Punk style has been on everybody’s mind thanks to the illustrious MET exhibition Chaos To Couture, showing in NYC through August 14. Since beauty and fashion go hand in hand, we decided to take a closer look at cosmetic tricks born of ’70s and ’80s youth culture. We were surprised to discover how many everyday household items had been used as makeup back in the day. Before black-light lipsticks and neon eye shadows made their way into drugstores around the globe, adventurous beauties with a penchant for the extreme had to get a little DIY to achieve their looks. And they used everything from office supplies to pantry staples. Check out some of the classic punk makeup techniques we dug up—would you try any of these today?
Today there’s practically an aisle’s worth of products dedicated to getting hair to stand up straight. But a few decades ago, mohawk-minded folk had to be a bit more resourceful to get perfect spikes. The method : backcomb hair, comb it through with everyday white glue—sometimes blended with egg whites or gelatin, and then blow it dry until it turned rock hard. You may think this sounds impossible to wash out. Keep in mind that this was the idea.
With the worlds of fashion and S &M colliding, the idea of pain translated into many iconic looks in the heyday of punk. Some of us remember safety pin piercing as something the out crowd did in high school, but it got its start with London and U.S. punks in the late ’70s. Not only were the everyday household fasteners used to make holes in the ears and face, they were looped through earlobes, nostrils, brows, and cheeks, and worn as metal jewelry. It’s important to remember that today, most safety pins are made from reactive nickel-coated steel, which is not safe for piercing. If a nose ring is your thing, please get pierced professionally.
Tish and Snooky were frontrunners in the world of hair dye when they launched Manic Panic in 1977. But at that time, punks outside of New York City would often resort to other methods for getting high-octane shades. Often, they mixed food coloring into their spiking concoctions and slathered it onto bleached hair to—temporarily—achieve any color on the spectrum. Though Manic Panic and other brands like Jerome Russell quickly pioneered the rainbow hair trend from the ’80s onward, it’s not uncommon today to find young people experimenting with food dyes, powdered drink mixes, and even felt pens as a makeshift way to dye hard.
Would you use a Sharpie on your lids? How about your nails? Though it was never anyone’s go-to makeup choice, permanent marker has been sneaking onto young people’s faces and bodies since it was released in fine tip pen form in 1964. Black nail polish was available through small independent lines back then, but marker remained the easiest way to get an ultra-dark mani fast, for guys and girls alike. Punks in those days also used permanent marker as stark black liner on eyes and beyond—and then slept in it—making us wonder, just how much of that was really makeup? Today the practice of coloring in your nails with Sharpies lives on—a worthy classroom distraction, at least.