The early 2000s were the glory days of pop punk, the unholy melding of high energy rock music and bubblegum melodies. Whereas early punk rock had been defined by torn clothing, leather jackets, and aggressive attitudes, pop punk was something completely different: snotty, petulant, and specifically aimed at teenagers. Back in the peak days of TRL, it wasn’t uncommon to see bands like Blink-182 rubbing elbows with supposed enemies like 98 Degrees, even though the lines that separated them were blurry at best.
Pop punk had its ties back to more traditional punk culture, through its connections to skateboarders and appreciation for The Ramones, but artists like Paramore and the All-American Rejects weren’t rejecting the mainstream anymore. They were embracing it. The fashions that artists like Avril Lavigne and Fall Out Boy were rocking during their heydays were embraced by legions of kids
The Always Loosened Tie
Shout out to my girl Avril Lavigne for having fully dedicating to the “kind of subversive, but mostly conventional” aesthetic. Lavigne’s music, lyrics, and image were just the right amount of edgy to push her into the mainstream, and even though she mostly ditched the wife beaters and khakis (more on those below) by the time she could legally drink, the look wound up being somewhat legendary.
The perfect cherry on top was the almost comically oversized ties that she wore to accessorize the get up. I say “comically oversized”, but I’m pretty sure that the ties were regular sized and Lavigne is just tiny (Google is telling me she’s 5’2”, and I’m inclined to trust our search engine overlords). A dash of androgyny never hurt anyone, and it was cool to see a pop punk artist push against more standard fashion statements, even if she swayed close to the former genre than the latter.
Weirdly Dyed Hair
It’s almost a right of passage to rock the homemade hair dye. Everyone from Billie Joe Armstrong to Hailee Williams has tasted the rainbow, so to speak, and it was an easy identifier for fellow devotees to pick out their brothers in arms. Unfortunately it was also a way for outsiders to quickly suss out, and subsequently judge, punk rockers by their looks more than their character. A recent Progressive Insurance commercial comes to mind that makes those once-young and now-parental young adults the butt of the joke instead of the punks, but the representation in pop culture is often harsh if you aren’t already on the inside.
That’s not to say dying your hair will automatically endear you to the pop punk community (looking at you, undercover cops looking to pull a 21 Jump Street by reading a Society19 article. And you thought we wouldn’t be able to catch you). But it does portray a certain commitment to the aesthetic, and that alone should be rewarded by a revival.
Either the “Too Much Hair Gel” or “Hat Day” Look
It’s one or the other, there is no in between. Hair styles came and went from pop punk fashion quicker than those homemade dye jobs, and boy were there a bevy of looks to choose from. Part of me wanted to embrace the emo swoop that mid 2000s icons like Pete Wentz and Anthony Padilla from Smosh rocked, but that felt a little too emo/screamo/hardcore for our light pop punk tastes. A few brave individuals tore through the hippie stereotype and went all out on the long hair. But most pop punkers are just like you and me: they don’t know what to do with their hair on any given day either. Mark Hoppus was notorious for practically bathing in hair gel, which his bandmates in Blink-182 must have eventually realised they couldn’t compete with, so instead they both decided to go with the various hat looks (sometimes backwards and sometimes beanies, as is unspoken code in pop punk circles).
All Black Makeup
Is it pop punk, is it emo, is it goth? Yes to all of those, but it only illustrates the crossover between genres, scenes, and fashion circles. We all love Robert Smith, after all, so lets celebrate.
What were the benefits of khakis, especially the gigantically oversized ones that seemed to be handed out in droves to every prospective pop punk band? Greater range of motion? Increased air time for stage dives? Cheap resale prices at skate shops? Some mysteries of early 2000s fashion are lost to time, but I say we bring back oversized khakis in full force during the 2020s. Twenty years have taught us the practicality, and magnetic sexiness, of the beige JNCO-esque pantaloons.
Also, I wanted to exercise my right to include a second Blink-182 picture in this article. My apologies to Good Charlotte, Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Yellowcard, Bowling for Soup, Motion City Soundtrack, All Time Low, Simple Plan, and We The Kings for the lack of representation in this article. They’ll live on forever in our hearts.
The Long Sleeve Under the T-Shirt
Ah yes, the way for you to signal that you liked music back in the early 2000s. Specifically that you liked alternative, aggressive, and potentially rebellious music. The T-shirt often portrayed whatever band to whom your loyalties lay, but the content of the shirt mattered less than the fact that you were wearing two shirts at once. That’s so pop punk.
Even better, it was a) practical for when it got cold outside, b) a super cool look, and c) affordable for anyone who wanted to replicate the aesthetic. Nothing about pop punk, or punk rock more generally, should ever cost a fortune. The guitars should be cheap, the tickets to a show should be reasonably priced, and the fashion should stay as far away from terms like chic, couture, and even cool. The best pop punk statements are the evergreen ones: DIY and fuck the mainstream. It’s hardly breaking down the musical elite by wearing a long sleeve under a t-shirt, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction.