Anarchy in the Y2K:
Since its first chord was played in anger, punk has had people monitoring its vital signs, ready to pull the plug on a moment’s notice. The number of times it has been declared dead, only to spring back up, ready to shock and excite again, would strain the credulity standards of even the most formulaic slasher movie. It is one of the most frequent, and pointless, debates of our time.
We’ll be the first to admit that punk isn’t the latest shiny thing out of the box anymore; we do own a calendar, after all. So, why is it that nearly forty years after the fact, this movement continues to resonate with so many new generations of kids? Rhetorical question; the reason is, because, first of all, few things will ever, regardless of their chronological age, sound so immediate and urgent ever again, and, second of all, the source of this urgency, the aggressive, omnipresent vapidity of modern culture, is an inexhaustible resource.
We do not mean this in a philosophical ‘plus ca change’ sense. Things are actively and fundamentally abysmal. The specific symptoms may change, but what punk reacts against is the retreat into passive disengagement, the sense that things are beyond the capacity to change. If the early punks could whip up righteous, world-changing anger over things like Fleetwood Mac, bell bottoms, and Jimmy Carter, what are we to make, now, of songs that are, literally, a list of expensive items that the performer has bought, or might buy. How about a culture that dishes out portable super computers that are then used to shout sentence fragments at each other? Anger will never cease being relevant.
No future may be punk’s most misinterpreted rallying cry. The number of people over the years who have chosen to take this remark literally has led to endless treatises about the built in obsolescence and/or the inherent incorrectness of punk. ‘No future’ was not a nihilistic statement of fact; it was a warning about staying on the current path, and a challenge to do better.
In ‘God Save the Queen,’ the Sex Pistols were railing against the vacant eyed, nostalgic flag waving of Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee. The depths we’ve trawled as a society since then make some patriotic banners seem like the French Revolution in comparison.
We’ve made it, physically, to the future. So what?
No future defined the status quo, and the need to opt out of it. What came next was open ended, and sent the original impulse of punk into varied, unrelated directions. Perhaps the most immediate answer to no future came in the form of the anarcho-punk bands like Crass, Conflict, The Pop Group, and Flux of Pink Indians, who decided that if there was no future, people would have to create one.
The politically oriented zeal of these outfits brought an idealist edge to a destructive movement. Make no mistake about it, punk remained a movement based on destruction. The path to anarcho-utopia was abolition. The key phrase was ‘anti.’ Anti-Racist, Anti-Nazi, Anti-Fascist, Anti-Sexist, Anti-Capitalist, Anti-War, Anti-Government: If there was an institutional or societal ill to be found, there was a group devoted to opposing it.
Of course, the complete and total eradication of civilization’s ills is a lofty, if not unrealistic, goal. As we are, obviously, not currently living in utopia, it is an open ended goal as well. So where do we go from here?
What makes punk pass seamlessly from one generation to the next is that it is, at its core, an impulse, rather than one specific moment set in time. Obviously there are codes, rituals, and signifiers that remain in place, but they are open to interpretation and improvisation. This is how bands like the psychotic pop star Sex Pistols, the playfully heartbroken Buzzcocks, the street level rage of The Exploited, the sloganeering firebrands of Crass, and the beer soaked horror camp of the Damned, just to name a few, could exist under the same banner.
The Fred Perry x Bodega ‘New Establishment’ release aims to pay tribute to these disparate elements, and to suggest how they might be applied in a contemporary context. The sneaker is a simple tennis silhouette that features a perforated checkerboard pattern on olive green nubuck. This stark look is reminiscent of the militant look favored by politically oriented punk bands, while retaining Fred Perry’s timeless sense of style. The inner lining deploys the kind of wild leopard print used to such memorable effect through the course of punk fashion.
The accompanying shirt is a classic Fred Perry tailored button down that simultaneously references punk’s past and future. The button down shirt featuring prominent slogans was a punk staple. Here, the concept is updated to reflect the substitution of the personal computer for paint and the public square as the favored way to express rage.
London based director Chris Read Chrisread.tv, chosen for his decidedly stark, modernist bent, was tapped to draw out the alienation inherent in London’s isolated spaces for the first look at punk’s transition from ‘no future’ to dystopian future.
The Fred Perry x Bodega ‘New Establishment’ releases online at 10am EST and in-store at 11am on Saturday March 12, 2016. Limited to 100, each pair is packaged with an embroidered, button down shirt - retailing for $190 USD.
Words: Dan Alvarez
Art Direction: Chris Read