The original punk fashions of the 1970s were intended to appear as confrontational, shocking and rebellious as possible. This style of punk dress was significantly different from what would later be considered the basic punk look. Many items that were commonly worn by punks in the 1970s became less common later on, and new elements were constantly added to the punk image. A great deal of punk fashion from the 1970s was based on the designs of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, as well as the dress styles of punk role models such as the Ramones, Richard Hell and the Bromley Contingent. Punk style was influenced by clothes sold in Malcolm McLaren's shop SEX. McLaren has credited this style to his first impressions of Richard Hell while McLaren was in New York City, supposedly managing the The New York Dolls (Note: In the documentary Punk: Attitude, David Johansen said McLaren was never their manager, and that he only designed clothes for them and booked them one concert; the Red Show.)

Punk clothing sometimes incorporated everyday objects for aesthetic effect. Purposely-ripped clothes were held together by safety pins or wrapped with tape; black bin liners (garbage bags) became dresses, shirts and skirts. Other items added to clothing or as jewelry included razor blades and chains. Leather, rubber and vinyl clothing have been common, possibly due to their connection with transgressive sexual practices, such as bondage and S&M.

Footwear that was common in the 1980s punk scene included Dr. Martens boots, motorcycle boots and steel-toed combat boots; sometimes adorned with bandanas, chains or studded leather bands. Jeans (sometimes dirty, torn or splattered with bleach) and tartan kilts or skirts were commonly worn. Leather skirts became a popular item for female punks. Heavy chains were sometimes used as belts. Bullet belts, and studded belts (sometimes more than one worn at a time) became common.