37 pictures showing what punk Britain was really like

From the late 70s, punk fashions and attitude spread agitation round the nation.

Oliver Lunn
Updated:

1. A pre-Pogues Shane MacGowan takes his pet sheep for a stroll outside Buckingham Palace. As you do.

The Punk Kebab Documentary (1977)

2. Maniacs frontman Alan Lee Shaw screams ‘I Don’t Wanna Go to Work’… in a suit fit for a job interview.

The Punk Kebab Documentary (1977)

3. On the King’s Road, pasty-faced punks read the New Musical Express outside a launderette.

The Punk Kebab Documentary (1977)

4. In 1977 punk school kids were the most creative school kids. Especially when it came to accessorising their school uniform.

The Punk Kebab Documentary (1977)

5. RIP punk, 1974-78?

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

6. Vivienne Westwood’s world-famous ‘Sex’ boutique, originally called ‘Let It Rock’, located at 430 King’s Road, housed the wardrobe that defined the movement. This was the place where every self-respecting punk got kitted out.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

7. A dog collar can really tie your punk look together, as this girl proves.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

8. Of course, shiny black boots can help too.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

9. In 1978 punks marched down the King’s Road – as frequent as London’s iconic red buses.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

10. And they were gonna get your attention one way or the other.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

11. Face paint was one way.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

12. Tattoos were another. Some could be hidden from parents and prospective employers. This is not one of those tattoos.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

13. Three punk girls wait for a bus in Chelsea. No iPhones to pass the time, just a playful punk attitude.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

14. Here’s proof that mohawks weren’t the only eye-popping hairdo back then.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

15. FYI: ‘Oh bondage up yours’ isn’t a totally arbitrary punk statement to scrawl on your clean white shirt. It’s an X-Ray Spex song.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

16. Punk fashion never considered what was practical. Tripping over your elaborate threads and chains was just something that came with looking the part.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

17. For Chelsea’s punks, there wasn’t much to do but monkey around.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

18. A punk reveals a tattoo on his knee that’s 100% emo – before emo was born.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

19. Kitsch-22, just off the top of New Bond Street, was another punk hangout with outlandish garms.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

20. So now you know where Keith Flint from The Prodigy got his hairdo.

Death Is Their Destiny (1978)

21. This is what a lighting guy at a UK Subs show looks like.

Punk Can Take It (1979)

22. Enter the stage, UK Subs.

Punk Can Take It (1979)

23. Pogoing is arguably, to this day, the sweatiest ‘dance’ there is.

Punk Can Take It (1979)

24. Patriotic punks snooze on the London underground.

Punk Can Take It (1979)

25. A leather jacket emblazoned with the words ‘God wanks in mysterious ways’ leaves a woman bewildered.

Punk Can Take It (1979)

26. Puckish punks on the Southbank destroy a statue of Johnny Rotten. Is this the death of punk? Again??

Punk Can Take It (1979)

27. The Old Bill look on as this curious new breed of teenager passes by.

Don’t Dream It – See It (1978)

28. At a squat in King’s Cross a girl scrawls ‘WEST LONDON’ on a wall – because west London was cool back then. How times change.

We’re No Angels (1979)

29. By 1979 Vivienne Westwood’s boutique had changed names again. It was now Seditionaries, but it was still the beating heart of London’s punk scene.

We’re No Angels (1979)

30. Another squat, another punk with bucket loads of charisma.

Shellshock Rock (1979)

31. Rudi sing their punk anthem ‘Big Time’ in 1980.

Shellshock Rock (1979)

32. A punk sifts through vinyl in the legendary record store Good Vibrations, in Northern Ireland. Hey, remember record stores?

Shellshock Rock (1979)

33. Three girls, a bottle of vodka, and a pack of fags. Just another night in a London squat.

Squatparty (1981)

34. The punk and the priest. An unlikely friendship at a time when punk was grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Squatparty (1981)

35. The best mohawk in London in 1981?

Squatparty (1981)

36. In Peterborough, young punks kill boredom in the street.

Squatparty (1981)

37. A local Peterborough punk decides the best place to be interviewed is in front of a church. Naturally.

Squatparty (1981)

Images 1-4: The Punk Kebab Documentary (1977)
Images 5-20: Death Is Their Destiny (1978)
Images 21-26: Punk Can Take It (1979)
Image 27: Don’t Dream It – See It (1978)
Images 28-29: We’re No Angels (1979)
Images 30-32: Shellshock Rock (1979)
Images 33-37: Squatparty (1981)

The film and stills on this page are taken from Britain on Film, a digital archive of UK places that mean the world to you. 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to now will be digitised and can be watched for free on BFI Player.

Britain on Film is funded by the National Lottery funding and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

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  • Britain on Film

    Britain on Film

    1,000s of films, beautifully preserved. 120 years of British life, unseen until now.

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