CITY Supporter Series – Saint Louis CITY Punks

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Written by Michael Haffner

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Patti Smith is considered by many as the “Godmother of Punk” – even if she believes her music never fell in the punk category. But what she does believe in and embody is the punk spirit. “To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It's freedom.”

Punk has never been about playing loud and fast songs or nihilism toward the system and world. It’s always been making your voice heard and not caring what others think.

“If you don't have a place to go, you go to a punk rock show and you're accepted. That same punk ethos is in our group.” That’s Andy Haase, one of the four leaders of the Saint Louis City Punks – or more simply referred to as the Punks. As one of the newer groups in the supporter section that burst on the scene in 2022, the Punks felt like outsiders. They didn’t have the history with soccer like some had, so the group became a home for many who also felt like outsiders. Not just for those who share the Punks obvious love of music – but a group that represented an alternative voice to what soccer fans can be.


The Punk Mindset

“What are we going to do when we're in the supporter section? Well, we're going to be ourselves.” Just like in music, sometimes playing a simple note can create the loudest noise. When Andy and Rob Playter had their initial conversations to start the group, they didn’t think they would make as much noise as they have today. But then again, punk was always built on disruptive ideas. “We thought when we started a Twitter account, our 10 friends would follow or whatever,” Andy explains.

The group is now comprised of 300 members and led by four leaders, Andy Haase, Brandon Hoernis, Rob Playter and Danielle Hibbert. You may have noticed several SLCP flags and denim-vested members throughout the supporter section, including their femme-focused sub-group, the Riot Grrrls. Inspired by the feminist, punk movement of the 90s that featured bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, the Riot Grrrls work hand-in-hand with other Punk members at the intersection of music, social action and soccer.

Like so many who have been enjoying the success of the new team in town, this is the first time that some of the members have been to a professional soccer match. The Punks have embraced the new-kid-on-the-block mentality and have been open with members that it’s okay to not be a soccer expert – that it’s okay to be the outsider. As Danielle explains, “There's absolutely times when I have to have aspects of the game explained to me still, and I'm okay with that. And I want it to be okay for anyone who comes around us to feel that way.”

The other big aspect that they are more than okay with is normalizing conversations about mental health. “It’s okay to not be okay” is a saying the Punks embrace in both words and action. They are a 501(c)(3) organization that raises money to support mental health and suicide prevention. These local and national non-profit organizations include Hope for the Day, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and St. Louis Queer Support Helpline (SQSH). Just this year, they have raised almost $9,000 to help these organizations by selling merch inspired by classic and more recent punk acts, like Bad Brains, Sex Pistols, Flogging Molly, Frank Turner and Blondie.

If supporting charities and breaking the stigma of fandom and mental health doesn’t sound like the anti-establishment and disgruntled demeanor you might assume from a group called the Punks… well, that’s okay. In their eyes, they want to create an environment where no one feels alone. Which is why they fittingly use a Misfits lyric to encourage others that they don’t have to battle the issues of feeling like an outsider all alone. Their scarf has become an invitation stating, “Walk Among Us.”


The Vest-dressed Group

Punk has its roots in self-expression. The movement represents the belief to create music free of traditional teaching, structure, and the established “right way” to play. That same self-expression is true in punk style. It’s not that it’s nonconformity, but more so, representing the freedom to be who you are.

That punk tradition is carried on in the Saint Louis City Punks common fashion choice: the vest. Most members create their own vest and adorn it with pins, patches, paint and more, to express their interests and beliefs. Each one colorful and unique in their own right, the vest carries on the DIY tradition of many bands while serving as a conversation-starter and connection between members.

“There could be somebody who maybe thinks, oh, they look intimidating. But then they’ll see a particular patch or button from a band, movie, TV show or whatever on somebody's vest. And they’ll think, I love that too.” As Andy explains, “That’s how conversations start.”

Frequently heard at game days and watch parties will be the chant, “CUT THOSE SLEEVES! CUT THOSE SLEEVES!” Instead of yelling at strangers, this friendly bit of encouragement is reserved for new members as they cut the sleeves off their denim jacket in a ceremonial act while existing members welcome another to their band of misfits.

“We’ve always said to people that having a vest isn’t required to be a Punk,” explains Danielle. “But it’s a lot of fun,” she admits with a smile. Andy goes on to explain, “It's kind of a way for them to express themselves. It tells the story of that person.”

The Punks’ story has been an unexpected one for sure. From “Rob making homemade one-inch buttons” to just hoping that they’ll get to “make a scarf in a couple of years,” the Punks have exceeded their fundraising goals and expectations and continue to grow. They even have a new scarf that’s a collaboration with their friends in STL Santos – another supporter group that we’ll spotlight in a future article. The Punks continue to play a song of building community through soccer – loudly and proudly.

Patti Smith was almost 30 when she released her first album and became an accidental punk icon. It goes to show, it’s never too late to join the party and provide a voice that speaks to others.

You can learn more about the Saint Louis City Punks and Riot Grrrls at slcitypunks.com