What is Psychobilly?
If you've ever wondered what you'd get if you were to blend punk rock, rockabilly, and a dash of sci-fi and horror film aesthetics, look no further than psychobilly. Born out of the punk scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, psychobilly is a unique musical subgenre and subculture featuring themes and styles that are anything but conventional.
Psychobilly has its roots in the rockabilly music of the 1950s - an early form of rock and roll characterised by twangy guitars, upright bass, and a strong rhythm section. These rockabilly beats merged with punk rock's fast-paced, aggressive tones to form what we now know as psychobilly.
Lyrically, psychobilly is known for its dark humour and imaginative themes. Drawing inspiration from horror and science fiction films and other aspects of popular and counterculture, the songs often centre around monsters, aliens, zombies, and the like. This fusion of styles and themes creates a dynamic and distinctive music and fashion subculture.
The Psychobilly Pinup Style
As with many music subcultures, psychobilly is not just about the sound but also about the style. And when we talk about psychobilly-style, the 'psychobilly pinup' is one look that often springs to mind.
Psychobilly pinup fashion is a quirky blend of vintage and modern styles, combining the classic elegance of the 40s and 50s pinup with psychobilly's edgy, punk aesthetics. Think high-waisted pencil skirts, fitted blouses, and halter tops teamed with punk-inspired accessories like studded belts, tattoos, and brightly dyed hair.
Hairstyles in the psychobilly pinup style also pay homage to the past with a modern twist. Victory rolls, beehives, and Bettie Page bangs are often paired with bold colours and shaved sections. As for makeup, bold red lips, winged eyeliner, and a pale complexion are typical, harkening back to the glamour of the 1950s with a hint of the macabre.
The psychobilly pinup look is not about subtlety but rather a bold statement of individuality and nonconformity. It's an expression of a unique subculture that seamlessly blends elements of the past and present, the mainstream and the underground.
How to Dress Like a Psychobilly Pinup: A Step-by-Step Guide
The psychobilly pinup style is eclectic, edgy, and attention-grabbing. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you curate your psychobilly pinup look.
Start with the basics:
Psychobilly pinup fashion begins with a classic 1940s and 1950s wardrobe. Look for high-waisted pencil skirts, fitted blouses, and halter tops. Also, consider swing dresses and pedal pushers for a rockabilly vibe. Opt for clothes with polka dots, leopard prints, and cherry or tropical prints to accentuate the pinup aesthetics.
Embrace the edgy:
To bring in the psychobilly vibes
- Integrate punk elements into your attire.
- Add a studded belt, wear fishnet stockings, or incorporate items with skulls, flames, or tattoo-inspired designs.
- Choose clothing in bold, vibrant colours to reflect the genre's lively spirt
Get the proper footwear:
Footwear plays a significant role in pulling your psychobilly pinup look together. Classic choices include stiletto heels or wedges in bold colours or prints. Consider creepers or ballet flats with edgy detailing for a more casual look.
Choose bold accessories:
Accessories are the icing on the cake for the psychobilly pinup style. Consider statement jewellery such as large hoop earrings, bangles, and layered necklaces. Bandanas, bows, and hair flowers can add that extra touch of pinup glam.
Opt for a vibrant hairstyle:
The hair is a canvas for creativity in the psychobilly pinup style. Classic hairstyles from the 1950s, such as victory rolls, pompadours, and Bettie Page bangs, are popular. However, consider incorporating bright hair colours or shaved sections to bring the psychobilly edge.
Make a statement with makeup:
Makeup is another crucial element of the psychobilly pinup style. A flawless complexion, bold red lips, and winged eyeliner harken back to the 1950s glam. Some might opt for more theatrical makeup, brighter eyeshadows, or dramatic eyeliner to add a gothic edge.
Remember, the psychobilly pinup style is about expressing individuality and defying convention. Don't be afraid to experiment and personalise your look. At its heart, the psychobilly pinup style is about having fun and embracing your unique style!
Pop Culture-Inspired Psychobilly Pinup: Embracing the Dark Side
The psychobilly pinup style offers a beautiful canvas to express individuality, and it becomes even more exciting when mixed with pop culture inspirations. Let's explore how to incorporate elements from iconic, spooky characters like the Addams Family or Elvira into your psychobilly pinup wardrobe.
Addams Family Influence:
The Addams Family, with their dark humour and macabre aesthetic, fit naturally into the psychobilly ethos. Here's how you can channel your inner Morticia or Wednesday Addams.
Morticia Addams: This character's iconic look involves long, form-fitting black dresses, so opt for a dark-coloured pencil dress. Add a spider-web patterned cardigan or a wide studded belt to inject the psychobilly element.
Wednesday Addams: To channel Wednesday's style, look for peter pan collared dresses or shirts, preferably in black or dark hues. Pair it with creepers and striped knee-high socks to give it a psychobilly spin.
Remember to incorporate the Addams Family's signature sleek, black hair and a deadly pale complexion into your makeup and hairstyle
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark:
Elvira is the queen of gothic glamour and can serve as a wonderful inspiration for the psychobilly pinup style.
- Emulate Elvira's style by choosing body-hugging, low-cut, black dresses. A black fitted top and high-waisted black jeans can do the trick for a casual interpretation
- Accessories are key. Opt for chunky, gothic-inspired jewellery, and remember Elvira's signature ruby ring.
