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Unisex bondage shirt

WAG 2005.15.4

About this object

This black muslin and denim bondage shirt was bought in 1979 from ‘Close Encounters’ in Liverpool. It was owned by the Liverpool music venue, Eric’s, regular, Mark Jordan. It features d-rings and dog-clips on the sleeves. These were a regular feature of the unique punk fashions that originated in London in the 1970s. The designer of the shirt is unknown.

Vivienne Westwood (born 1941) and Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010) are often credited with introducing elements of bondage and fetish clothes into punk styling. They used imagery and accessories associated with sexual deviance to challenge the narrow-mindedness of English society and to test the limits of freedom of expression. They drew inspiration for the clothes they would sell in their boutique from the appropriation of queer style in the New York punk scene. There, groups such as the New York Dolls mimicked the combination of glamour and trash made famous by the drag queen Jackie Curtis (1947-85) and the transsexual actress, Candy Darling (1944-74). In developing the iconic look now associated with English punk, Westwood and McLaren also drew upon another queer subculture – the leather scene – with its masochistic edge and fetish styling.

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. 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.
  • Date
  • Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Materials
    Cotton (Muslin)
  • 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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