Psychobilly fashion combines elements of punk with 1950s Greaser and British Teddy Boy fashions. Brothel creepers are frequently worn, as well as leather jackets, gas-station shirts, black or white retro T-shirts, dark-colored drape jackets and vintage motorcycle/work boots. Hair consists of a quiff, pompadour or psychobilly wedge, usually with the sides shaved into a mohawk.
Clothing is usually adorned with motifs inspired by classic American horror films or art-styles inspired by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. This subculture is strongly associated with the Kustom Kulture movement.
In the mid- to late 1970s, as punk rock became popular, several rockabilly and garage rock bands appeared who would influence the development of psychobilly. The term "psychobilly" was first used in the lyrics to the country song "One Piece at a Time", written by Wayne Kemp for Johnny Cash, which was a Top 10 hit in the United States in 1976. The lyrics describe the construction of a "psychobilly Cadillac using stolen auto parts." The rock band The Cramps, who formed in Sacramento, California in 1972 and relocated to New York in 1975 where they became part of the city's thriving punk movement, appropriated the term from the Cash song and described their music as "psychobilly" and "rockabilly voodoo" on flyers advertising their concerts
Psychobilly is a fusion genre of rock music that mixes elements of punk rock, rock and roll, rockabilly, and rhythm and blues. It is one of several subgenres of rockabilly which also include thrashabilly, punkabilly, surfabilly and gothabilly. Merriam-Webster defines it as "music that blends punk rock and rockabilly"; another dictionary defines it as "loud frantic rockabilly music." It is often played with an upright double bass, instead of the electric bass which is more common in modern rock music, and the hollowbody electric guitar, rather than the solid-bodied electric guitars that predominate in rock. Many psychobilly bands are trios of electric guitar, upright bass and drums, with one of the instrumentalists doubling as vocalist.
Psychobilly gained underground popularity in Europe beginning in the early 1980s, with the UK band The Meteors, but remained largely unknown in the United States until the late 1990s. The second wave of psychobilly began with the 1986 release of British band Demented Are Go's debut album In Sickness & In Health. The genre soon spread throughout Europe, inspiring a number of new acts such as Mad Sin (formed in Germany in 1987) and the Nekromantix (formed in Denmark in 1989), who released the album Curse of the Coffin in 1991.
Psychobilly musicians and fans, who are sometimes called "psychos" often dress in styles that borrow from 1950s rockabilly and rock and roll, as well as 1970s punk fashions. Psychobilly band members of both sexes often have prominent tattoos, often with a vintage theme. Psychobilly "tattoos followed the same general notions as band designs, being highly influenced by the same movies. Common tattoos were images of the macabre nature such as bats, skulls, gravestones, as well as the occasional pin-up doll and band logo." The goal of the psychobilly scene member is to "live fast, die young, and leave a (not so) beautiful corpse."
Other aesthetic influences include the scooterboy and skinhead subcultures, although not all performers or fans choose to dress in these styles. Scooterboy fashion includes flight jackets, mechanic's jackets, and motorcycle jackets. "Skinheads brought in things such as Doc Martens and pilot jackets ... [and] Punks brought in clothes such as the leather jacket and tighter clothing[;] Beneath the jacket was often a band T-shirt or a tartan shirt taken from rockabillies" Psychos often cut the arms off of their leather jackets, converting them into vests, and decorate the jackets with horror imagery or band logos. Men often wear brothel creepers or Dr. Martens boots and shave their heads into high wedge-shaped pompadours or quiffs, military-style crops, or mohawks. The Sharks song "Take a Razor to Your Head" articulated the early psychobilly scene's code of dress, which was a reaction to the earlier British Teddy Boy movement: Teddy boys had long, strongly-moulded greased-up hair with a quiff at the front and the side combed back to form a duck's arse at the rear. The Shark's song said: "When your Mom says you look really nice / When you're dressed up like a Ted / It's time to follow this cat's advice / Take a razor to your head". "Like most hairstyles of the 1980s, things were taken to the extreme. People [in the psychobilly scene] tried to get their hair as tall as possible and brought in streaks of strange colors."
In a psychobilly scene "Betties" is the slang term for "Ladies, most often of the rockabilly and psychobilly persuasion, who emulate ’50s pinup queen Bettie Page, particularly with the long, wavy, jet-black hair and supershort “fetish” bangs." "Women also wore tight leggings, miniskirts, and even tighter clothes." Women of the psychobilly subculture frequently model their fashions after B-grade horror films and hot rod culture.
Learn more about various punk fashion
styles from the main page of this section.