Posted on Leave a comment

Swastika in Fashion subculture

Wearing of swastikas proliferated as people made aware of Punk rock by the Grundy incident  became punks adopting and adapting emblems and dress from the first wave of fans including swastikas. We can’t vouch for the political beliefs of these people but as people came to view the emerging far right National Front as a threat and more publicity was given to it in the rock weeklies, the swastikas disappeared.It was a very small part of Punk, and for a very short time. They were just kids. When you are at school what’s the most rebellious thing you could draw on your book? Exactly. A swastika.  Don Letts Punk 77 Interview 2005
Sounds 25.3.78Only punk could wear the swastika and detach its meaning from Nazism while attempting to shock. “That’s what I thought, if punks could wear it ,and we were trying to look decadent and imperfect that should piss every body off, including Nazis. I always thought that if gays had adopted the pink swastika instead of the pink triangle that would have said it all. We just wore swastikas coz we thought they looked cool. We weren’t Nazis nor did we have any political views at all. We had no problem with Jews, Pakistanis, gays or any one else we just hated every one who wore lived in the straight world. None of us fitted in anywhere and that’s the way I liked it. Sorry to go on about this but people loved to misunderstand it, even now especially skinheads who were just naff straights anyway, keeping England white. Who cares? Let the fucking shithole sink into the sea I thought at the time. I still do.”
Marco Pirroni Punk 77 Interview 2002
However as punk proclaimed itself working class and ever more populist the more distinctly right wing skinheads became attracted to punks superficial violence and far right symbols. They latched onto bands like Sham 69 and the Lurkers often disrupting punk gigs sieg heiling and causing fights. Here the swastikas and far right symbolism was for real and they thought punk rock could be an ideal recruiting ground. However they thought wrong as the astutely mobilised anti fascist forces of Rock Against Racism and the Anti Nazi League outmanoeuvred the far right in the quest for converts.What happened In the late seventies/ eighties as punk fractured into a myriad of forms such as anarcho and oi the latter became associated with more nationalistic but not necessarily racist tendencies is not the concern of this site.So for UK punk rock 1976-79 we can conclude that. misguided, stupid whatever. “No one wore the swastika as a political statement. It was an attempt to shock, just like the gay t shirts. Shock was the order of the day, and wrong as it may seem, it did just that”.
Nils Stevenson. Punk the Book. Colgrave & Coleman
I’ll finish off with a quote from Hebdiger’s Subculture : The meaning of Style ” We must resort, then, to the most obvious of explanations – that the swastika was worn because it was guaranteed to shock…The signifier (swastika) had been willfully detached from the concept (Nazism) it conventionally signified and placed in an alternative context ( ie punk music)…it was exploited for an empty effect.” 
Clockwise – Captain Sensible, Poly Styrene and friends, National Front at Sham 69 gig.

exert taken from punk 77 website

Leave a Reply