Beth Binkley, Guest Writer

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – As she attends to small tasks at her full-time retail job, she can’t help but hum a little tune to make the time go by. She then checks the time, wearing her clunky combat boots, ripped, black skinny jeans, and her button-littered, faux-leather jacket before before going back to taking care of business, all the while praying that the store changes the station playing overhead to anything other than The Beastie Boys. It’s been the same song for days. 

To remain anonymous, “Arnold” has been punk since 2014, she says, making her a part of the culture for five years and counting, and she’s never been happier in her own skin. As she puts it, she’s most comfortable when she expresses herself the way she likes, and sees no reason why she shouldn’t be able to do so. From loud hair colors to funky makeup, Arnold sports her style on the daily and does so with confidence. However, this isn’t to say that she doesn’t get an odd look thrown at her every once in a while. Despite the backlash, though, she insists that she doesn’t mind the attention too much. 

“I don’t care much how I’m perceived,” says Arnold. “I actually find it really interesting how differently everyone reacts to me and I don’t take offense to it. Working in the retail industry, I get lots of comments and reactions that are drastically different; Some are surprisingly rude, and others make my day!” 

Some of her favorite articles of clothing and accessories to wear include faux-leather jackets (she’s vegan), homemade patches and buttons, hand-painted shirts, and honestly, just a lot of DIY’d pieces. A lot of punk subculture is rooted in making personalized clothing and patches, and it’s even better if they’re political or a little over-the top. The less of what you’re wearing is store-bought, she says, the better. 

Punk, however, isn’t just a fashion statement. In fact, Arnold stresses that it’s quite the opposite: “I would say I dress as what most people would imagine a stereotypical punk dressing like, yeah, but I like to add my own style to everything I wear. You do not have to look or dress a certain way to be a punk, though; It’s a mindset, not a costume.” 

“Punk, at its core, is the rejection of injustice and capitalism,” Arnold continues with enthusiasm, “It’s political and loud, and breaks what are usually the fundamental rules of music and what music ‘should’ sound like.” 

Some of Arnold’s favorite bands and artists,to name a few, include, The Frights, Say Anything, Johnny Cash, David Bowie, and Bob Dylan. You might notice that none of these artists are necessarily punk, and she acknowledges this humoressly. Despite her deep love for punk music, she says, she listens to a lot LOT of different genres that lie far outside of its sphere. Because,For at the end of the day, punk is meant to be free of judgement, allowing plenty of room for individuality and creative liberty. Arnold explains that this is directly because of its anti-capitalistic and anti-conformist ideology, because if you’re not conforming to society’s ideals and narratives, you’re likely not going to judge someone else for doing the same. The acceptance and inclusivity is something that Arnold deeply admires about her subculture. 

And when asked about the acceptance of “‘posers’,” Arnold laughs. 

“‘Poser’ is kind of an outdated term. We usually just use it as a joke, but with changes in fashion being a lot more edgy nowadays, I see a lot of people “dressing punk” that don’t listen to it or believe in what it stands for.” 

Arnold goes on to say that she thinks it’s an admirable and arguably, even a necessary duty to educate yourself about subcultures and their history. Punk, while having a rich and complex history, isn’t the only subculture that has influenced society and they way we view alternative lifestyles in general. 

“I think a lot of people are just living in their little bubble and it would serve them to talk to someone like me about what it means to express yourself in drastically different ways than each other,” Arnold says with a smile. 

But excluding people is not what Arnold is about. (Or what punk is about, for that matter!) 

“I saw other people dressed like me on TV when I was a kid and I thought they were so cool. And as I got older, I realized nothing was stopping me from being my own version of cool besides myself. I would want everyone to experience the realization that you don’t have to look or act a certain way in order to succeed in life.” 

Currently, Arnold can be found spending her days “reclusively creating and discovering,” as she puts it. In other words, she is an objectively talented full-time artist of many mediums outside of her retail job, as she’s been developing her skills over the course of many, many years. You can find her work at @zeforow on Instagram and Redbubble, wherein you can commission her for requested pieces or buy prints she’s already made, among a wide array of merchandise. If nothing else, you’ll get a taste of what punk art looks like in 2019.