You’re Not Going Out Like That! #14 – Bondage

Jordan SEXIn 1974, and bored with both establishment and counter-culture fashion, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood re-branded their rocker’s boutique on the Kings Road in Chelsea from “Too Fast To Live, Too Young to Die” to “SEX”. It was written in four-foot high pink rubber letters above the door and very hard to miss.
Updating the shop’s stock to match, SEX carried fetish and bondage wear, some by established labels like She-And-Me, and others which were developed and designed by Malcolm and Vivienne themselves. Rubber curtains were hung on the walls along with quotes from the SCUM manifesto, and a red carpet over the shop floor added to the intimate bordello-like feel of the shop. With McLaren and Westwood in the driving seat, rubber, latex and leather were re-imagined from a counterculture perspective.

Vivienne Westwood in Punk AttireThey took things like straps, zips and the restraining belts found on bondage items, and started to apply them to the outside of everyday wear like coats, jackets, trousers and even t-shirts. It wasn’t long before they were also toying and re-purposing other symbols of the establishment that were also taboo; the hippy generation’s beloved peace sign was swapped for the swastika, the tailored jacket became loose with raw edges and ragged hems, and images of establishment figures like The Queen were screen printed on coarse cottons along with slogans and safety pins. This was the start of the upside down, solarized world of what would become Punk fashion, and it was no longer hip to be square.

Overseen by shop manager Jordan, who often dressed completely in rubber, SEX became a petri dish of taboo busting ideas out of which London’s Punk scene would grow, becoming a destination as much as a shop. SEX sold equally outrageous printed T-shirts the “tits” and “cowboys” being the most instantly recognisable, along with the Queen and Destroy designs.

PosterNoSex

For a post war generation like our parents, who were not raised on a diet of art history and the New York Dolls, but rather more on Benny Hill and the shame and embarrassment of anything connected with sex, these ideas must have been truly shocking. But for our generation, seeing someone messing around with the sort of established ideas that were still being drummed into us, was a revolution.

The t-shirts, the bands, the straps and pins on our trousers said nothing whatsoever about sex to us, but to our parents they were a sign that we were on the road to rack and ruin, and it’s just further proof that the world is going to hell in a handcart and we were too stupid to know any better, which is precisely why you’re not going out like that.

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