weren’t there. They may have been pretty, but I was “cool” or “edgy.”

I continued to dress like this through most of college, but eventually felt pressure to look more feminine, and sought fashion inspiration on sites like Suicide Girls. The concept appealed to me: punk and goth women who promoted alternative beauty and self expression. I went about it the completely wrong way, though: I would dye my hair often, under the influence of a different SG model, then feel subsequently disappointed when I didn’t look like them, or when my hair only stayed as vibrant as theirs for roughly a day. I was measuring myself against someone else's standards of beauty, even if that standard claimed to deviate from the norm. It was also becoming difficult to discern between “pin-up model” and “female punk.” The SG models were selling sex rather than expressing themselves, which meant more conventionally hot models who just happened to have tattoos and maybe a nose ring. I remember a friend of mine telling me I looked like a prostitute around that time, and although I was hurt and didn’t think that the way I dressed had anything to do with my sexual habits, it addressed the fact that my style role models were hypersexualized. My punky guy friends spent a lot of time on their looks, too, but they weren’t trying to be sexy. They were trying to be tough, which was what attracted me to their look in the first place. For me, it used to be easy to look past the overtly sexual nature of Suicide Girls and see the tattoos, piercings, and originality, but now I realize the tagline is misleading: SG doesn't “celebrate” alternative beauty—they commodify it. 

There is a way to celebrate the female body in a way that doesn’t scrutinize or criticize women. Contests on the SG Facebook page that ask viewers to identify a model using a picture of her ass implies that sexualized body parts make the woman. The audience is now largely male and hypercritical, and the staff behind the models seems to cater to that audience. The women are beautiful, but most are far from unconventional, even compared to models that were on the site five years ago. Conversely, when a picture of a woman with a more realistic body is posted, the response is generally positive. Of course there are commenters who say things like, “she’s fat,” or “ewwwww,” but a lot of SG followers still support unique or "imperfect" models, though they show up on the site less and less.

When I think of punk style icons now, I think of Courtney Love and Lydia Lunch. They dressed daringly and provocatively, but it was on their own terms. Their attitudes and boldness are what make them intriguing, moreso than their clothing. Alternative beauty can really only mean one thing, which is to feel empowered however you look, in whatever you choose to wear.


Image via Recoil Mag

Tagged in: suicide girls, style, sex-appeal, punk rock, Punk   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.




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