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How to Wear Punk Fashion When You’re 40+

Way back in the ’80s, I fancied myself a punk rock girl. In those days, punk fashion wasn’t a phrase I used — to me, punk style felt more like an anti-fashion, anti-trend statement. I was a moody teen, angry at the world, after all. Baggy, all-black clothes and chunky boots seemed like a decent expression of my worldview.

Today, my interest in punk style remains, but for different reasons (thankfully!). I like metal details in small doses. I like (faux) leather and thick-soled shoes. And I like black.

So you can bet I’m thrilled to see punk elements everywhere this season. My ’80s self would have been irritated that punk’s gone trendy, but my 2020’s self welcomes it. Because now I can write about how this 49-year-old lady wears punk fashion — and hopefully inspire other 40-plus gals to do the same.

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The plaids, lug boots embellished with chains, moto jackets with flowers and grommets, black fishnets, and the like — all these pieces can add a new dynamic to your style. And you can wear them without feeling like you’re headed to a costume party. Trust me on this.

Read on for the dos and don’ts of punk fashion for the 40+ fashionista.

Punk fashion for the 40+ fashionista

1. Do wear great shoes

Shoes are a reliable entry point into any trend, including punk style. You could easily make an outfit from jeans, black t-shirt, belt, and combat boots. You could also swap out the t-shirt for a patterned, lightweight blouse that’s mostly black.

Red patent leather boots.

If lug boots aren’t your thing, try a thick-soled loafer, an ankle boot with metal details, or any chunky shoe in patent leather. The patent boots shown above are from ASOS and they can be yours for $48.

2. Do layer black

The layered all-black outfit has its advantages. For one, any woman of any age in any fashion climate can wear monochrome black with confidence. It’s never out of style. And, a monochrome black base is easily customized to be more formal or more punk rock — whatever suits your tastes.

@deborahgates_ above looks classy and cool, right? She could change out those pointy-toed shoes for something clunkier or wear chain link earrings instead. The result would be a tougher, edgier vibe. She could also reach for skinny leg denim with a touch of fray at the hemline.

Tiered black top as an example of punk fashion for women over 40.

To get the layered look quickly (and for less cash), shop for a tiered top or tunic. Shown above is Vince Camuto’s tiered sleeve top, available at Nordstrom for $88.

3. Do wear different textures

Punk fashion doesn’t require you to wear leather from head to toe. You might don a leather pair of shoes, but the rest of your outfit can be whatever fabrics you like. The trick is to mix and match different textures in the same outfit.

Personally, I like to pair contrasts. Silky and woven, for example. Or soft and rough. But you can combine fabrics however feels right. Satins, denims, sheers, faux leathers (sparingly), wools, and weaves are all possibilities for the older fashionista. Play with fabric combinations and you’re sure to find a formula you love.

Black mixed media top.

Alternatively, you can buy mixed media pieces — where the mixing is already done for you. The top above by English Factory is an example. It’s available at Nordstrom for $60.

4. Do punk your nails

A dark-colored nail polish is an easy, noncommittal way to make a punk statement. You can go with straight black, but navy, dark green, deep purples, dark reds, and grays also work.

Dark blue nail polish by CND.

If you like long-wear polish (and who doesn’t?), take a look at CND Vinylux polish. I’ve been wearing Blue Moon recently and I love it as a bold winter color. The color goes on smooth and dried to a hard, lacquer-like finish. I can’t say it’s lasted a week for me without wearing around the nail tip, but I’m pretty rough on my hands. The brand has many other deep, rich colors available.

CND Vinylux is available for $10.50 on Amazon.

5. Don’t punk your face

I admire the gal who can wear an aggressive smokey eye plus black lipstick. Sadly, that look gets harder and harder to wear as we get older. There are exceptions, of course. But for most of us 40-plus ladies, ultra bold makeup looks and feels too youthful.

Supermodel Cindy Crawford demonstrates this rule perfectly. Her foray into punk style consists of motorcycle boots, black pants with zippers at the hips, and a black blazer — plus natural-look makeup.

6. Don’t over-distress

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Distressed denim has a punk-like edginess to it — but it’s also a fashion element that’s easily overdone. Jeans with more than a couple rips and tears start to look messy, which maybe isn’t what you want. Overly distressed jeans also aren’t that versatile, which makes them financially inefficient.

If you like distressed denim, opt for slightly distressed with no full-on holes. See the pair above as inspiration. They have a roughness to them, but there’s still no skin showing.

7. Don’t wear plaid minis

If you were to search Google or Pinterest for punk fashion, you’d for sure come across pics of women wearing plaid skater skirts and minis — possibly anchored by lug boots. This is another look that typically works better for the younger lady. It has a schoolgirl flair, which doesn’t carry well on the mature women.

Instead of a plaid mini, try a faux leather pencil skirt. The leather-like pencil skirt is sexy, but also sophisticated.

Faux black leather pencil skirt.

The vegan skirt shown here is by Kendall + Kylie. You can shop it at Zappos for $88.

8. Don’t overdo it

You can change the dynamic of your style with only one or two new elements. Keep that in mind as you venture into punk fashion — you don’t need to go all in. Start with an accessory and then add on from there. That helps you stretch your style comfort zone gradually. It’s a better approach than overdoing it to start and then feeling not confident about your choices.

Chain link bracelet by Scream Pretty.

A chain link bracelet is an easy entry point into punk style. You can wear it on your wrist or wrap it around the ankle of your favorite boots. The one shown here is by Scream Pretty, and you can buy it at Wolf & Badger for $44.

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