It was 1975 when fashion maven and self-styled music impresario Malcolm McLaren had his first fateful encounter with the then-17-year-old John Lydon, soon to be notoriously rechristened Johnny Rotten. The precocious Lydon was wearing an old Pink Floyd T-shirt that he had refurbished with the words “I HATE” scrawled across the band’s name. This as much as anything vouchsafed the notion in McLaren’s diabolical mind that Lydon was just the man to front the aggressive, smart and profoundly political band that he was then molding as a sort of UK equivalent to the Ramones and the New York Dolls. By the time of the belated release of the Sex Pistols’s brilliant one-and-done record Never Mind The Bollocks in 1978, Lydon and company had passed permanently into legend. Rising above the low-hanging fruit of publicity driven “controversy” that had made them public enemy No. 1 for an “outraged British media,” the album was replete with songs consisting of inspired hooks and bilious, trenchant attacks on the UK status quo. The story of the band’s brief and semi-tragic Icarus flight has been well documented on multiple occasions, with perhaps Julian Temple’s 2000 documentary The Filth And The Fury standing as the best living testimony to the Pistols’ transcendent apostasy.
But it is important to consider just how much the revolution the Pistols helped to set in motion was equally as much about fashion as it was loud guitars, abrasive lyrics, and agit-prop polemics. Just as the aesthetics of Andy Warhol’s factory went to great lengths in defining the avant-garde leanings of the Velvet Underground, so did McLaren’s vision of a frightening, nihilistic, postmodern take on fashion inform the Pistols’ brief and unlikely takeover of the British charts. BBC reports and other television features from the time, somewhat unfortunately, preoccupy themselves with the safety pins, spiked hair, and torn clothes of the punk rock cohort, effectively ignoring the incisive commentary that this community had brought to bear as an indictment of fiscal and cultural elites. The media’s take was regrettably myopic, but they weren’t fully wrong. McLaren always intended his Pistols to buttress their material with a shock-and-awe stage presence, one that was in the late period of the band’s short history abetted by the unfortunate Sid Vicious, who looked great and barely knew how to play his bass.
In the final analysis, it is both cool and appropriate that devoted Pistols fans have elected to express their ardor through visual arts and homespun craft. Here are 10 examples of the best and most comical Pistols-related items available online. No one has yet offered their “I HATE Mumford and Sons” tee shirt, but we’re on the short list in the event that anyone’s selling.
Start Crafting here.