Even though Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s were the first American stores to offer punk fashions, their selections are far smaller than the publicity would lead one to believe. For example, at the moment the entire punk collection at Bloomingdale’s consists of two dresses, and at Macy’s the punk line comprises mostly T-shirts supplied by two mom-and-pop operations. Also, as one might expect, the offerings are a good deal tamer than anything you’d find at the Rat on a Saturday night. Nevertheless, the punk look is what everybody’s talking about, and though punk fashion has yet to establish a foothold in the Boston area, the change is only a matter of time.
Actually, the ice was broken a few weeks ago when Whimsey’s put on a punk fashion show. (Apparently, the folks at Whimsey’s have never heard the “Disco Sucks!” chant that often sweeps the Rat.) Mary True, director of special events for the discotheque, described the show as an unqualified success. “Well, first of all we had glitter music with 12 models dressed up in glitter,” she says, “then we switched to punk rock, and 14 models came out and danced in chains, leather jackets, ripped shirts – whatever we could dig up. Then at the end, both groups came out and fought, because you know the glitter people and the punks normally don’t like each other.”
Even after a successful fashion show, however, Boston-area stores are not interested in carrying the look. “We simply don’t think that Boston’s ready for it,” Charlotte Brewer of Jordan Marsh told me. “Right now it’s too way-out. But believe me, we are following it very closely and we will probably start to carry a few punk-influenced items – T-shirts, safety pins, etc. – sometime in the future.”
Donna Karhart of Filene’s is also cautious. “As we see it, punk is a lower class, street-kid thing,” she says, “it’s almost a frame of mind and that’s not our market. However, I do think that there will be interpretations, modifications on the market before long, and you’ll find us carrying the modified versions.”
“If I was 19 now, I’d have a safety pin through me ’ead for real.”
–Roger Daltry in People
A couple of days after the Dead Boys concert, Rita Ratt is sitting in a pizza parlor a few doors down from the Rat. And as she looks through a punk article that I have clipped from a fashion magazine, she shakes her head. “This is such bullshit,” she says, “all these people paying hundreds of dollars to look like a punk. I didn’t even spend $2 on this outfit I’m wearing now: $1 for the little boy’s tuxedo pants and 75 cents for the black T-shirt. I borrowed this suit jacket, I found the tie hanging out of some garbage can, someone gave me the boots and the safety pins I found at home.