How to Be a Punk

Five Methods:LifestyleOutward AppearancePunk MusicMore InformationBands with Punk:

If you're a fierce individualist who has a bone to pick with the profit-driven world, you might be a punk. Here's a quick primer on punk fashion, lifestyle and music.

Method 1

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    Have the state of mind. Punk means resisting tyranny in any form and making your own decisions and own ways without what others say. It's associated with rebellion and anti-establishment.
    • Read up on classic punk topics like resisting tyranny, DIY, rebellion, anti-authoritarianism and anarchy. The more you know, the more easily you'll be able to express yourself.
    • Find interesting ways to express what you know and why you think it's important. There is a difference between complaining about authority figures and being against the structure that allows for authority in the first place.
    • Talk to like-minded people and different-minded people. You need to talk to both to really get comfortable with your own perspective. Also, if you're only talking to like-minded people, how will you deliver your radical message to those that need it most?
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    Find your scene. Get to know other people who have the same beliefs. This way you'll feel comfortable exploring your punk side without judgement or conflict from squares.
    • Go to some punk concerts. Some venues put up posters - check your local telephone poles.
    • Figure out where punks in your area meet, be it a specific corner or landmark. Punks usually don't meet at establishments unless it's for the sake of music - they try to use public space as much as possible.
    • If all else fails, ask another punk on the street when the next gig is.
    • Don't be afraid to admit that you're new to all of this. Everyone was new once, and they will probably understand. If you are friendly, people will like you whether or not you know every punk band on earth and have all the typical clothes.
    • Join a punk online community. Here, you can meet other punks world wide, trade MP3s, find shows or discover new bands.
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    Avoid consumerism. Punks are very resourceful. Find new ways to enjoy yourself without giving your money to big corporations.
    • Enjoy the outdoors, be it hiking a mountain or enjoying the park with your friends.
    • Learn to cook. Not only is it an enjoyable way to spend your time but it also saves money - more for you, less for the establishment.
    • Find free events through friends, the websites of venues you like or using local event forums.
    • Get crafty. For each item you craft, you haven't supported a store that sells a similar manufactured version.
    • Visit the mall or a big-box store only when necessity demands it. Even things like furniture can be found for free with sites like and If you must buy something, try to find it used first. It'll be cheaper for you and a little more anti-establishment.

