As I write this post on a rainy afternoon in April (EDIT- yes, this post was meant to be published April 2016!), I have my earphones firmly stuck in and I am taking a serious nostalgia trip. One of my favourite albums of all time is playing and despite only being at the start of this post, I have already had to stop a couple of times to simply close my eyes and immerse myself in the sound of buzz-saw guitars and a voice that gets under my skin the very second I hear it. As it happens, the Ramones' self-titled debut album turns 40 this month, and my favourite band and the genre of music they helped to create is firmly in the forefront on my mind. Long before I had ever heard about lolita fashion or even met my future husband James, I was in love with punk rock music and in particular the Ramones. The Ramones spoke to me in a way that nobody else could and this little reject had finally felt like she had found a place in the world she could call her own. I can still remember the first time I was hit by the full force of Blitzkrieg Bop as it blasted out of my computer speakers, how I melted as Joey sang I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend and smiling at the bizarre lyrics of Havana Affair. Punk rock will always be a part of my life.
So when I first got in to lolita fashion, you would think that punk lolita would pique my interest. I mean, I listen to punk rock, so surely punk lolita is a dream come true for me? It was a way I could combine 2 of my favourite things. Well, the truth is that the idea of punk lolita has never been an idea I have been comfortable with. On the day the Ramones' debut album turns 40 I will be in London with Sammi and Shalisa, wearing lolita and not really doing anything remotely 'punk rock'. I guess because this trip to London falls on this anniversary, the idea of punk and punk lolita have been playing on my mind a lot lately.
To put it simply, I just don't feel that the whole ethos behind lolita and punk really combine that well. If you look at the punk lifestyle of the late 1970's and then compare it to the 'rules' of lolita fashion, there is a conflict of ideas. Although the 'rules' of lolita are more like a set of guidelines, I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of lolitas do follow these same rules. When you look at a lolita outfit, most of the skin is covered. Despite the clothing being very flamboyant at times, a big ideal of lolita fashion is to appear modest. I appreciate that the idea of the lifestyle lolita is not as popular nowadays as it was when I first got in to the fashion in 2009, but I still feel there is this sort of lolita 'attitude' I guess you could call it. We all have an idea of what a lolita should look like and how we behave when we are dresses up. A typical lolita meet would be a trip to a fancy tea place or a picnic. Whilst there are some more 'out there' meets which get a bit more inventive, the majority of meets probably still fit in to the old lifestyle ideals in some way or another.
Let's now have a think about how the punk scene, and in particular the fashion, grew from its early roots. Right from the start the Ramones had their 'uniform' of a leather jacket, keds and tattered jeans which were full of holes. They were constantly booed, had bottles chucked at them and had a bad reputation. Johnny Rotten was apparently nervous to meet the Ramones when they came to the UK. As the scene spread to the UK, the fashion developed more and the Sex Pistols sort of became the poster boys of the punk scene. Ripped clothes, swastikas, leather jackets and loads of safety pins. What I loved about the punk fashion was that even though the likes of Vivienne Westwood were popular in the scene, it was still possible to join in. There was a lot of DIY going on and even hand-me-downs were prevalent. The fashion was as controversial as the music. It shocked people and was considered offensive by many.
Although lolita fashion stands out just like the early punks did, I think the fashions stand out in very different ways. Lolita is colourful, puffy and full of frills, but could you ever really call it offensive? Even when you look at punk lolita, I don't think many people would call it obscene.
Although lolita fashion has been around since the 80's, the look that we associate with modern day lolita really only started to properly develop in the early 2000's. Incidentally, it was around this time that pop-punk was having a bit of a moment in the charts. Musicians like Avril Lavigne (I hate Avril so much, but that is a long story...) burst in to the music industry with guitar-led pop songs and a distinct look that involved a lot of tartan and ties. This look was being touted as punk rock, only this time around it was a lot less offensive and was marketed in a more cutesy way. Lots of teenagers raided Hot Topic to get the Avril look. The tartan was back, but this time there were ruffly skirts. You could now buy tops with holes pre-ripped in them, but a lot of the time there was fabric underneath to stop skin from showing. Skulls were a popular theme, but this time the eye sockets were heart shaped and the skulls wore bows. To be frank, it was not the same punk from the 1970's.
And I feel it is from this new wave of watered down punk fashion, that punk lolita was truly born from. It is worth noting that Avril Lavigne was very popular in Japan. Punk lolita typically features a lot of tartan, maybe with the odd band t-shirt thrown in, and even then some complain about the use of plain t-shirts instead of cutsews. You may get the odd safety pin, but a lot of the accessories are not that different from other sub-styles of lolita. And I think this is what puts me off attempting punk lolita. It is not the style of punk that I fell in love with. It lacks the 'rough edges' and the rawness I feel when I listen to my favourite bands. The trouble is, I feel that if one were to do a punk lolita outfit based on the ideals of the 1970's fashion, it would be shouted down as being ita.
Maybe my issue is not with the idea of punk lolita itself, but with the name. Punk is a very specific genre of music, with a very well-known look, and punk lolita is not what I picture when I think of that music. Perhaps a slightly more generic name like "Rock Lolita" would be more suitable? Despite this being a topic I feel quite passionate about, I really struggled with writing this post. I don't wish to come across as some sort of prude who feel lolitas have to act in a certain way! But I think it is safe to say that lolita does have specific guidelines and these guidelines are sometimes at odds with the old school punk ideals. I love punk and I love lolita fashion but I am happy to keep them separate from each other, and that is just how I choose to go about my personal life choices. If you choose to wear punk lolita, I am not going to judge you for it!