Love & Sex

The 40 Sexiest Punk Rockers of All Time

Pin it

Smashing the state never looked so good.

Punk rock, for all its other saving graces, isn't exactly the sexiest of musical genres. It's loud, unsubtle, and occasionally violent, and it isn't overtly concerned with sexuality. That said, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't at one point carry a torch for their neighborhood punk rocker, and it's in that spirit that we're counting down the sexiest punk rockers of all time.

 

40. Dave Vanian, The Damned

The Damned were the first English punk band to release a single (1976's "New Rose"), but it's Vanian's later transformation into a proto-Goth vampire that really amped up his sex appeal. We'll take his loopy, high-spirited stage presence over Peter Murphy's dour contortions any day.

 

Image via Michael Yampolsky

39. Penelope Houston, The Avengers

Penelope Houston remains one of the most important female trailblazers in punk. Her buzz-saw howl on tunes like "We Are the One" is sexy enough, but it's the spiky blond hair that really does it for us. Billy Idol might have taken that haircut to the bank, but Houston wore it first, and better.

 

38. Glenn Danzig, The Misfits

Danzig is a walking punch-line at this point, but we remember the way things used to be. Before he was a humorless, muscle-bound clod, he was a scrappy, sexy Jersey boy with a skyscraper of a voice. He sang like Elvis, brawled like Rollins, and won the hearts of horror-film obsessed punk girls everywhere.

 

 

37. Wendy O. Williams, The Plasmatics

Wendy O. Williams is like if Debbie Harry were an incredible badass. She dueted with Lemmy on a cover of "Stand By Your Man;" spent an entire record advance by loading a car with explosives, driving towards a stage, and then jumping out at the last minute; and repeatedly battled the law over indecency charges. And seriously, just look at her. If you're not in love, we don't know what more we can offer you.

 

36. Laura Jane Grace, Against Me!

Be honest: when Tom Gabel went public with his decision to live as a woman earlier this year, how many of you thought, "He's going to make a really hot lady?" Because we did. Just saying.

 

35. Darby Crash, The Germs

The Germs were one of the terrors of the late '70s punk scene in L.A., and much of their legend came from Darby Crash's feral sex appeal. Shane West did a decent job of approximating that in the recent biopic What We Do Is Secret, but nobody could really capture Crash onstage, mostly out of fear of physical injury.

 

34. Jello Biafra, Dead Kennedys

Back in the day, Jello Biafra's adenoidal ranting may have distracted us from his classical good looks — in some pictures, he's almost like a brooding '40s movie star. As for that ranting, it was the result of a passionate, lacerating intelligence and a lot of empathy for the underdogs of the world. Those are good qualities.

 

33. Johnny Thunders, New York Dolls/The Heartbreakers

Johnny Thunders was the mold from which half the Sunset Strip in the '80s was cast. The low-slung Les Paul, the towering inferno of jet-black hair; anyone who got laid playing hair metal owes Thunders. (C.C. DeVille, we're looking at you.)

 

32. Exene Cervenka, X

Exene Cervenka's firmly in the lineage of Patti Smith-influenced literate punks, though her otherworldly harmonies with John Doe in X came from somewhere entirely different. Discordant but intimate, they were like if nails on a chalkboard were somehow arousing. After spending the '80s with John Doe, now she gets to hang out with Viggo Mortensen. That's talent.

 

31. Poly Styrene, X-Ray Spex

Poly Styrene was about the furthest from a "traditional" punk lead singer as you could get. She was a little heavy; she wore dental braces, and she used to dress like this onstage. Of course, then she'd open her mouth and let loose with "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!," establishing a fearlessly sexy template still being seen today in ladies like Gossip's Beth Ditto.

 

30. Dee Dee Ramone, The Ramones

None of the Ramones were exactly pageant contestants, but Dee Dee had a sinewy appeal. Add that to his aura of enduring sweetness in the face of personal problems, and you have the perfect punk boy: a bit damaged, but sensitive, and with great upper-arm definition.

29. Siouxsie Sioux, The Banshees

Siouxsie Sioux's extensive musical influence alone earns her a place on this list, but it's her contributions to the "dark" wing of the Hall of Sexy that we're commemorating. Her look has been co-opted by legions of misunderstood teen girls; all the boys pursuing them are really in lust with Siouxsie's ghost, which is a sentiment she'd probably love.

