The store is doing so well, in fact, that it recently opened a second outlet on the fashionable Upper East Side. And as Frank lounges around his uptown store in tight pants, high white boots with alligator tips and open cowboy shirt, he reflects on his success. “We’ve been doing well up here,” he says. “Of course it’s a different customer; down in the Village,” where his other store is located, “the people who buy our fashions wear them all the time – they wear them to bed. But up here, it’s a kick for the rich folks, the fashionable people – they’ll wear something once, to a party or a concert. It’s the hip look and I don’t think anybody resents the fact that the upper classes are getting into it. In fact, I think everybody enjoys it. Now that the economy’s better, people can afford to be wilder.”
The most popular item at Ian’s is probably the jewelry, Frank tells me. A silver skull attached to a long braid of hair is a popular earring. The skull-and-crossbones earrings and the motorcycle hair clips are also big sellers. Plastic sunglasses are another trend. “Punks like the colored plastic ones – the ones that come in strange shapes with the points and the wing effects,” Pizzaia says.
Then there is the clothing: rubber shirts go for $50 (“Sure they’re hot, but that’s how people like them,” Frank says); the boots, which feature stiletto heels and lots of silver (some even have spurs) can cost up to $100. Polyurethane pants are $65, patent leather vests $65.
“We sell a lot of parachute-silk jumpsuits” ($100 each), Pizzaia tells me, “but my favorite thing in the store is this python jacket, it sells for $300. No, I take that back; this is my favorite item.” He leads me over to the shirt rack and pulls out a white T-shirt with two zippers – two open zippers – over the breasts. Below the zippers a pornographic passage is written in a careless hand. It begins: “I groaned with pain as he eases the pressure….”
“No, punk won’t be the next fashion classic. Punk is a fad and, like all fads, short-lived. So that makes it all the more critical for retailers to move quickly.”
At CBGB’s, the punk club in the Bowery, the Suicide Commandos are running through a set of high-energy punk. At the table in front of me three youths are sitting drinking beer. Two of them are dressed in the standard T-shirt, jeans and sneakers uniform. The third seems to be of a different breed. In the first place, his head is shaved on both sides (his hair looks like a triangular rug sitting on top of his head); the black tie he is wearing only partially obscures the photo of Arthur Bremer, the would-be assassin of George Wallace, on the front of his T-shirt. And when the band gets hot enough to inspire some audience participation, he doesn’t clap or thump the table with his friends – he bangs an empty beer can against his forehead.
Anyway, on the theory that anyone who wears an Arthur Bremer T-shirt probably wouldn’t mind talking about it, I ask him between sets where he got it. “Oh, Manic Panic,” he says, “the only real punk store in the city.”