Punk never died; it just doesn’t look the same as it did in the ‘70s.
Going to the Alex G and Dorian Electra shows — which attracted two thoroughly different concert crowds — at August Hall recently confirmed my suspicions about current nightlife fashion trends.
Attendees at the Alex G show wore ragged, torn-up shirts and jeans in homage to a more traditional punk style, whereas concertgoers at the Dorian Electra show had donned cat ears and glitter, a queer look that has created an inclusive environment for alternative fashion. The two audiences presented a stark juxtaposition in style but share a common ancestry.
San Francisco is notorious for its ’60s and ’70s subcultures. Alternative music always has played a part, with fans often trying to emulate their favorite artists. Ruby Ray was a prominent punk photographer in San Francisco in the 1970s. She captured bands such as The Cramps and Dead Kennedys who favored black velvet, black denim, heavy black eyeliner, sewn-on studded belts and distressed clothing with political messages such as “Hate the rich!”
Counterculture styles were also influenced by queer and trans women of color, like Grace Jones and Crystal LaBeija, who were at the forefront of the radical movements embraced by the punk community.
These days, alternative music is still pushing alternative fashion. But the music has expanded its sound and, in turn, style has broadened to the point where it is difficult to box fashions into a single category.
Alex G is an indie rock/indie folk musician who exudes a nonchalant “I just woke up like this” attitude. Most at his show were wearing pieces thrifted or handed down from relatives, in part because political concerns over ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry dominate among Gen Z. Purposely ill-fitting, oversized clothes that are stained or ripped encapsulate the resurfaced ‘90s grunge aesthetic among Alex G concertgoers.
Then there’s hyperpop. The popularization of the maximalist, exaggerated pop music genre has allowed performance artist and musician Dorian Electra to unleash an unapologetic flamboyance in music and style. Neon colors, goth elements and heavy inspiration from anime are reflected in the outfits of Electra’s fans. In contrast to Alex G’s “cool kid” aesthetic, the Dorian Electra crowd embraces hyper-queerness and the chronically online personality. Here, thanks to the influence of trans women, gender is a performance as seen in the penchant for hyper-feminine micro skirts and baby shirts.
At first glance, these two crowds could not be more different. But in reality, they are taking similar strains of alternative culture and translating them in separate ways.
Trend 1: Layering — “less is more” is passé
The wrestle between the frigid temperatures outside and the tropical rainforest humidity inside makes layering not only a fashion choice but essential to maintaining a bearable body temperature during the concert experience.
Layering in the fashion sense means maximalism: piling on jewelry, fishnets over tights, shirts or tank tops over long sleeves and accessories like headphones or handmade buttons and bracelets. The DIY accents emphasize the grunge factor, while the pile of accessories provides a treasure hunt for the eyes.
Pictured with a thrifted monkey hat and headed to the Alex G mosh pit, Dylan Pantusco wore a Metallica shirt that his dad sported at punk shows, layered on top of a baggy, ripped and bleached long-sleeve shirt that read, “Decriminalize sex work.” Besides him on the floor lay a Harley Davidson jacket that he says he exchanged for giving cannabis to a homeless man. On the bottom: Spongebob pajama pants underneath ripped jeans.
“I like comfortable. I like baggy stuff,” said Pantusco. “I don’t like Adidas-looking clothes and stuff like that. … That’s really bad mass produced kind of stuff.”
Trend #2: Clashing elements
Mismatched patterns and contrasting colors are vital components of current alternative wear. Patterned nylon shirts and patterned pants are dominating the secondhand store racks. These items are easy to build upon with another mismatched shirt or solid-colored garment to make a striking outfit.
On their way to see Dorian Electra, Vicki (who did not want to disclose their last name) wore a turtleneck with green, graphic lines underneath a black tank top. Their patchwork windbreaker — with baby blue, white, red and mint green colors — made a nice contrast with their black, faux-leather pants.
Trend #3: Vintage
It doesn’t have to be authentically vintage, but the vibe has to be vintage. Whether it comes from a thrift store or a family member, the closer a piece of your outfit looks like it comes from your grandma’s clothing trunk, the better. Kitschy accessories, embroidered sweaters and autumnal shades are recurring themes of this trend.
Sorry techies, AirPods are not cool anymore. Just as vinyl has had a resurgence over the past decade, physical ways of listening to music like headphones and cassette players are making a comeback as outfit accessories. Nostalgia tech from the 2000s complement the grandma sweaters.
Trend #4: Magical creatures
Embodying otherworldly beings and anime characters has been a subculture trend for the past 20 years. Now fully enmeshed in mainstream Western culture, anime is no longer something people see as abnormal.
Robin C. styles elf ears with her apocalyptic-punk outfit. “Japanese fashion in general is, like, really inspiring to me,” said Robin. “And then also. … like fairy-grunge.”
Fairy-grunge is a late 2000s-inspired style featuring grunge aesthetics mixed with feminine silhouettes such as long, neutral-colored skirts and lacy tops.
Christian Gallardo fits their cat accessories into their red-and-black overalls. “Sometimes I use little pieces from things that I use for costumes. Like the ears!” said Gallardo.
Trend #5: DIY elements
Punk was built on radical resistance, anti-establishment culture and communitarianism among the marginalized. In terms of style, punk clothes always have been DIY. But in resistance to fast-fashion giants, one-of-a-kind pieces are popular in the scene.
Chrissy Macknight wore a flipped Nike jersey, initially made for a friend of a friend. In the middle of her ripped jersey is Morpheus from “The Matrix,” surrounded by beaded rhinestones in the shape of a heart.