Bricolage and Postmodern Iron on Patches in the Punk Subculture

In today’s modern age, the word punk implores a visual style made of legendary and iconic garment feature like the Mohawk, a metal-studded, leather jacket, or leather belts. But despite that, a lot of modern punks would assert that the style they are used to, is slavish or non-conformist personification of a certain image.

Despite the media’s attempt to caricaturize the punk subculture and reduce it to a mere costumery, the punk is a real movement that genuinely embraces the individualism and freedom of self-expression. A lot of individuals that are in the punk subculture are now embracing a contemporary take on self-expression and style that is progressively hybridized and fluid.

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Like postmodern artworks that usually take elements from art movements that are historic in nature without looking to replicate or bastardize them, punk subculture is paying respect to earlier styles and consciously avoid copying a preexisting appearance. One-way contemporary influence can be found in the punk subculture style is through specific fashion accessories like iron on patches, which are used through Do-It-Yourself and bricolage begin to convey messages on social, political, and personal levels.

Bricolage, comes from the French “le bricolage” meaning created from a different range of available things, is one of the most used postmodern art techniques. The work is composed of a various range of materials available.

The artists produce art using these materials, reconfigure them in ways that generate new art. From its outset, bricolage is one of the vital concepts that operate on different levels in the punk subculture. Like other existing subcultures all around the world, punk is a response to cultural events that includes rebel and hippie movements.

Just like contemporary art, punk is a bricolage of styles and ideologies from different subcultural periods like the Situationists in Paris. Postmodern punks also use the bricolage approach in a material sense. Just like the contemporary artists who use preexisting materials, modern punks often use old patches out of old clothes, combining different fabrics in peculiar and distinctive ways. Want to know more about postmodern art? Click here.

By making and wearing these accessories and hold them around on your body, people can express their uniqueness as well as the relationships they want to show to the world most visually. Clothing patches are mostly a square of cloth different sizes. You can also sew smaller patches in any part of a garment, but the bigger ones are typically sewn to the back of the jackets.

The co-owner of an independent punk shop, the Angry Young and Poor, John Shuba explained that a sturdier clothes patches are embroidered using a machine, although a lot of designs are printed using silk screens, there are also hand-embroidered, personalized patches from Do-It-Yourself methods. You can check this site if you are looking for ideas for your next fashion patches.

One can trace back the wearing of political catchlines back to the Paris Situationists, an organization of artists from Europe in the 1950s. Their influence can be seen on Anarchy Shirts, a garment that was featured in an exhibition a few years ago entitled, Punk: From Chaos to Couture.

It was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013. It was designed by renowned postmodern artists Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, famous for starting the punk subculture in the mainstream society. Anarchy Shirts is a pre-punk subcultural artifact that uses patches with handwritten catchphrases.

Anarchy Shirt can be considered as a contemporary visual shirt because it uses the bricolage techniques, bringing an existing material that have no relationship before the creation of unique visual methods — using stencils and patches like the blue silk patches of Karl Marx, created by McLaren in a shop from Chinatown that specializes in Maoist literature.

Click here if you want to learn more about Situationists and their influence in postmodern punk.

McLaren and Westwood are able to customize ordinary clothing and fill it up with patches and designs that have political meanings. Today, most designers’ legacies are still felt in most modern punk styles. A lot of punk communities continue to express their political ideologies and individualism through unique Do-It-Yourself aesthetics and bricolage.

According to Monica Sklar, a fashion historian, punk style has a forty-year history with influences and characteristic pieces that make up the punk look and flexibility to include new materials. Like Pomart, a lot of post-modern punks choose to resemble form in a contemporary way, borrowing elements and incorporating them from earlier history of punk by creating and wearing cool patches with designs that serves as a recognition to the older, more well-known punk groups like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and Bikini Kill, alongside patches of new punk bands.

Because patches are made by hand, they can be personalized to highlight aspects of the wearer’s personality and interests like their taste in music. In Pomart’s jacket case, not all of her patches hold essential meanings that are unique to the punk subculture.

Take, for example, the embroidered patch of her country, Nicaragua, according to her, and it is where her family is from. By sewing her band name patches and patch depicting where she came from, into a clothing that is second-hand. Pomart made her jacket into a contemporary bricolage of preexisting, disparate elements drawn from modern culture.

Because they are publicly displayed, her patches, map her brand as well as her identity in such a way that it is both highly personal and most importantly, visual. For people looking at the jacket, the patches will look like a kaleidoscope of visual indication that hint at the aspects of her multi-faced personality. Pomart said that she wants people to know that she is into music, she has her band, and she is wearing her personality and character.

Not only that, patches are very cheap and a creative way to infuse a person’s personality in the clothes they are wearing. According to Pomart’s friends, Tianna Mackey and Alex Campbell described her patches as hand-made without the help of a stencil, also known as free hand.

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