Thomas Osborn and Philip Downing give us an insight into hair inspiration from the punk era.

What comes to your mind if someone asks you to describe Punk and do you know its origins? Without a doubt, probably the most anti-establishment trend in the last 100 years, its true birth can be traced back to the late 1960s when ‘Protopunk music’ emerged in North East USA as a garage rock revival. Move forwards to the mid 70s and the first distinct Punk music appeared in New York City and around the same time the London Punk scene was born.


Without a doubt, Punk music and culture have had a long-lasting effect on subsequent fashion and hair trends and is often referenced by our own TIGI Creative Team. As John Lydon, lead singer of the British Punk band, the Sex Pistols, explained, “The message was supposed to be – Don’t follow us, do what you want.” It perfectly encapsulates the unique, rebellious attitude and DIY approach that Bed Head has always championed.

To see how Punk has influenced and inspired imagery and creativity, we spoke to TIGI Creative Directors, Thomas Osborn and Philip Downing.

Fuse: When did Punk first influence you?

THOMAS: The starting point for me personally was at a very early age. I was about 10 or 11 years old, around the end of 1979. I remember my best friend’s older brother blasting a Sex Pistols record in his room at full volume. We weren’t allowed in his room, but I remember distinctly sitting outside the door and hearing this sound I’d never heard before and being absolutely gripped by it. As his brother leftI recall us sneaking into his room and going through his record collection. This opened up a whole new world of sound I identified with straight away. I remember going to the record shop that weekend and blowing all the money I had on my new obsession. I bought four recordsNever Mind The Bollocks by the Sex PistolsLondon Calling by The Clash, The Ramones self-titled album, and Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables by the Dead Kennedys. That was it Everything changed after that. My friends and I all started dressing different, ripping our clothes, safety pinning everything, writing on our clothes, piercing our ears, doing crazy shit with our hair, link styling Mohawks, colouring our hair with Manic PanicOur whole attitude changed. I think at that point, it was all about gobbling up whatever was new, and so much came out over the next couple of years. It really exploded and, ultimately, evolved into the more hardcore scene with bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks… the list goes on and on!   

I think it was the whole spirit of self-expression and individuality. The attitude was “F*** you!

Thomas Osborn

PHILIP: For me, it was the fashion before the music. I was born in 1986, so unfortunately, I missed the initial Punk years. It was the strong, rebellious hairstyles and wardrobe that intrigued me, especially at 16 when I first got into hair. Then if I’m honest, it was Shane Meadows’s film and his subsequent series: ‘This Is England’ that really shone a light on how rebellious and anarchic Punk could be. From a music perspective, I’ve been really into the Punk since moving to NYC. Thomas and I have this unspoken rule: he shows me music from the past, and I show him new music. It serves us both well!

Although I remember The Clash playing a lot in my childhood, I never understood it. But now, as an adult, the scene makes so much more sense. I think you can be born after a movement or a specific period in time, but still respect it retrospectively.

Fuse: In New York, Punk developed its own distinctive movement, which was conceptual, urbane and controversial, centred on Andy Warhol’s Factory and blending art, music, style and attitude. It shook the world at the time and continues to influence the world to this day. So how has this influenced you over the years and even today?

THOMAS: I think it was the whole spirit of self-expression and individuality. The attitude was “F*** you!”. Punk was an irrepressible attitude, a youth movement that rocked the status quo beyond the imagination of any previous generation and was a time of intense personal creativity. When I think back to the early roots of when it all began in 1974 with Andy Warhol’s Factory and bands like The Velvet Underground, it was a changing tide that evolved into a much more intense anti-authority, anti-establishment movement. With the early Punk influencers such as the MC5, the Stooges, Patti Smith, New York Dolls, even Blondie, the sound wasn’t as “in your face” as the later bands, but the influence they had was massive and changed everything.

When Malcolm McLaren brought that influence back to London in ’75 and opened ‘SEX’ with Vivienne Westwood, the influence was pushed even further and inspired bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Generation X and The Damned. I think everything from that time still greatly influences us in everything we do, and the inspiration and influence is in everything: hair, makeup, fashion, music, it was truly an inspiring time in history.


PHILIP: I genuinely believe TIGI, and Bed Head is inspired by Punk. Tattoos, piercings, outlandish hair all became more widely accepted because of Punk. Who knows what would or wouldn’t have been acceptable if movements such as Punk hadn’t happened? It inspires me every day. Mfavourite hair to do as a stylist comes from that period, but now we can mute it down with colouand wardrobe choices. ‘Muted Punk has a commercial appeal, as its less aggressive, but still fun to do. 

Fuse: Who are your Punk icons?

THOMAS: Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), The ClashPatti Smith, Joan Jett, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, The HeartbreakersJoey Ramone, The New York Dolls   

PHILIP:  Debbie Harry, Mick Jones, Patti Smith, Joey Ramone. 

Fuse: How did their particular hair styles inspire you?

THOMAS: For me, it was all about the texture: unkempt, raw and unpolished, for hair and individual style. There was looseness to the texture that still resonates today.   

Fuse: What would you say are the main differences between the development of Punk in the USA and England?