 

28. Greg Graffin, Bad Religion

Young Greg Graffin: the wise-ass, anti-authoritarian SoCal punk you share a 40 oz. and a makeout with at the skate park. Old Greg Graffin: the sexy professor (literally) who you long for but who is probably incorruptible no matter how short a skirt you wear to his office hours. Both are winners in our book.

 

27. Jonathan Richman, The Modern Lovers

Jonathan Richman defied punk authority by wearing his heart on his sleeve, often reading lyrics aloud and tearing up before playing songs with the Modern Lovers. If you liked a mix of wit and puppyish devotion, you may have wished to be his G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N.

 

26. Sid Vicious, The Sex Pistols

Between the spiky black hair, leather jacket, emaciated frame, skinny jeans, and self-destructive bent, Sid Vicious invented a look that thousands of punks across the world are still mining to get laid, so good on 'im for that, we guess.

 

25. Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth

Having long both deployed and induced heavy breathing, Kim Gordon surely deserves inclusion on a list of the sexiest anythings anywhere. Her own thoughts on the matter (from a 1983 essay in ArtForum) are heady and righteous: "People pay to see others believe in themselves. Maybe people don't know whether they can experience the erotic or whether it exists only in commercials; but on stage, in the midst of rock 'n' roll, many things happen and anything can happen…"

 

24. Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day

We're not here to debate Green Day's career path. We're just saying that back in 1994, Billie Joe reminded us of a bratty kid with green hair in our freshman algebra class who used to skateboard and went on to deflower us in the back of… never mind. He's cute, is what we're saying. 

 

23. Brody Dalle, The Distillers/Spinnerette

Hearing Dalle's chainsaw voice come out of that model-perfect face, it's no wonder Tim Armstrong fell in love with her. Few things are sexier than a lady with a guitar, and when said lady looks and sounds like Dalle, it's game over, man.

 

22. Tom Verlaine, Television

Television were the thinking man's punk band, and Tom Verlaine was certainly the thinkingest-man in Television, or something. Anyway, Verlaine's porcelain-poet good looks, combined with his guitar heroics and tremulous voice, make him a punk pinup to swoon over.

 

21. HR, Bad Brains

During the '80s, in D.C. and elsewhere, no one was kicking out the jams like Bad Brains, and no one was a magnetic, sexy frontman on par with HR. His flailing dreadlocks, onstage acrobatics, and that magnificent air-raid siren of a voice made him hardcore's James Brown, a crown we've yet to see claimed by someone else.

 

20. Viv Albertine, The Slits

Ari Up was the magnetic face and voice of The Slits, but guitarist Viv Albertine had just as much influence. She was the inspiration for the Clash song "Train in Vain," and she's evolved into a performer and artist in her own right, without losing an inch of her smoky, restrained sexiness.

19. Blake Schwarzenbach, Jawbreaker

Jawbreaker's literate tales of heartache (personal favorite: "Chesterfield King") were like finding the journal of that chain-smoking, handsome English major down the hall. And though Schwarzenbach paid for it, that black-lunged voice still sends chills to all the right places.

 

18. Patti Smith

Patti Smith is certainly striking, but she's not exactly a looker. What makes her sexy beyond measure, though, is the way she disappears when she performs — she's like the mystical shaman-poet Jim Morrison always wanted to be. We don't know where she's going when she tears into one of those stream-of-consciousness rants, but we want to go there with her.

 

17. Kathleen Hanna, Bikini Kill

Kathleen Hanna is better known for her dance-punk projects Julie Ruin and Le Tigre at this point, but we've chosen to immortalize her for her status as the first riot grrl. Whether you'd rather get manhandled by her in a mosh pit or dance all night with her in a Brooklyn loft, there's no denying Hanna's remained quite the looker over the years.

 

16. Grant Hart, Hüsker Dü

Bob Mould had the more visible career post-Hüsker Dü, and is probably who most people think of when the band is mentioned. He also seemed like kind of an asshole. Hart, on the other hand, was writing songs like "Books About UFO's," which were a nicely sunny counterpoint to Mould's gloom. We'll take Hart's sleepy-eyed, teddy-bear sexuality over Mould's glowering any day.