Method 2
Outward Appearance

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    Express your attitude through your clothing. Punk clothing is iconic because it captures a a unique sense of rebellion and individualism. Let that anti-establishment attitude show in your outfits.
    • Punks are known for being unique - don't let yourself worry that you don't look like punk. Wear what you want, make sure its relatively alternative, and you'll fit in with any punk crowd.
    • Make your own clothes if possible. Invest in a sewing machine. This way you can create truly unique looks without supporting the establishment.
    • DIY (do it yourself). A lot of punk clothing has a DIY look to it. For a punk, it's always better to remake something old than support consumerism and buy something new.
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    Start out with some punk staples. If you're at a loss on how to build a punk wardrobe, here are some items to consider:
    • Skinny jeans or cargo jeans
    • Black leather jackets or denim vests
    • Studded or spiked clothing and bracelets
    • Mostly black clothes
    • Tartan, camouflage, animal print and blood stains.
    • Ripped clothing held together with safety pins
    • Band T-shirts
    • Punk band patches
    • Black shirts
    • Spiky hair, Mohawks or dyed hair
    • Leather (or pleather) jackets with band patches, safety pins, or painted-on details such as an anarchy symbol.
    • Bondage pants, or pants with added embellishments such as zippers going up the back of the legs, chains, metal rings, or other add-ons.
    • Bullet belts
    • Fishnets
    • Classic accessories can include arm warmers, studded belts, bullet belts, and wristbands with pyramid studs, stars or spikes.
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    Customize some of the shirts or jackets you buy. This is similar to remaking, but with an eye for little touches that express your unique viewpoints. Maybe by cutting off the sleeves, sewing political patches on, or just cutting the neckline, or back differently – these are all things that the traditional person wouldn't dare try - especially not for aesthetic effect.
    • Rip or cut out a section of clothing, and replace it with a row of safety pins holding the fabric together, or expose your layers.
    • Stencil band names or symbols onto your clothes yourself.
    • Distress your own denim. Use scissors or an x-acto knife to make cuts, or run sandpaper over the fabric to make it look worn out.
    • Strategically drip bleach onto jeans or T-shirts to make interesting patterns, or make them look more worn-in.
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    Find punk footwear. Consider that you may be walking more given your punk lifestyle, since its pretty common that punks ditch private transport whenever possible. You need a sturdy, long lasting pair of shoes, or two, but you need to obtain them in an a-traditional way.
    • Boots - for men and women. Boots are often dark and are usually the best choice: they last a long time, you can find them on the cheap and the aesthetic works with the rest of your clothes.
    • Stay away from shoe brands. Because commercialism and materialism are frowned upon by punks, a lot of them choose to buy boots from the army surplus store.
    • Common punk shoes include black boots, Dr. Martens, Converse and some skate shoes like Draven and T.U.Ks. Note that because these are owned by corporations, some punks refuse to buy from them despite the aesthetic and you may run into people who disagree with your shoe choice.
    • Thrift stores are a good place to buy cheap shoes and boots, and then you don't have to think about whether your money is going to a multinational corporation.
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    Get the hairstyle. Spike it up, or even put it in a mohawk. You can also dye it.
    • Both males and females can sport a mohawk, and (though a primarily 'guy' hairstyle) some girls can pull off a Devilock nicely. Research the different kinds and think about what best expresses you. You might want a fanned Mohawk, Bihawk, Trihawk, "bitch" handles, or even liberty spikes.
    • If you're worried about fitting into a conservative work situation, there's always the "Fauxhawk" (a wider strip of stand up hair that can be combed down to hide the shaved sides of your head). Be warned, though, his style is sometimes frowned upon by other punks since the look can adapt to the mainstream world so well.
    • Although it is most common for punks to have hair no longer than chin length, long hair is acceptable if you want to be a punk.
    • Having random things - such as feathers, beads, ribbons and ties - in your hair also makes you stand out if that's what you're going for.
    • There has also been a variety of 80s haircuts and even dreadlocks that have made appearances in punk subculture.
    • Consider dying your hair. You could go jet black, platinum blonde, bright red, or some unnatural color like green or blue. Whatever you choose, be prepared to stick with it for awhile (or try a temporary dye first).
    • If you don't want to hassle with complicated hairstyles, shave your head. This is a huge message to others: you don't need to do what others do! A shaved head has always been a classic punk look, and can be used for both men and women.
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    Get some piercings and tattoos. Body modification is another outlet that punks use to identify themselves.
    • You will see many punks with their ears gauged with rings, often to quite large sizes.
    • Septum and lip piercings are predominant in both sexes.
    • With tattoos, you will see a wide variety of images. A lot of punks sport their favorite band logos, or have spiderwebs on their elbows (please be aware that in the UK at least, spiderwebs on the elbow signify that you have been in prison). Straightedge punks sometimes have X's on each fist. Old-school-style tattoos (Sailor Jerry, for example) are also very popular, especially for chest pieces and sleeves.
    • Just remember whatever tattoo you choose, it will be there forever! Make sure that you choose something that reflects your personality, not just a current band that you like!
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    Be patient with your style. Many people will tell you to avoid going from preppy to punk in one step, or that it's best if you ease into being punk or you may appear like a poser. This is kind of true, but there is no way to go from not punk to punk overnight. You can't buy knowledge of punk music and you can't get an entire punk wardrobe without searching hard. Go to shows, introduce yourself to other punks, and gradually your style will develop from there.

