Soo Catwoman – the First Punk Girl Icon

In Jon Savage’s book “England’s Dreaming”, the film-maker Julien Temple is quoted as saying, “The great thing about the Sex Pistols, was the people they attracted”, and Soo Catwoman might have been exactly the sort of person he was thinking of. In 1976, Soo was one of a handful of original Pistols followers, and it’s her image that is still forever burned into the brains of the proto-punk pre-teens of 1977. Her shaved and dyed hair, carefully contorted into “cat ears” – a look she claims she created on a visit to a barbers shop in  West London in 1976 – coupled with her red tinged eye make-up, a large skull earring and the kind of clothes you couldn’t buy in C&A, made her possibly THE first female icon of Punk.

Originally filed under “The Bromley Contingent”, a label she has since denied, Soo Catwoman was part of the first small entourage who hung around the Sex Pistols, attended their shows, and accompanied the band, on trips to TV studios, sometimes even appearing in the crowd shots. Her photograph, (punk clothes/blank expression), adorned the pages of fanzines, style magazines and tabloids. In the former two, hers was a look to be admired, and in the latter it was used as a symbol to illustrate just how far the youth of today had fallen. Like Rotten or Sid, her image worked just as well for either purpose.

In 1976 Jamie Reid used her face on the cover of the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK”  newspaper,  a programme of sorts which was printed for the band’s first UK Tour.

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Some Punk Girls copied Soo’s styling, for some that meant having shaved or dyed hair, but to others, and probably more importantly, even without dyed hair or a trip to the barbers, Punk Girls were inspired by Soo’s attitude and spunkiness. What that image said to the 12 year old me was “You can do everything you’re told not to, you can cut your hair, you can do anything you want, be who you are or want to be, don’t hold back, oh yeah and by the way, it feels great”.

Whether or not Soo Catwoman’s deliberate inclusion in the Sex Pistols story was just a cynical marketing ploy by Malcolm, it was an inspired move nonetheless. To feature a woman was unusual enough, but to feature one who was not even a member of the band – just a fan some would say, was even more extraordinary.  Soo’s presence was also a bold illustration of the fact that the Punk movement was bigger than just one band, and maybe even more importantly, that it was bigger than just boys…

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