My sister is amazing. We’re the only two children in our extended family, and have 8 years between us. As she gets older and wiser, we’re getting closer and building up our adult relationship.
We are about as different as two siblings can be. In school, I was an enormous nerd; I wore glasses, had wavy, frizzy hair, was chubby and awkward (not like Zooey Deschanel awkward, like Amy Schumer awkward).
I played in marching band, and was on backstage crew in theater. NERD. College gave me punk rock, and I haven’t looked back since.
My sister was nominated for homecoming princess, captain of her soccer team, with naturally straight hair. She played basketball, volleyball and powderpuff football. She made t-shirts with her friends and took selfies that looked professional. She’s also smart as shit and is studying to be an engineer now.
So it took me by surprise when she texted me to let me know she wants to be a punk now.
After I recovered from my laughing fit, I started thinking about how one becomes a punk. If you’re past the age of 15, it becomes more difficult to get into the culture, into the scene. I still wince thinking about my naiveté calling garbage pop punk and post-hardcore records “punk.” Oops.
It’s the little things, you know? Like the time a punker told me I had “all the right bands” on my computer. I was 18, this was a big deal. Or the party where my idol put on And Out Come the Wolves and I could sing along with everyone else. Or a bouncer seeing my Black Flag tattoo and saying something about it. Poser moments? Maybe. But they were a part of my punk evolution.
The best advice I ever got was from a friend of mine who we nicknamed “Scary Eyebrows.” They were incredible, they stuck straight out like Einstein’s hair. Anyway, he told me punk was all about doing whatever the fuck you wanted and not caring if anyone liked it. That’s still the philosophy I try to live by.
So, if you want to be a punk, start with your education. Read all the books you can about the birth of the music. Watch documentaries. Talk about them with your friends. Get comfortable with the politics and divides.
Go to shows. Like, all the shows you can. Especially local shows. Punks support each other and support the local scene. Try to avoid major label bands if at all possible. Buy merch and music directly from the bands – that’s how they make their money, not by the cut from iTunes sales.
Listen to punk. Obvious, but important. Get familiar with the nuances, the different genres and styles. Peruse the classics and figure out what you like and don’t like. Are you a fan of gang vocals and rage? Maybe hardcore punk is your shit. Do you enjoy skanking around and bouncing with friends? Try out some third wave ska. Are bagpipes and fiddles your cue to party? Perhaps some Celtic or eastern European punk bands would tickle your fancy. Do you hate the establishment? Start with crust punk and crack rock steady, then work your way into 1990s hardcore.
Keep up on the news. Read DyingScene.com and Profane Existence. Skim through Maximum Rockandroll. Keep informed about your town’s scene. Read some zines and stuff created by your peers and compatriots.
Do the jobs that fit with your values, that honor DIY ethic, that contribute to the community. Be nice to people. Pick people up that fall down.
Most importantly, dress however the fuck you want. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go shopping at Hot Topic. You can’t buy your way into punk. Do It Yourself is the guiding principle here. Tear up your own t-shirts, sew your own patches, stud your own vests, paint your own leathers.
I guess that’s where my advice ends. Any additional advice is more than welcome in the comments!