- For makeup, emphasise the dramatic winged eyeliner and bold red lips. Don't be shy about over-the-top lashes, and keep the complexion fair to stay true to Elvira's look
- In terms of hairstyle, Elvira is known for her massive, bouffant, black hair. While this might be much for everyday wear, you can tone it down by opting for voluminous, teased hair or a beehive hairstyle.
Much like the Addams Family, the Munsters offer plenty of spooky charm that meshes well with the psychobilly aesthetic. The two main female characters, Lily and Marilyn, can be your style muses.
Lily Munster: Lily's style often includes long, flowing, Edwardian-style dresses in light colours, which departs from the typical black. You could pair a lighter-coloured vintage dress with more punk accessories like studded bracelets or chokers. Remember to mimic her iconic black-and-white hairdo and vampire-like makeup!
Marilyn Munster: Marilyn is the 'odd one out' in the family because she is the only 'normal' member. Her style includes traditional 60s fashion, like sweater sets and pleated skirts. Mix this with some edgy psychobilly elements like a skull-patterned cardigan or creepers.
Beetlejuice is a gold mine for psychobilly inspiration, especially Lydia Deetz's gothic style.
Lydia Deetz: Her style is darker, gothic, and very 80s. Think oversized black hats, veils, and lace. To adapt Lydia's style for a psychobilly pinup look, opt for a black lace dress or a black blouse with a full skirt. You could also use black accessories with a punk twist, like a wide studded belt or goth-inspired jewellery. Lydia's bold bangs and dark makeup will complete the look perfectly.
Before Elvira, there was Vampira. This character, played by Maila Nurmi, was the original TV horror hostess.
- Vampira's style is minimalist but dramatic. The critical piece is a skin-tight black dress with a drastically cinched waist. Pair this with a broad, studded belt and punk boots for a psychobilly pinup twist.
- Vampira's makeup is iconic – a stark white complexion, deep-set, heavily shadowed eyes, and dark, pointed eyebrows. Keep this in mind when doing your makeup.
- As for her hair, a sleek, middle-parted, waist-length black hairstyle is signature Vampira.
Tim Burton's character, Sally, offers a quirky, offbeat aesthetic that fits well with the psychobilly ethos.
- Emulate Sally's style with patchwork dresses in various colours and patterns. You could wear fishnets underneath for a punk twist.
- For makeup, draw inspiration from Sally's doll-like look – a pale blue complexion, large eyes with long lashes, and thin, drawn-on eyebrows.
Bellatrix Lestrange's gothic, witchy style is perfect for psychobilly inspiration.
- Opt for Victorian-inspired gothic dresses or a black corset with a flowy skirt. Add punk elements with a studded choker or boots.
- Recreate Bellatrix's wild, teased hair and smoky eye makeup for an edgier take on the pinup style.
Frankenhooker, a cult horror-comedy film from the 90s, can also serve as a unique inspiration
- The character's look involves bright, colourful mini-dresses. Pair this with fishnets and platform shoes to create a playful, edgy look.
- Dramatic eye makeup with neon colours to match your dress and the bold red lip will add to the aesthetic.
The Bride of Frankenstein is another iconic horror character whose look can be adapted for a psychobilly pinup aesthetic.
- Start with a long, white, vintage-style dress. A white blouse with a high-waisted skirt can work for a more casual look. Add a punk edge with black accessories.
- The character's iconic hairstyle - white streaks in an updo - can be recreated for a dramatic effect.
- Keep the makeup classic with a pale complexion, dark eyebrows, and dark lips.
Again, these characters are inspirations to help you craft a look that reflects your individuality. Mix and match elements from different characters or genres to create a unique psychobilly pinup aesthetic. And remember, the most important thing is to have fun with it!
What are you waiting for?
In exploring psychobilly, we've traversed the musical genre's punk and rockabilly roots and plunged into the darkly humorous, often macabre world that shapes its lyrics and themes. More than just music, psychobilly is a vibrant subculture that dares to defy conventions, brilliantly reflected in the distinctive 'psychobilly pinup' style.
The psychobilly pinup look is a playful juxtaposition of vintage glamour and modern edge. It takes classic elements from the pinup beauties of the 40s and 50s and infuses them with the punk-infused ethos of the psychobilly world. From the clothes you wear to the style of your hair, every aspect of the look is a bold declaration of individuality and nonconformity.
Whether you keep your look classic or delve into the fascinating world of pop culture-inspired psychobilly pinup styles, remember that the goal is to create a look that reflects who you are. Characters like Morticia Addams, Elvira, and Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice, among many others, offer abundant inspiration, but the final look should always be uniquely yours.
Ultimately, embracing the psychobilly pinup style is about more than just fashion. It's about having the courage to stand out, the creativity to mix and match disparate elements into a cohesive whole, and the spirit to do it all with a touch of rebellious fun.
So go ahead, explore, experiment, and most importantly, enjoy the journey. Because in the world of psychobilly pinup, the only rule is that there are no rules. Happy styling!
Photo Credits: Vampi & Danny Wale, during the Victorian Pinup Pageant
Photographer: Brett Allen Photography