Punk Legends Speak Out in Metropolitan Museum of Art's New Costume Institute Book

Andrew Bolton, the curator of the Costume Institute's upcoming exhibition, "Punk: Chaos to Couture", got Johnny Rotten (of the Sex Pistols, PIL, and butter commercials), Richard Hell (founder of Television and later the Heartbreakers), and Jon Savage (who literally wrote the book on punk) to contribute essays for the tome. But it almost didn't happen, at least for Richard Hell, who definitely still shows some signs of an "us vs. them" punk attitude.
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Andrew Bolton, the curator of the Costume Institute's upcoming exhibition, "Punk: Chaos to Couture", got Johnny Rotten (of the Sex Pistols, PIL, and butter commercials), Richard Hell (founder of Television and later the Heartbreakers), and Jon Savage (who literally wrote the book on punk) to contribute essays for the tome. But it almost didn't happen, at least for Richard Hell, who definitely still shows some signs of an "us vs. them" punk attitude.
Richard Hell, late 1970s (Photograph © Kate Simon) and Hussein Chalayan, spring/summer 2003 Dazed and Confused, March 2003 (Photograph by Eric Nehr)

Richard Hell, late 1970s (Photograph © Kate Simon) and Hussein Chalayan, spring/summer 2003 Dazed and Confused, March 2003 (Photograph by Eric Nehr)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's latest Costume Institute exhibit, "Punk: Chaos to Couture" doesn't open for another month (May 9 to be exact) but today WWD has a few pretty fascinating excerpts from the exhibit's accompanying book.

Andrew Bolton, the exhibitor's curator, got Johnny Rotten (of the Sex Pistols, PIL, and butter commercials), Richard Hell (founder of Television and later the Heartbreakers), and Jon Savage (who literally wrote the book on punk) to contribute essays for the tome.

But it almost didn't happen, at least for Richard Hell, who definitely still shows some signs of an "us vs. them" punk attitude. "I didn't know if I wanted to even implicitly endorse a show about rich people's expensive status symbols," Hell told the New Yorker. But then he said, "I decided, Fuck it, it was an interesting challenge, and I can hold my own with any of those people."

In the book he writes, “That was the essence of what became punk: acts of consciously making yourself up from nothing but your real insides." While Hell takes an introspective approach, Johnny Rotten (aka John Lydon) writes about punk being a DIY movement and how the media ruined it.

“It came from kids on the street, doing it yourself,” Lydon wrote. “The trouble is that punk got co-opted, and distorted by the media. People find it hard to get away from the clichés, from the popularized Eighties version of punk, and it became a stereotype.”

And what about one of punk's most enduring style symbols, the safety pin?

“Before I joined the Sex Pistols, the safety pin was a necessity because I couldn’t sew. But basically, the safety pin goes back to being two years old," Lydon wrote. "My mother, when she put on my nappy — in those old days diapers were cloth napkins — she stuck the safety pin into my penis!"

Nothing more punk than that.