Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
Punk was about fashion from the beginning. The story goes like this. A British man named Malcolm McLaren was interested in music, fashion, and art. He met a girl named Vivienne Westwood at art school. They opened up a clothing shop in London. One day, members of a band called The New York Dolls walked into the store. McLaren was fascinated by the look and style of the band. The Dolls played angry and aggressive songs, but they did so in tights and high heels. McLaren followed The Dolls to New York. In New York City, McLaren bumped into a man named Richard Hell: poet, singer, scumbag. McLaren loved something about Hell. “Here was a guy,” McLaren said, “all deconstructed, torn down, looking like he'd just crawled out of a drain hole, covered in slime, looking like he hadn't slept or washed in years, and looking like he didn't really give a fuck about you!” McLaren went back to England. He wanted to build his own Richard Hell, further deconstructed, torn down completely, covered in even more slime. McLaren found a broken man with decaying teeth named Johnny Lydon, renamed him Johnny Rotten (the teeth), and surrounded him with a couple of other miscreants who could barely play their instruments. The Sex Pistols was born.
McLaren and Westwood renamed their clothing shop SEX and began to sell ripped clothing, dirty t-shirts and repurposed S&M outfits. You could walk into SEX and buy all the gear that would make you look just like a member of The Sex Pistols. The “look” that McLaren saw in The New York Dolls, in Richard Hell and in Johnny Rotten was central to what became known as “punk.” Punk was a fashion before it became a subculture, a politics, a style of music.