It was somewhere around 1990 and I was living in Portland, Oregon, just a few blocks from Washington Park, that enormous green space that rises from the mist over a city always caught in between transitions of clearing and of rain.
Just a mile down Burnside, a straight cut from the heights to the middle of downtown Portland, was a favorite haunt of mine, Powell’s Books, a new and used book and magazine retailer that occupied four or five blocks at the time.
I don’t know if it’s true today, but back then it was believed you would either lose your mind or discover your soul in there. I did a little bit of both back then, weaving in and out of its dimly lit labyrinthine inner sanctum, up and down its bizarre yet oddly comforting platform/ramp levels searching for something in the endless array of poetry and Victorian classics that I bought there. What I was looking for was already inside me, but I was still too young to know that yet.
In one of the big rooms on the lower floor, the discount books were held. Laid out in what used to be the showroom of an auto dealership that occupied the space from the 1920s to around 1970, every now and then you’d would catch the scent of motor oil wafting up from somewhere beneath the floors whenever the sun shone through the windows. Mixed with the spicy-moldy scent of old books, Pine Sol from what must have been a weekly mopping and Patchouli from the hipsters who frequented the place, it always smelled like sex, time and freedom in there. It was in that room where I found and purchased three copies of Hubert Gloss’ now rare book of glorious snapshots of 80s German fashion punks.
Compiled in 1986 and published by Swan Buchvertrieb GmbH, this 75-page romp through what I feel were the last moments of the true 80s is absolutely stunning beyond words. This sort of fashionable, more stylized punk rock style was not that widespread in the USA save for places like Los Angeles and New York where color and flash was coverted. But even so, the American version of punk was never so polished. Never so pretty. Only in pop stars like Boy George, Cyndi Lauper and Dale Bozzio did the style shine. That was another appealing thing about it. Boys and girls could wear it equally.
Here are some of my favorite images from the book:
Its hard not to see the graphic illustrations of British artist Syd Brak in the fashion style of these punks. It was, in fact, that connection that drew me to the book in the first place. They look like they stepped right out of one of his 1982 posters.
The book is, unfortunately, super scarce these days. I couldn’t locate one any place online that had a single copy for sale. You can, however, look at some of it here.
I leave you with a video that shows a few examples of the 1986 American version of this look: