Updated April 28, 2019
Recently I wrote an article that was featured on one of my favorite blogs and Twitter accounts, www.punkgirldiaries.com and on Twitter @punkgirldiaries. My article is about an episode in my life in my teens when I finally made it to the punk mecca of London, a few years too late. Thank you so much to Polly and co. for letting me write. The article continued with some details I had gathered from people on the Subcultures Group and other outlets. Since these are blogs and we can’t let the articles get too long, it was cleaned up and edited to give you some Pow Wow on the peacocks of punk and post-punk. Check it out here at:
…Not just any old make-up set…
Please, keep up if you can, with the fiendish writings of punkgirldiaries. Always a great insight to everything a punk girl should know.
Update April 2019 The Face of Punk, Jordan Mooney, has a new book out. She tells of her turbulent years at the front and center of punk in London’s Chelsea area. She was one of the makeup and dress queens of the era. For an inside look to her life and what the scene was like, check this article out: Jordan, The Face of Punk
The rest of the article is below:
By J. Canning
I used stage makeup from the Dancewear centre upstairs in Castle Street… water based you could paint it on with a brush…Valerie
It’s 1977 to 1980 and what did your average punk girl have to do with little funds and a desire to express herself with makeup have for resources to make that in-your-face statement? London is a theatre town, and much of it started with theatrical makeup. Not every punk girl wanted to start with the clown base. Most punk girls had to shop Woolworths or get eyeliner from Sari shops. Did you get your makeup off a stall in the markets? Use rice powder and mix with whatever the cheapest foundation was you could find? Eyeliner was the staple makeup piece and heaviest used, and it never seemed to wash off. Panda eyes, Egyptian eyes, or mutant Glam eyes, so many choices. Of course lipstick was an absolute must, often blended with several shades to get that right bizarre shade no one manufactured.
Then where did you go to show off, hang out, be with other like minded individuals? In London it was the Beaufort Market and Kings Road areas where the shops were, and Roebuck pub where many soon to be famous people like Phil Lynott and Johnny Lydon (Rotten) hung out. The big magnet being SEX, the shop of Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood at the World’s End area. Many punk girls seemed enthralled with the sixties icon store Biba, a magical place to go, and carried high-end makeup lines. Districts like Camden Town and Notting Hill where the race riots had occurred were popular hangouts. Portobello Road, Chelsea and clubs like the 100 Club and The Hope and Anchor on Upper Street, where bands like The Stranglers, XTC, U2, The Cure, Joy Division and The Ramones have played. Youth covered the markets and eventually anywhere they could be seen and meet other punks.
As the movement gained momentum and so enraptured and shocked London, many punk women started modeling, and eager photographers followed along, like Derek Ridgers and Jill Furmanovsky. Photographers and videographers were compelled to document the growing scene, there was a thrust, a verve, a movement. And much of it shocked the nation. It became performance art, to put on makeup to the extreme and find the right places to hang out, be seen, make your political statement of the right to express yourself.
However, London was not the only place that had gone punk. Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh all had their punk scenes that reflected the local youth and culture. Where did these punk girls get their inspirations from, looking at other women in the crowd, or was it the female band members in their local punk groups that inspired them most? Female pop icons enthralled women and men alike, strong women who would get out there and smolder like all women wanted to and the all girl bands like the Slits or Strawberry Switchblade edged them on. Punk girls simulated a favorite singer or actress and went through phases. Not all punk goddesses could be alike, the point was be as different as you could be. Punk girls wanted to be different looking, but also shown respect and not harassed on the streets for their looks.
All my money went on makeup and second hand clothes. I didn’t want to look like anybody else. Roxy
Many girls saw it as a way to see a fellow punk, identify with someone from the tribe. Places to meet like minded individuals were college campuses, band venues, dance halls and record shops. Sleep all the next day if you didn’t have a job, and start it up again. If they were brave enough to try to learn enough guitar or keyboard they could start a band, and escape to see the world and be part of that music industry thrall. Where sadly many bands never saw a profit from any of their records.
Real Punk Girls Makeup: Makeup on The Streets
What was the daily reality of the punk women of the late 70s, did they consider themselves feminine, or had feminism been turned on its head by punk? Punk was punk and not gender specific, it welcomed everyone that identified with it, and thrashed every aspect of social norms. So how was wearing makeup changing from a 1970s Disco Dolly shine to performance art? Some of the pigment colors were very much a carry over from the Glam era and by the middle 80s had changed to stylized masks. But women had to be very retro in a way, the eyes very reminiscent of the makeup styles of the 1920s used for black and white film, or some of the punk/rockabilly sex bomb look from the 1950s got blended in. Dark, heavy eyes, with bright highlights and later in the 80s, creating a different sideshow art kind of look, following bands like Visage.
The following are accounts from men and women who lived the in punk scene in the UK in the years 1976 to 1982 and what they really did with their everyday punk look.
I don’t remember which brands, though I did love Biba. I wasn’t trying to look ‘pretty’- we were trying to express a different type of femininity I think. I wanted to look striking, and different. Part of it was rejecting the traditional stereotype of girls looking ‘sweet’. –Gaye Bell
Just reread the post- I guess the message was, f*@# looking stereotypically pretty, like you want a man? And a huge reaction to f*@# Farah Fawcett Majors type Californian ‘natural beauty’. Gaye and I caked our faces in the palest shade of panstick. – Rachel Bell
I used felt tip pens for eyeshadow lips drawing cute tattoos on face, daddy was sad he lost his pretty little girl. He came round and my parents would call me in to have a good laugh at what I was going out wearing. We found a way. Homemade diy.- Rose McDowall
Probably from around 1974 ish Germolene as a face mask/moisturiser straight out of the tin. Scraped off after a while with bog roll. Then some old theatre make up we used as kids to dress up. Was still lying around. Bit dried up but good enough as a starter. Black biro, bit later kajal from Cockburn Street market applied with a metal stick in the lid – went on like axel grease and smelt of vick nasal clear and made your eyes water for hours. Later Biba foundation – wee black pot with a twist on lid. The colour of a rich tea biscuit. Oily stuff. Went on nice but kinda curdled by the end of a night out. May have been called china doll shade putty? Unforgettable smell of linseed. Ellenet? Whatever, loads of sticky hairspray after trying sugar and egg white mixes. Ellenet was good for setting face paint too. No, don’t go there. Crazy color for hair. Fab all over shocking pink face and neck dye when it rained. Lips, early days watercolour paint, vaseline and a paint brush – later something black or black cherry. Somehow I still have my own face and hair. Ivy League sold the complete range of Barry M around 1982 or perhaps a year later. Oh the joys, and the boys with black eyeliner. Where did we find the time? Yes certified with a capital W… pale pink antiseptic gunk in a tin. I just used whatever was lying around. And my fertile imagination – Jay Kirkland
I was lazy about it all and lacking in skill. I loved Biba but couldn’t afford it. I remember a brand called Razzle Dazzle I adored, great sparkly stuff. When I could be bothered my AIM was to look like a Warhol painting, so I remember slapping on lots of bright green or purple eyeshadow, bright pink lipstick and as white a face as I could get. I loved kohl (and seem to still be wearing it…) I have an abiding memory of Jackie Brown painstakingly mixing her face colours on an actual palette. And Gaye applying several different lipsticks to arrive at the exact shade she wanted…I used to think the most challenging thing (for me and the world both) was to go out with no make-up at all. It took huge bravery, haha! And what happened then was that I was entirely ignored and invisible. So I think the drama of the paint was to make sure nobody could ignore us. For me it was more about expression than whether or not we were being conventionally attractive – though you’re right Gaye, there was an element of that. – Grace
In some cases… when it got all gothy I gave that a total bodyserve. 6 hours to get ready for two hours posing then go home and take it all off for two hours. Beauty is not skin deep….black and white or tru-gel for me. KY gel was a bridge too far for me haha. Mind you my girlfriend at the time was a hairdresser so mucho products around. – James
Yes not fan of gothy look..but as Grace said there was a bit of our own artistry of sorts involved and making your own statement, and a form of playing and experimenting. But yes inner beauty just as important! – Anne
