7 junio, 2024

Punks (Urban Tribe): History, Characteristics and Ideology

The punks or punketos are an urban tribe or subculture whose philosophy focuses on a rebellious and defiant attitude before a system that they consider oppressive. The term punk is associated with a derogatory meaning: it is an English word that is linked to qualifiers such as «garbage» or «despicable person».

This urban tribe showed in its beginnings a feeling of hopelessness, as a consequence of a society that, according to them, was based on conventions whose function was to control, especially the young.

This hopelessness was reflected in an attitude of protest, with a certain tendency towards violence and aggressiveness, which made fun of the predetermined order and went against the conception of power exercised by men towards men.

After that approach of despair typical of the beginnings of punk as a subculture, another more active approach emerged, which promotes the generation of social changes through protest and rebellion.


history of punks

Punk as a subculture emerged at the end of the 70s, in London, England. This urban tribe has a beginning closely linked to music.

“Punk” is an English term with a derogatory meaning that is associated with “trash” and “scum” or “lazy”, “despicable”. The tribe itself boasts of the name, using it ironically.

The precursors of this social movement considered that the rock of the time had lost its rebellious essence, and was part of the cultural elements to oppress young people culturally and socially.

From this notion, the so-called punks, or punketos, began to make fun of that submissive culture, and the first great urban tribe after hippies was generated, in the post-war historical context.

punk ideology

The punks, like any urban tribe, show themselves against the cultural conventions established in society. Detractors of the system and of the institutions in charge of social control are defined, so it is common for them to present hostile attitudes towards police agencies and government entities.

By using it as their own label, “punkies” (or “punks”) stand out from the adaptation to social roles and stereotypes. Due to the nature of this meaning, punk has often been associated with attitudes of personal neglect, it has been used as a means of expressing feelings of discomfort and hatred, and it has also given rise to behaviors neurotics or self-destructive.


The punks identify with anarchism, a political philosophy that supports the elimination of the forms of power of man and promotes a non-hierarchical relationship between people. Due to this ignorance of the institutions, because they are tools to exercise social control, punks are interested in defending the individual rights of citizens.


Their ideology goes against everything they consider to be a control mechanism, which is why they also reject consumerism, and are in favor of critical thinking; they seek to avoid the influence of power factors in society.

Ecology and defense of animals

These are two of the newest interests within the ideologies of this subculture. They are no strangers to the environmental problems promoted by neoliberalism and uncontrolled consumption.

In turn, they defend animal rights, a vision that they have defended since the 80s. Currently, a high percentage of punks consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.


Religion, by establishing hierarchical orders and submission to a superior entity, is usually a reason for rejection among punks. They consider religions hypocritical and totally deny God.


Punks also promote equal rights, between men and women, and between people in general, regardless of their social status or race.

Characteristics of punks

There are interesting characteristics of punks, beyond the most obvious physical peculiarities. Next, 4 of the most relevant characteristics of punks will be described:

extravagant appearance

One of the most outstanding elements of punks is that they usually style their hair forming a large crest in the center of their heads. Commonly, this crest is painted in bright colors, such as fuchsia, purple, green or orange, among others.

As mentioned above, punks emerge as a mockery of convention, and the outlandish appearance responds to that conception.

Punks also often wear piercings and tattoos, which can carry messages of dissatisfaction and against the system.

In turn, the eyeliner (usually black) is a basic within the characteristics of this tribe.

dark clothing

Black is the color that predominates in their clothing, the leather jacket being the star item of any punk. His speech has a tendency towards violence, and his way of dressing also responds to this.

Therefore, they sport spiked metal accessories in bracelets, necklaces, chokers, earrings, and rings. They also wear chains, usually silver, that hang from their pants.

Being a subculture that is against the conventional, his outfit also seeks to escape that conception; for this reason they usually wear torn and worn clothes.

Tight pants to the ankles and leather accessories, such as wristbands or jackets, are part of their clothing. And his footwear is usually large, military-style boots.

As a consequence of the notion of gender equality, the way punks dress is very similar for both women and men, although women can also wear skirts along with fishnet stockings, usually black.

Some of the best known fashion brands within this tribe are Leaving Dead Souls, Mercy, Alchemy, Queen of Darkness or H&R London. Some of them are also closely linked to other urban tribes such as goths or emos.

music with political content

The characteristic lyrics of punk music have a high content of protest, because they seek to reflect the disagreement that punks have in relation to the system.

The musical content was initially characterized as a mix between the garage and rock and roll genres.

The precursor musical representatives were the bands Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Dictators, The Stranglers, Richard Hell, Dead Boys or The Clash, among others.

They may have violent tendencies

The punk discourse is rebellious and rebellious, so they may have a certain tendency to violence.

Their hopelessness in relation to the consumerist world and the social control that, according to them, is typical of the society in which they live, is reflected in a provocative and defiant attitude that is often accompanied by violent attitudes.

This attitude is reflected in all their forms of behavior and in all their contexts. For example, there is a dance performed by punks called pogo.

This is normally performed at concerts or in nightclubs. People gather in a large circle leaving the center empty; By groups, they enter jumping and dancing, to the rhythm of the music, and the intention is to bump into each other.

Some pogos can be more violent than others, but physical contact in the form of a shock is always sought.

Often, the rebelliousness that characterizes them has led them to clash with the police. Since punks do not care how society perceives them, they are not afraid of confronting the organisms of power.

Punks for children

Despite this violent appearance, there are emblematic cases of punk representatives who wish to stop being associated with destructive elements.

For example, a folk-punk collective from Indonesia called «Marjinal» has given musical instruments to low-income children in the area and has created spaces that promote people’s artistic expression.

This action seeks to detach punks from the image of violent and destructive, and rescue the essence of their ideology: protest against a system that generates submissive people without the ability to think for themselves.


Pagano, E. (editor) «Urban Tribes: The Punks» (May 2006) at the University of Palermo. Retrieved on September 7, 2017 from the University of Palermo: palermo.edu
«Music and punk fashion» (April 12, 2010) in El Mundo. Retrieved on September 7, 2017 from El Mundo: elmundo.es
Castaño, P., Flórez, N., Molina, L., López, E. and Sepúlveda, M. «The Punks: an urban tribe in Medellín» (2011) at Envigado University Institution. Retrieved on September 7, 2017 from Envigado University Institution: revistas.iue.edu.co
«Urban tribes» at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez. Retrieved on September 7, 2017 from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez: uacj.mx
Thomson, J. “How punk changed cities – and vice versa” (17 March 2017) in The Guardian. Retrieved on September 7, 2017 from The Guardian: theguardian.com
“Anarchism” at Freie Universität Berlin. Retrieved on September 7, 2017 from Freie Universität Berlin: lai.fu-berlin.de
«Punk» in Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved on September 7, 2017 from Cambridge Dictionary: dictionary.cambridge.org.

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