Saturday, June 16, 2012

Trickle-Up Fashion in the 21st Century & the Resurgence of the Punk Aesthetic

Beginning centuries ago when fashion first became more than just a functional aspect of life, the fashion world has experienced a long history of lower classes in society following those within the upper-class and what they wear. However, another theory has permeated the market due to the success of street fashion. With an increase in “equitable wealth distribution and modern, rapid manufacturing techniques, style differentiation across social classes is essentially non-existent” (King & Ring, 1980). The trickle-up theory is the newest approach concerning fashion movement, and  it has made a considerable impact. Starting in the street and “adopted from lower income groups, innovation eventually flows to upper-income groups” (Theories of Fashion, 2009). A variety of classic pieces in today’s market have been introduced due to the trickle-up theory including jeans, military-inspired clothing, and the T-shirt. 

The punk subculture emerged in the 1970s as oppositional fashion leaders who reflected organized resistance to social institutions, values, and practices. Reinforcing alternative ideologies and actions, the punk movement was a reaction to the back-to-earth mentality of the hippies of the 1970s. That the subculture was comprised of mostly working class youth with a nihilistic, anarchic ideology shocked older generations who were a stark contrast to this new wave of thought. Punk style encompassed anti-consumerism, androgynous, sartorial havoc, and continued to thrive in the “underground scene until 1976″ (Youngs, 2002). However, punk bands The Sex Pistols and The Ramones soon gave the listening world a glimpse of their subculture’s theoretic dogma. Malcolm McLaren, manager of The Sex Pistols, and British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood were two iconic originators of bringing punk fashion into the mainstream. Popular punk pieces that are found in virtually any retail store today include Dr. Martens and motorcycle boots, leather pants, leopard-patterned pieces, and shirts or jackets accessorized with safety pins and studs.Punk fashion continues to be a popular postmodern aesthetic for haute couture with fashion designers having joined the trend including the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Anna Sui, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Balmain.
A consistent resurgence of the punk aesthetic has occurred throughout the past few decades, and designers and retailers have continuously incorporated this style into their collections. That this subculture has left a legacy of its own reflects the perpetual nature of the trickle-up theory of fashion movement. Street fashion and lower rungs in the social ladder will continue to provide inspiration for the fashion industry through this newer theory that supports true originality and modernity.

Image courtesy of:
King, C. W. & Ring, L. J. (1980). The dynamics of style and taste adoption and diffusion: Contributions from fashion theory. Advances in Consumer Research, 7(1), 13-16. Retrieved from
Theories of Fashion (2009). Clothing and Fashion Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
Youngs, I. (2002, December 23). A brief history of punk. BBC News. Retrieved from