I put makeup on lots of straight boys, but mostly for gigs or videos. The boys often just did the Johnny Thunders eyeliner look. I think a part of it was kind of advertising who you were and what tribe of people you were akin to. You could spot a like-minded soul a mile away in 1970s Scotland. Part of it was shock value, but I always wanted to be the opposite of what people expected me to be, as they were usually judging me on my appearance. My idea of rebellion was to be polite, friendly and well-mannered, plus I wasn’t a drinker and I didn’t smoke. It took me a long time to stop putting kajal on my inner eyelids and dark shadow under my eyes, but it just looks mad when you get older.- Mairi Ross
Going into the ladies at gigs and getting who ever offered to do the eyeliner for me….. I wonder,you may have done (Mairi), it was quite a regular thing,when I was going through my “Peter Perrett” look phase…if only I’d been skinny it might have worked! – Joe
Various carefully brushed on bright eyeshadows, dark eyeliner, bright lipstick and a dark cherry one I found. Usually the cheapest I could afford, like Rimmel and the cherry lipstick was Mary Quant or Biba. Putting it on took ages, wanted it different and striking. Didn’t go for gothic or anything on the face. Just had to stand out! With my short hair and often androgynous clothes even got mistaken for a boy! In the words of one woman who called me ‘son’, “Aye well ye cannae tell these days!”. – Anne
Miss Selfridge..all those sparkly eyeshadow sticks. The Indian kajal eyeliner in a little tin pot applied with a fine paint brush. Boots green hair gel. Food dye for hair. Max Factor bright pink lipstick. – Patricia-Anne
Razzle Dazzle.. stuff of legends.. came in wee glass pots… gold colours and the like… bit like Barry M today – Valerie
I was more of a Siouxsie Sioux era punk. Unfortunately because of the lack of phones there are only one or two photos somewhere, none that I can retrieve!! I used crimpers on my hair and used to stick my hair up with egg white and sugar!! Black kohl was my go to makeup with very artistic cat eyes, the lines of the khol running from mid nose to temple. And the same black kohl on my lips. My style went from ratty holy jeans, monkey boots, and ripped t shirt to seditionary jeans and tops(all with straps and buckles) and boots with countless buckles on them as well. I had a nose piercing to which I hung a chain (I think it had elephants on it) to my ear. I counted myself as a peacock punk, a little young to be there at the beginning, but in my teens still railed against anything that was considered the norm. – Tracii
I didn’t start wearing eyeliner until 1985, so I am excluded. Dunno – the time was right. Always interesting to realise it was no big deal in London, but going back to Bradford contained more questions..! I think i wore make-up very much NOT to be attached to any sort of Youth Culture. Goth – No,. Well, yes, sure. I liked the idea of subverting ‘femininity’ at the time and I was a man with a wide feminine streak etc. – Chris
Kohl eyeliner and red lipstick . X – Radge
For me it was camouflage something to hide behind but I eventually gained my confidence through my punk years and learned I could be an individual and not a follower. It also allowed me to think for myself, too political and many other things too. – Maureen
My name is Mud. I got into Punk in 1978, when I was 14/15 years old. I lived, and still do, in the South West of Scotland. London, the epicentre of Punk may well have been in another galaxy! Apart from Top of the Pops, John Peel on the radio and music papers like Sounds and NME, I lived surrounded by flares, long hair, disco and beigeness. As a skint teenager I “borrowed” make up from my Mum’s Avon collection and saved up for my first Max Factor kohl eyeliner. I was inseparable from my black eyeliner for the next six years ……..My first gig was The Undertones in Glasgow in May 1980. Looking back I dressed more like an extra to “This is England”, skinhead look as I was on my own loving Punk. Skinhead with long fringe, grandad shirt, lightweight combat trousers and monkey boots, I even had a Harrington jacket, no make up apart from brown eyeshadow ℅ Avon and eyeliner. Lots of eyeliner. Krazy colour hair dye. After using, and luckily not losing our hair to Sun In. We wanted to go bright hair by 1982. We could only get it in a shop in Rose St, Edinburgh. No internet back in the day. My style evolved as I attended gigs. Edinburgh was our Mecca and we absorbed what we saw every time we made the trip to the Capital. Saw Dead Kennedys, Crass, Poison Girls, The Fall and Killing Joke at The Nite Club. Exposed to hard anarchic views and culture. My mate and myself discovered Sun In hair lightener. We were aiming for peroxide white – as you’ll see from the photos this didn’t happen. I traveled up on my own to see Siouxsie and the Banshees- style icon. I by then had my leather biker jacket, bondage trousers and mini kilt – thought I looked the part. Black hair back combed, but nothing like the goddess herself. We did a night in Glasgow followed by a night in Edinburgh at Adam and the Ants, circa Kings of the Wild Frontier. Suddenly we were peacocks, but it was fine as Adam had/was a punk. The fun had started and we were members of a new family, well for a couple of months. – Caroline