Method 3
Punk Music

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    Go to punk shows to see bands live whenever you can. It is a large part of being a punk. The energy is amazing. You do not have to get in the mosh pit but it is fun to watch. Play safe and have fun. Get to know your local scene, you will probably see the same people and bands at shows over time.
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    Familiarize yourself with the music, new and old. There are many different types of Punk music, and it is important to remember that not every punk listens to every band here. A lot of Punks focus on one era of this music genre as the style of music has radically changed over time. This is a list of each era of Punk music, and some bands that influenced it.
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    Try some genres of punk:
    • Punk rock - Overall, it is loud hard rock music with electric guitars playing power chords, energetic drum beats, heavy bass and began in the movement of rebellion, DIY and anti-establishment. Normal punk rock: Ramones, the Clash, Sex Pistols, Green Day (mostly old), Alkaline Trio, Rancid and Against Me!.
    • Modern punk - Against Me!, Gallows, Dropkick Murphys, Title Fight, etc.
    • Celtic punk - Punk with some Irish instruments. Eg: Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, the Briggs
    • Hardcore punk (or hardcore): Faster and more harder punk with vocals usually lacking melody. Eg: Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Gallows, Poison Idea, Suicidal Tendencies (although they are mostly thrash metal), AFI (early), Conflict, Rise Against, Agnostic Front, Kill Your Idols, etc.
    • Beatdown hardcore (or moshcore/beatdown/youth crew/tough guy hardcore) - Hardcore punk made heavier with some more intense, shouted vocals and low-chugging breakdowns. Often traditional metalcore bands (Hatebreed, Converge, I Am War, Earth Crisis, Unit 731, Bury Your Dead) get called hardcore. Metalcore is much heavier than tough guy hardcore and has elements of metal in it. Beatdown bands: Madball, Agnostic Front (later), Youth of Today, Death Before Dishonor, etc. Bands of the genre who have played also metalcore include Terror, Vision of Disorder and Stick to Your Guns.
    • Oi! - Often misconceived as a racist genre, it isn't. Oi! is far from racism. Oi! is a punk genre in the scene of punks and skinheads (not racist ones) that were simple, pub-friendly, treble guitar-based and had some blues-influence. Eg: Cockney Rejects, Sham 69, Skrewdriver (first album; before racism), 4-Skins, the Business, The Exploited, UK Subs, etc.
    • Crust punk - Fast, insane and metal-influenced punk rock born in the 1980s in England. Bands are Amebix and Electro Hippies. Often bands wore all black, wore black leather and denim, slogans, patches and dreadlocks.
    • Thrashcore - Fast, insane and blast beats-filled hardcore began in the early 1980s. Bands include DRI, Raw Power and Electro Hippies.
    • D-beat - Heavy metal influenced hardcore with some metal traits but still pure hardcore. The genre was played by bands like Discharge. The drumming was also extremely aggressive.
    • Queercore - Hardcore punk that supported homosexuals and gay rights - Bands include the Dicks and Big Boys.
    • Street punk - Began in the UK82 era (1980s) of punk. It is a hardcore punk style that had catchy choruses, chants, lyrics usually on anti-establishment/rebellion/politics/etc, short guitar solos and usually had bands who wore black leather jackets and clothes, denim vests, lots of studs and patches, skinny or tight jeans, plaid pants, black combat boots and multi-colored mohawks. Bands include The Exploited, the Casualties, Clit 45, GBH, Cheap Sex, the Virus, Street Dogs, etc.
