The humble bin bag became one of the legendary fashion totems of early Punk. It was one of the symbols of early Punk’s utter contempt and rejection of “normal”. In one sense it might seem odd that a medium sized mass produced rubbish bag would become a fashion statement – but when you consider the Punk approach, it all makes perfect sense.
By the early 1970s, teenagers, especially teen girls, had become a sizable demographic to the High Street fashion chains. Magazine columns were dedicated to the ins and outs, and the ups and downs, of exactly what was the “in thing” that month or year. Would denim be your thing? Or maybe some lovely floaty florals? Or even a nice cheesecloth blouse in the hope of attracting the attentions of someone like David Cassidy?
Even if we didn’t quite manage to put it into words at the time, seeing this as the norm only alerted to us a future of useless, hopeless women’s fashions, designed to homogenise the masses and harshly judge the floral adverse. And who exactly was all this dressing up for anyway?
The front cover of Jackie magazine from September 1976 reminds us to, “Dress to please him, her, them and you!”
“You” being at the very bottom of the list, and “Him” being top. No amount of cheesecloth or jaunty summer hats were ever going to disguise the fact that there was something deeply wrong with the world, and Punk provided not only the soundtrack, but also the perfect fashion response. Along with home-made t-shirts, plastic shoes, tartan and jumble sale finds, the plastic bin liner earned its place in early Punk fashion by just saying No! to everything that we were being sold. No to all the stupid blouses, the patchwork dungarees and the impossible to walk in shoes, it was all RUBBISH!
Bin bags cost pence, they were disposable, available, and were manufactured and sold to deal with household detritus. Wearing them literally screamed “I’d rather wear an eff-ing bin liner” to parents, to High Street fashion chains and to anyone else who would listen.
Bin bags also had the added controversial benefit when worn, of having the sheen, and shiny black colour of S&M rubber wear – but without any of the expense or express purpose. They were seditious, sarcastic and part of the early Punk fashion canon.
By 1979, even boring old Jackie Magazine has come to sort of embrace the changes brought about by Punk, a cover from 1979 features a girl in a military style shirt, a black leather tie, homemade “medals” and even boasts a pull out poster of Jilted John. Things hadn’t moved on much, Jilted John was just that week’s new David Essex, and there was still a girl on the front with nice hair and a smile, but Punk’s victories had dented the mainstream, and the humble Bin Bag was part of that.