I was thinking about punk fashion after discovering some old patches that I made almost 20 years ago. This was before you could jump online and order a bunch of patches and shirts with your PayPal number and have your gear arrive in no time. The local skate shop occasionally had a few good shirts (3 of which I still own and can barely fit into), but most of the time there was nothing and maybe a catalog from Electric Chair was floating around so people could order a shirt or some boots since there really wasn’t too much of that stuff in the town I grew up in then.
You could easily buy a leather jacket though. A boring, plain black piece of slaughtered cow flesh with zippers and a buckle. I bought mine with the proceeds of my first paycheck and started plotting how I was going to decorate it. My first and best advice when painting a leather jacket (Do kids even wear them anymore? If not, they will), is to use acrylic paint. Don’t use anything with enamel that can harden and flake off prematurely. You can also use a very small amount of water to thin out the viscosity of your paint. A dry brush is good for designs that need some dimensional rendering. After painting my own, I eventually ended up getting a reputation as someone who’d nicely paint your jacket for a few bucks. My final version has a Crucifix back with Chaos UK, Final Conflict, Nausea, Discharge, Antischism, Assuck, and Conflict song lyrics to round out the dorsal area. I’ve painted countless skulls on others’ jackets and more phrases and slogans than I can remember. I was particularly proud of a Rudimentary Peni motif, and did a bunch of things from all over the place: Rancid, Varukers, Urge Overkill, Sisters of Mercy, CRASS, The Residents, Corrosion of Conformity, and others. Attach a thousand spikes and badges and all is complete.
Once leather seemed to fall out of fashion, for me anyway, I ditched it for fabric. My regimented animal activism helped that along. At the time, it wasn’t really a notion to get a silkscreen setup and produce shirts, patches, record covers and stickers. Since I had the artistic ability and time on my hands, I made my own custom patches. You can do this by getting some decent thickness fabric and smoothing a layer of acrylic paint onto it with a window film squeegee. Let it dry and it’s like painting on…leather. You can also use this technique if you want stiff, armored arms, lapels or cuffs – which also helps in attaching your spikes n’ screws and keeping them on. A cool effect is to lay down a black layer onto an olive green or grey background leaving a quarter-to-half inch of the fabric exposed. Eventually it will fray and look crusty as hell. I hand-painted Nausea, Resist and Subvert backpatches. I eventually added color. I did a 3 or 4 color Sedition patch, a blue grey and black Venom patch, 3-color Filth backpatch and a ton of logos for Amebix, Excrement of War, Antisect, Conflict, Doom, Icons of Filth, Neurosis, etc. That stuff was fun.
Then of course there was the t-shirt. It has always been a popular billboard of expression and probably will be that way forever. I eventually learned how to screen my own shirts by stretching screenprint material over the build-yourself wooden frame parts you can get at an art supply store for a fraction of what you’d pay for real screens. Ironically, I was working at a screenprinting facility at the time that was producing 20-foot wide screens for signage which helped me not even in the slightest degree. I did punk shirts the old-fashioned way, and just used dark permanent markers on light colored t-shirts. I think they came out pretty well with a few 2-color Citizen’s Arrest, Antischism, Downcast and Discharge shirts. I also put together a nice Contropotere-style shirt black on red.
I like just plain black t-shirts and jackets now. Go figure.