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Bondage Trousers

WAG 2005.15.2

Part of

Queer style

About this object

These black cotton bondage trousers are a typical example of the punk style that developed in London in the mid-to-late 1970s. They feature bondage straps and a ‘bum flap’, a feature first included in punk clothing by the designer Vivienne Westwood (born 1941). The former owner of the trousers, Mark Jordan, a regular at Liverpool music venue Eric’s, recalled: ‘I loved my bondage trousers… but I did once get the straps caught in some bus doors, which was pretty uncool at the time!'

Bondage was a favourite theme in punk clothing. Punk clothes often incorporated straps and metal fastenings, studs, leather, rubber and dog collars. This appropriation of bondage is one of the clearest examples of the significant crossover between punk and queer style. The term ‘punk’ was derived from the slang for men who voluntarily offered themselves up as the submissive partner in homosexual acts whilst in prison. Punk borrowed significantly from the glitter rock look pioneered by transsexuals and drag queens in New York and from the bondage fashion associated with specific gay male and lesbian subcultures, most notably the sadomasochist, biker and leather scenes. It is thought that the incorporation of iconic queer styles developed partly because punks often met in lesbian and gay clubs. Such venues were thought to be more open-minded and accepting, and there was a mutual disdain for conventional middle-class suburban, clean living.

By the same token, many young LGBT people who did not fit in with the existing gay scene found a home in the music venues that became associated with punk, like CBGB’s in New York or Eric’s in Liverpool. The Punk era of the 1970s was a time of freedom for many young LGBT people. It enabled them to experiment more openly with fashion that blurred the boundaries of gender, and to challenge what was considered socially acceptable.

This pair of trousers are thought, to have been brought from the iconic BOY boutique in London. BOY was opened in 1976 by the former creator of the fashion label Acme Attractions, Stephane Raynor, on the Kings Road in Chelsea. Like the neighbouring shop, Sex, which was run by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, BOY contributed to the development of the original iconic punk style. It had Doc Marten boots nailed to the walls and the Sex Pistols on the stereo. BOY both borrowed from, and became associated with, queer style. In later years it became a staple brand for gay and queer icons, worn by everyone from Boy George to Andy Warhol, and from Madonna to the Pet Shop Boys.
  • Date
    1979 c
  • Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Materials
    Cotton (canvas)
  • Credit line
    Presented by Mr Mark Jordan, 2005
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Place made
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections
Object view = Decorative Arts
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