If you were a classic punk in 1980, there weren’t many jobs you could get. The mass unemployment of the time meant that being a punk on the dole was a common thing. But if you fancied getting clothes from London, forming a band and doing some gigs, you needed to get more money than the government gave you.
Working on a market stall, in a factory or maybe even a cafe were possible, but in that service role you were open to jibes and opinions from the paying public. If you were a female collecting glasses in a pub and you looked even a bit punky, you would have a stream of over-60 year old men telling you what a shame it was that you were spoiling your good looks with all that ‘stuff’. There’s something about working in the food and drink trade that makes customers think that they can make personal comments and give you style advice anytime – and it’s probably true even now.
By 1985, there was even a punk character in the BBC TV soap opera/drama series Eastenders, and I think she had a job in a launderette. Acting as a punk is probably the best job, so Linda Davidson the actress who played Mary – a punkgirl salute goes out to you. No such respect goes to the scriptwriters who had poor punk Mary being an illiterate, inadequate mother who has to turn to stripping to make ends meet. It’s another job, but we’d rather keep the bumflap on, thanks.
No, in reality, many of us punks were students. This allowed us to dress as we liked, listen to music most of the day and be in a band if we liked. But it was always good to have a tradesperson in your band – a plumber, carpenter or gardener. Why? Because people in those kinds of jobs had a van, so you needed them in your punk band to get you to gigs.