    • Powerviolence - Most of it is punk. It often has influences from hardcore, crust, thrashcore and grindcore. It is usually extremely chaotic thrashcore with shouting and screaming and usually really short songs. Bands include Iron Lung and Spazz.
    • Ska punk - Punk with some ska influences - Eg: Rancid, Against All Authority and Operation Ivy
    • Skate punk - Fast punk rock with lots of guitar riffs, sometimes solos, singing and a raw tone. It is enjoyed by punks and skaters. Bands include MxPx, NoFX, Blink-182 (1992-1997; before Travis joined), Bone Brigade, Guttermouth, Pennywise and was pioneered by Suicidal Tendencies. Bands also often have comedy lyrics.
    • Melodic hardcore - Like hardcore punk, but has melodic vocals and instrumentation. Bands include Rise Against and Bad Religion.
    • Horror punk - A goth-punk style with a dark sound and horror-themed lyrics. Bands sometimes are seen wearing black, big and shock-stylized makeup, all black, leather, studs, and the hair put into devilocks (not to be confused with emo hair). Eg: Misfits, Balzac, AFI (1998-2000), Murderdolls, etc.
    • Deathrock - Some type of goth-punk music which is extremely dark, atmospheric and has haunting or gloomy lyrics and themes. Bands include Christian Death and Alien Sex Fiend.
    • Post-punk - Punk, but more complex, introverted and experimental. Bands include Joy Division, the Clash, The Cure (early) and Siouxsie & the Banshees.
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    These genres are either derivatives of punk or fusion genres. They aren't punk, but stem from it. A lot of people call it punk while some argue that they aren't.
    • Emo - A type of music derived from punk/alternative with melody and emotional lyrics. Originally it was short for emotive hardcore, and was influenced by hardcore punk and post-hardcore. It later got reinvented for a non-punk sound and for an alternative/indie/poppy sound. At first it was bands like Rites of Spring, The Hated and Embrace. Later, it became Jawbreaker, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jimmy Eat World, the Get Up Kids, American Football and Drive Like Jehu. Now, it is bands like Senses Fail, My Chemical Romance, From First to Last, Snowing, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Thursday, Paramore, Dashboard Confessional and the Used.
    • Screamo - A subgenre of emo, only harsher and has some screams in it. At first it was bands like Pg 99, I Hate Myself, Orchid (not the metal band) and Saetia. Now it is bands like I Would Set Myself on Fire for You, Underoath, Thursday and Alexisonfire.
    • Pop punk - A loud pop rock style with power chords and punk influences. It has catchy choruses, pop melodies, happy melodies, usually teenage-tinged lyrics and was influenced by bands like Descendants, Green Day, Ramones, Screeching Weasel, The Offspring and Bad Religion. Bands include Sum 41, Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, Lit, Jimmy Eat World, Man Overboard, New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Motion City Soundtrack, Millencolin, and Fall Out Boy.
    • Folk Punk - A sweet combination of folk and punk, often using more acoustic instruments ( violins, harmonicas, trumpets, upright bass). Not always as fast paced as a lot of punk genres, and has more of a saddened tone to the lyrics. The Pogues popularized the genre in the late 80's but even still it is viewed as an underground sub-genre. Some great groups include, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Wingnut Dishwasher's Union, Johnny Hobo and The Freight Trains, Ramshackle Glory, Mantits, and Neutral Milk Hotel.