 

15. Mike Ness, Social Distortion

Mike Ness's sex appeal comes from how he somehow manages to embody literally every person your mother told you never to date. He's the ne'er-do-well greaser from the wrong side of the tracks with few non-musical redeeming qualities, but that snaggle-toothed grin sandpaper voice would somehow convince you to stay a while longer, at least for one night.

 

14. Jesse Michaels, Operation Ivy

Jesse Michaels is a puppy dog of a punk rocker. His kinetic stage presence and exuberant voice is what made Operation Ivy like Mountain Dew for the soul. "To resist despair in this world is what it means to be free," he sang in "Sound System," and we would follow that kind of positivity anywhere, especially between the sheets.

 

13. Milo Aukerman, The Descendents

A pioneer in the field of nerdy cuteness, Milo Aukerman always came off like an ideal fantasy boyfriend — warm, funny, edgy enough to be exciting but sweet enough to bring home to Mom. (And emotionally supportive!)

 

12. Amy Miret, Nausea

That Amy Miret was able to hold her own as one-half of the vocals behind Nausea (one of this list's most all-out abrasive bands) is something. That she was able to do it while remaining positively adorable is something else entirely.

 

11. Ian Curtis, Joy Division

It's tempting to conflate "tortured" with "sexy," but Curtis was first and foremost a talented musician and a magnetic performer. That's where his sexiness came from, not the cult of personality that sprang up after his death, and that's the memory we're honoring. With… arousal.

10. Paul Simonon, The Clash

Once crowned "The Most Handsome Man in London," Paul Simonon dispelled the idea that punk was the province of asexual, weird-looking freaks. The boy could glower with the best of them, and once you strapped a bass on that lean frame, that was all she wrote.

9. Carrie Brownstein, Sleater-Kinney/Wild Flag

Carrie Brownstein (and Sleater-Kinney as a whole) were a thorn in the side of the tired "girls can't rock" axiom for their whole career. Take that musical intensity, and combine it with cute-as-a-button looks and legitimate comedic chops (what other '90s rocker can you imagine anchoring a show with Fred Armisen?) and you've got a singular, unbeatable, package.

 

8. Guy Picciotto, Fugazi

Ian MacKaye might have made Fugazi anthemic, but Guy Picciotto made them sexy. His intensity onstage manifests in some weirdly sensual dance moves, and, contemplating his beetle-browed gaze, we can't help but wonder if said moves translate to the bedroom.

 

7. Paul Westerberg, The Replacements

Enter a Replacements concert in the early '80s, and you'd see a gruff Midwestern old soul in the beflanneled body of a teenage janitor, either singing his heart out for thwarted love, or self-destructing in a fireball of alcohol-induced covers. Like good sex itself, Paul Westerberg was unpredictable.

 

6. Tim Armstrong, Rancid

Tim Armstrong's tales of punk-rock heartbreak and life on the seamier side made Rancid huge for a big swath of the '90s. His loopy stage presence and great abs entranced thousands of youngsters; we still cherish a fond fantasy of a private acoustic rendition of "Ruby Soho."

 

5. Poison Ivy, the Cramps

Glaring, strutting, and wielding a Gretsch the size of a Cadillac, Poison Ivy was a beautiful onstage counterpart to Cramps frontman Lux Interior's particular brand of insanity. She effortlessly combined pinup looks with musical intensity for an intoxicating brew legions of girls everywhere are still working to perfect.

 

4. Henry Rollins, Black Flag

Henry Rollins might have been a borderline-psychopath with a microphone during his time in Black Flag, but there's no denying his chiseled sexiness. Then you find out he's also a spoken-word poet, and your heart melts a little. It's always good to have a sensitive guy who could also punch a grizzly bear to death for you.

 

3. Joan Jett

Joan Jett's early work may be punk more in spirit than in letter, but at this point, she's been out there consistently kicking ass onstage for well over thirty years. And we'd be remiss to ignore that if anything, she looks better now than she did then

 

2. Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop might look like an old baseball glove at this point, but the man is sixty-five, and will still blow people half his age offstage. His crooning baritone is as sexy as ever, and we're talking about the man who invented an entire brand of slithering onstage sexuality. We don't know if we'd have survived a night with Iggy at his prime, but we'd have been willing to take that risk.

 

1. Joe Strummer, The Clash

Joe Strummer was a good-looking guy, to be sure. But it's the fiery commitment to change, to betterment, and to expanding the boundaries of what you can do with music and the world, that makes Joe Strummer the sexiest punk of all time.