THOMAS: Though the attitude was very similar, I think the style in both clothing and music was slightly different. The US punk scene seemed to evolve into a more aggressive style. The sound became a lot harder and faster too, but again, it was still all about teenage angst. I think the influences kept going back and forth between the US and UK as it evolved.

PHILIP: I see Punk as being more aggressive and anarchic in England, because it became more than just about music and fashion sense growing into a demonstration of ill feeling towards the government and authorities of that period. Punk became the voice of discontented youth.

Fuse: Everyone knows Vivienne Westwood is a favourite designer of TIGI, but how has she inspired you?

THOMAS: For me, her shop SEX that she opened with McLaren in ’74 really defined the style of punk. She was dressing them all. When you look back at the images from those days, I still find loads of inspiration in them. They are as fresh today as they were then. I think so much inspiration and influence is still pulled from that time across so many platforms – music, fashion, hair, and makeup. It was just such a rich time for creativity.   

PHILIP: I always remember seeing Vivienne’s bright red hair while I was working at the Academy in Battersea, London. Her studio is right across the road so I would always look out for her. Vivienne’s work was really the first inspirational clothing for me as a young teenager, though of courselike for most peopleit was WAY out of my price range at the age of 17/18. But there was a glorious side in her clothing and design that still link and represented the PUNK erathe cut, colours and quality always stood out, and still do today. For me, Vivienne made Punk feminine, and continues to do so, with everything she designs. 

Fuse: Customisation (especially with safety pins) was an element of Punk that has morphed over the years. How important do you think these kinds of concepts have had on fashion and hair to this day?

THOMAS: You cannot deny the importance of the influences from that time. Concepts such as individuality and DIY evolved for the first time. Some of the best ideas come out of people approaching things with their own individual taste in mind, not really understanding how to achieve it technically and approaching it more visually with feeling rather than technique. That’s definitely evolved from the Punk era.

PHILIP: I think customisation is really important. We’re seeing it in all walks of life today. We customise our hair products, coffee in the mornings and our sneakers! Today, many brands are really pushing this because it’s apparent people want to feel like individuals, even if it’s just down to the smallest detail. For example, I think there are fine lines and margins with hair accessories. On the one hand they can be really pretty, almost ceremonial but, on the other end of the spectrum, applying hair pieces and jewellery into braids and knots can really add to the festival-tribal element of hairstyling.

Fuse: Many fashion designers went on to take elements of the early Punk concept adapting them to their own designs. What key Punk elements do you find inspirational?

THOMAS: DIY, in everything from hardware to graffiti. And the elements of customisation and individualism in clothes as well as hair. Beyond Westwood and Gaultier, you see this influence coming through and inspiring the likes of designers from Galliano to McQueen, Comme Des Garcons, Dior, and Balmain, to name only a few!

PHILIP: For me it’s about patchwork, layers, clashing textures and colours, all of which are key elements when I think of Punk fashion. Plus, thick industrious footwear… and an absolute TON of hair products!

For me, Vivienne Westwood made Punk feminine, and continues to do so, with everything she designs.

Philip Downing

Fuse: So, let’s talk about hair. How have the different elements of Punk hair inspired you over the years? And how are you using these references today?

THOMAS: I think the biggest influence for me is the element of hair that’s undone and slightly raw; much less polished. There’s also something in the way people approach doing their own hair; that element of DIY. This is something I imagine happening right now! Many people have been sat at home, unable to get to their hairdresser, so they take matters into their own hands.

Also, there’s this natural transition that happens when Mohawks begin to grow out, almost taking a natural progression into a Mullet or even an Undercut.

PHILIP: Debbie Harry is ALWAYS a hair inspiration for me, and it shows in the work I like to put out, though it’s a tamer version of punk. Mohawks and extreme graphic shapes are what stick out most when you say ‘Punk’. Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious had great hair, as did bands such as the Clash and the Ramones. These Punk looks are still achievable and commercial today when created on the right person. Punk hair is simply my favourite look to create. With texture, shape and lots of products, these styles are amazing to do and more often than not, the subject wearing these looks is outlandish and confident, which is also always a great recipe for creative work!

Fuse: So, what are your ultimate Punk hairstyles? And how can you use elements from these looks today?

THOMAS: How would I use elements of these looks today? Loads of ways! Mohawk, Skinhead or shaved heads, Chelsea cut, charged hair, spiked hair, hair that’s cropped and deliberately made to look messy – it all comes from Punk! As for colour, bleached hair and bright colours are also still very relevant. I think all those subcultures that influenced Punk, from glam rock, skinheads and Rude Boys to Greasers and Mods all influenced the hair and fashion of the Punk era and continues today. 

PHILIP: My favourite Punk hairstyle would have to be the Mohawk, particularly the loose and careless ones. Of course, the ‘wood-glue’ extreme ones were a real statement maker and, let’s be honest, it also showed us Punks must have had a lot of patience! Ultimately the DIY feeling of the hair of that time is what I really enjoy. The randomness and textures looked really cool and individual. No matter what you think of Punks, you have to give them credit for wearing their hair as an accessory! 

Catch Thomas and Philip in one of our upcoming virtual education classes.  Find out more information and register you place HERE.

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