Method 4
More Information

Method 5
Bands with Punk:

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    Below are bands with punk.
    • Alkaline Trio
    • Ramones
    • Action Swingers
    • Sex Pistols
    • The Clash
    • Minor Threat
    • Satan's Rats
    • Rancid
    • Against All Authority!
    • Anti-Nowhere League
    • Bad Brains
    • Gorilla Biscuits
    • Crass
    • The Exploited
    • AFI
    • Oxymoron
    • Fugazi
    • GBH
    • Guttermouth
    • The Offspring (mostly old)
    • Blink-182 (Scott Raynor era)
    • Siouxsie and the Banshees
    • 45 Grave
    • Killing Joke
    • Joy Division
    • The Casualties
    • Clit 45
    • Anti-Flag
    • Black Flag
    • Gallows
    • Title Fight
    • Yellowcard (early)
    • MxPx
    • Bone Brigade
    • The Runaways
    • Dead Kennedys
    • Street Dogs
    • Bad Religion
    • Rise Against
    • NoFX
    • Social Distortion
    • Aiden
    • Murderdolls
    • The Creepshow
    • Calabrese
    • The Misfits
    • Samhain
    • Scream
    • Gray Matter
    • The Descendants
    • Screeching Weasel
    • Teenage Bottlerocket
    • Dropkick Murphys
    • Hot Water Music
    • Discharge
    • DRI
    • Suicidal Tendencies
    • Balzac
    • The Vandals
    • Skrewdriver (debut album)
    • Against Me!
    • The 4-Skins
    • The Business
    • Cockney Rejects
    • Conflict
    • UK Subs
    • Blitz
    • Anti-Heroes
    • Blood on Blood
    • Agnostic Front
    • Madball
    • Comeback Kid
    • Death Before Dishonor
    • Terror
    • Antidote
    • Youth of Today
    • The Queers
    • The Dicks
    • Snoop Dogg
    • Jawbreaker
    • Buzzcocks
    • Millencolin
    • Pennywise
    • Cock Sparrer
    • The Partisans
    • Sham 69
    • Cro-mags
    • Beastie Boys (only a few EPs).
    • Chaos UK
    • Suicidal Tendencies
    • Flogging Molly
    • Operation Ivy
    • The Damned
    • Blanks 77
    • Less Than Jake
    • Green Day (Nimrod, Dookie and Kerplunk).

