It’s become rather in vogue to be into BDSM or at least appear to be kinky. Young women don fashion collars without engaging in D/s activities. The jewelry has no deep meaning when worn per se as it is merely a taboo accessory. Maybe it shows identification as being alternative or edgy but the original meaning is not there. That said, bondage gear, leather, and occasional rubber were always icons of punk fashion since the beginning-- at least in the London scene.
The early punk movement in the UK appropriated BDSM aesthetics and turned it into iconic counterculture fashion by making kink lifestyle more accessible to the mainstream via prêt-à-porter.
BDSM’s influence on punk fashion had its birth in the 1970s with Vivienne Westwood’s store SEX, later called Seditionaries. Vivienne, and her iconic scantily clad clerk Jordan, helped dress the earliest punks. They in essence laid the foundation for punk aesthetic. She took BDSM aesthetics from the underground and to the public in a very loud way. This volume was turned to 11 when the Sex Pistols adopted her shop’s image as their own, thus inflicting bondage pants et al with brut force upon the eyes of an erstwhile more innocent world.
Youth culture appropriating superficial fashion aspects of alternative movements without adopting the deeper meaning is nothing new. It seems to me that a lot of the inspired aesthetics and cultural appropriation find their original homes and meaning in homosexual movements such as post-WWII biker clubs and leathermen culture. This is obvious if you think about the many meanings of the iconic black leather jacket in our culture.
I do not judge anyone for their love of the aesthetic of BDSM and motorcycle cultures without engaging in either. It is a regular occurrence for hip youths to wear leather jackets but not ride a motorcycle.
Fashion is fashion and for some, fashion can be a foray into exploring a deeper meaning and possibly a new lifestyle. If these movements that were appropriated and incorporated into fashion did not look cool, they would not have attracted followers or had the impact that they did. I am a firm believer in the importance of aesthetics.
I came up in the Lower East Side punk scene. I did not stay interested in punk only because of the fashion but it definitely was the first aspect of it that caught my attention and drew me in. Fortunately there was depth and meaning beyond outside appearances. As a teen I resonated with the noise of punk due to the aggression and angst. Beyond the visceral hook of the sound was the message in the music. By that point, punk had turned more political than the lyrics of the early 70s and it was that message that captivated me and kept me enamored to this day. But trust me, seeing punks who looked cool decked out in leather jackets and bondage gear on St. Mark’s Place definitely piqued my interest-- the fashion was my first impression and it left a good one!
Quickly finding a home during my first punk show, I very soon became a part of the community. Part of joining was adopting the aesthetic. We could find each other easily and stick together based on subtle and not so subtle fashion cues. From the long hair of the hippies to the hanky code these types of signals can show membership of a certain movement or send a direct message. Fashion is important, holds weight, and has meaning as it solidifies communities and controls first impressions.
New York’s early punk scene had a different vibe than London’s chaos, less flamboyant than the Sex Pistols, but still as iconic were their New York contemporaries, the Ramones. You can’t imagine the Ramones without their leather jackets. Their leather jackets gave them a uniform and identity—the jackets made them look like a gang.
Growing up, my leather jacket was not only my armor but, like the Ramones, was part of my identity. I can’t imagine myself without a leather jacket. To this day, I still wear a leather jacket that is distinctly mine and iconic to all who know me. It is broken in; supple to the touch, and perfectly form-fitting. It is sexy but tough and completes any outfit I wear.
I love biker gear. I have a penchant for motorcycle boots and I often pair these with leather miniskirts or pants. And yes, I started wearing the boots and jacket before I mounted my first motorcycle. The underground has always drawn me in first through fashion but then deeper as the alternative lifestyle enveloped me in an alternate universe.
I credit the punk scene mixed with the Lower East Side's still radical culture for influencing me to have a more open mind regarding sexual practices.
This eventually removed the stigma impressed on me by society regarding sex work and enabled me to explore this career with less shame and more pride. My path to becoming the dominatrix kink provider I am today would not have been possible without my immersion in punk.
I am a strong woman and being in a community that supports strong women encouraged this. And to bring it back to fashion, I must say, leather enhances this strength. My power comes from within but leather is a perfect showcase. Being born a sensualist and always obsessed with the way things feel against my skin, leather has been a favorite. I prefer soft leathers that still have weight when worn. I like to be able to easily move in my leathers, even if that privilege has to be earned by breaking them in. I’ve always been drawn to materials that feel supersensual or beyond the range of the senses. Leather for me is spiritual and very much tied into my identity.
I do not only prefer to wear leather but I favor leather instruments. My personal leather tools, such as my flogger, whip, and crop hold energy within them and have a spirit of their own. My leather objects are sacred to me-- I treat my leather jacket and my kink instruments with the utmost care. They are the holders of intense memories and carry the impact of the moments. I was wearing my iconic leather jacket when I was hit on my motorcycle this past summer. It bears the scars of the accident with a road burn all over its left sleeve. That second skin saved my arm. It also holds a memory.
I feel sexy with leather as my second skin just as I feel sexy with my whip as an extension of my arm, a part of me. Leather is strong but sexy, tough but soft--sound like someone you know? Not all my leather rituals involve pain, or even submission, but they always involve me being worshiped and reveling in my power.
I recently discovered leather underwear that met my high standard for quality, softness, and aesthetics. Here are some photos of a favorite leather dress paired perfectly with vintage Agent Provocateur leather gloves. AP used to be a bit more edgy when they first started but still include items to this this day that nod to kink such as designer bondage gear and the like. They are definitely one of my favorite lingerie brands due to this. Also, it’s a little known fact that Vivienne Westwood’s son started Agent Provocateur—but now you know.
It all comes full circle, doesn’t it? From punk to your favorite provider’s racy knickers…it all has roots in BDSM.