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The Iconography of Safety Pins in Punk Fashion and Album Art

The iconic aesthetic of punk fashion is shirts, jeans, and other apparel items that are ripped on purpose, and held together by safety pins.  The Sex Pistols were trendsetters for punk fashion. According to fashion historian Bonnie English “the Sex Pistols helped to put punk rock into the popular media with their loud anti-music and their obscene behavior”.[1] The record Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols had flamboyant cover art that displayed a portrait of the queen with a lip piercing fashioned out of a safety pin. The safety pin lip piercing ultimately symbolized the corrupted hypocrisies of the British government and economy. As, historian David Simonelli says, “The safety pins…represented the damage that a culturally barren professional society had foisted upon their bodies and their lives. By adopting such language, punks could launch their own attacks on middle-class culture”[2] While punk fashion created a sense of homogeneity within the punk scene, the fashion served as a mark of identity, and signified a political statment.

British punk from the 1970s sporting safety pins as a poltical statment

[1] Bonnie English, “Anti-Fashion,” in A Cultural History of Fashion in the 20th and 21st Centuries: From Catwalk to Sidewalk (New York City, 2013).

[2] David Simonelli, “Anarchy, Pop, and Violence: Punk Rock Subculture and the Rhetoric of Class, 1976-78.,” Contemporary British History, 2002, 121–44.