Warnings & Tips

  • Dumb punk is unattractive; smart punk is brilliant. Know your grammar, spelling, history, geography, etc. and you will bust some people's stereotypes of what punk is! Punk is an ever-growing, evolving community. Don't "dumb yourself down" for anyone. There are smart, cool punks everywhere and if the first ones you meet are jerks, accept that jerks are everywhere, don't be/act like them because they are a part of something that you want to be a part of. They represent the lowest common denominator of a greater whole and better role models are out there.
  • Never be afraid of what people might think.
  • Be an individual. This is the whole point of being a punk. If you want long hair, keep it long. If you have a Kelly Clarkson album next to the Misfits one be proud. The biggest part of punk is the beliefs. Even Johnny Rotten has been quoted saying modern punks are "clothes hangers". Remember that it's not about what you wear but who you are. That's what matters most.
  • Don't be a racist. That is not good for either yourself or anybody else. All punks are against racists, This will make you look like a "Nazi punk" and that isn't punk. "White people" are not worth more than people with darker skin. How you are treated should not depend on where you come from or your skin color. It doesn't matter what your race is and you should judge people by their attitude and on the inside.
  • Remember to live out loud. If someone makes fun of you, ignore it. Don't worry what others think. Be yourself
  • Just because you are punk doesn't mean punk is your only music. Punk isn't about the music played within the movement. Branch out to other things like rockabilly, hard rock, ska, psychobilly, and heavy metal (remember you may be rejected if you admit to listening to music not considered "punk enough" by some, but this is a losing proposition. Fans of any number of the bands listed above would consider others listed as lame and vice versa; listen to whatever you want. It is important to note that some punks will hold it against you if you like mainstream music, punk or not.)
  • Don't think you know better than anyone. There is someone that will always know more.
  • Respect your elders, if they deserve respect. If someone comes up to you in a suit and tie and tells you that they like your Misfits shirt, be cool and ask them if they are a fan. For all you know, they actually saw them play live in the '70s when the punk scene first started and they may have some great war stories, or even better, some band suggestions that you would never have heard about.
  • The common misconception about punks is that they don't benefit for themselves (ie: homeless, always drunk, didn't finish school, etc.). This is an idea created by those who are not punk, so try to, in your life, make sure you are getting yourself the job, manner, and life you really want. A good example of a successful punk that's done this is Tim Armstrong of Rancid. He finished school, fought his alcoholism, got himself a home, and works with countless producers and artists. Other people may want to see you fail as a punk, so do the opposite and show them up.
  • You're gonna get called out on how you dress if you "look punk". When you doubt yourself, remember, this is who you are. This is what you love. Don't let anyone take that from you.
  • Don't go around calling other people posers, you'll look like you're one of those people trying to do what it takes to not get called a poser and you'll look stuck-up.
  • If you weren't punk before, people might freak out a little. Be nice, though. And don't say goodbye to your old friends and step into a new crowd. The "make new friends, keep the old" rule pretty much stands for everyone.
  • Remember, if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything.
  • Not all punks hate the government. If you hate it, hate it for a reason, and if you don't hate it, don't pretend to.
  • If you're going to abuse the punk movement and use it only for it's fashion, then forget it. No one, including hardened punks, will believe you.
  • The difference between being a poser and a true punk is that a poser is always worried about how punk they are. Just do what you want. That's what punk is: Think for yourself. Play by your own rules and nobody else's.
  • It doesn't necessarily have all to do with how you dress or what you listen; it's a way of mind, often accompanied by expressive music and clothing.
  • Punk rock means a lot of things to a lot of people. There are people who think that all of corporate America is evil, and those who buy their punk gear from the mall at Hot Topic. Always be respectful; that "mall punk" might just be the next revolutionary activist and that "old fogie" with their obscure 30-year-old patches might have a thing to teach you. Always listen to whoever and if you disagree, present your argument in a way that accepts that others have a right to their point of view, even if you don't agree with it. The "mall punks" were those kids who had black shirts, spiked hair and piercings and they called themselves punk for it. They also listened to pop punk primarily like Sum 41, New Found Glory and Good Charlotte.
  • Remember, gradually make your way into punk, if you just come out of you house one day looking like the punks on the street corner, it will be a costume, nothing more.
  • If your parents or guardians disagree with your punk beliefs, etc., listen to them, and explain to them what you believe. Consider their point of view. Your mom may have a strong reaction to your newly dyed hair because the color you were born with is the color she gave you and it's hard for her to watch you grow up.
  • A lot of times people will not know what punk really means. Some say it is all about going against the mainstream because it is mainstream. However, that is ironic since the Ramones, Sex Pistols, the Clash, etc were very mainstream in the 20th century but are still punk rock legends. Anyone who tries to be anti-mainstream is a poser trying to fit in and trying to be anti-mainstream is mainstream anyway since there are many people trying to do it. Real punks like whatever they want and be themselves. Don't be afraid to like mainstream things if you do.
  • Some people think punk is all about protesting and making change. But even legends like Wattie Buchan and Jello Biafra said it was more of rebellion and DIY attitude. However, some punks do often organize protests or riots when they got an issue with the law.
  • Listening to punk rock doesn't make you a punk necessarily.
  • Parents/teachers/bosses/etc. may be threatened by punk aesthetics because they don't understand them. Consider yourself an ambassador to a community, but consider that it is much more shocking/rebellious/subversive to say please, thank you and turn in your homework on time even though you don't "look like the type" than it is to live up to the stereotype that mainstream media would like everyone to think that punk rock is all about.
  • There are skinheads in punk. Don't mistake them as neo-nazis! Not all skinheads are racist! These skins are SHARP (SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice) or working class skinheads. They often are into Oi!, a genre of punk referring to bands like The Business, 4-Skins, Sham 69 and The Exploited.
  • Punk is above all about being yourself. Don't try to change who you are because you think it'll make you seem more punk or less like a poser- being unapologetically you is the punkest thing there is. There isn't any one definition of "punk" because it means something different to everybody.
  • Looking punk isn't important.
  • Remember punk rock began as a movement, but as a genre of music. Punk bands are punk because of their sound. Popularity, looks, fans, etc don't affect how punk a band is. In fact, some think that punk must be obscure, despite the popularity of Sex Pistols, Ramones and The Clash.
  • If you play punk rock, make music for the sake of it, not for selling out or just popularity. However, selling out isn't the same as getting fame or changing sound.

Article Info

Categories: Punk