AS I SIT under a limitless blue sky, cutting floral paper chains, the alarm goes off. I open my eyes: darkness. An hour before midnight on Saturday, and time to go to work.

Slithering out of bed like a snake from its skin, I select tonight's outfit with a gimlet eye. Smashing fashions are required, but so is a sense of irony, indulgence, a certain seen-it-all cynicism.

Eventually it falls into place: black leather bumfreezer, matching leather jeans, tight white T-shirt with magic mushroom motif, and JPG wedge-soled boots. 'Well 'ard,' I tell myself as I order the cab, jump in the shower and ponder tonight's burning question. The punk revival: genuine acne or stick-on spots?

Lately, punk's angry visage has been popping up all over fashion's horizon, nosing its way back via clubland. First, a few ripped and pinned jackets, then some spiky hair-dos. The recent Seventies revival restored the tighter, skimpier shapes of the post-glam, pre-punk era. Now, suddenly, cute young muscle-boys are nixing hip-hop headgear for green, orange and purple hair-dye. At the trendiest parties you cannot move without tripping over a babe in bondage trousers, and dayglo mohair is sprouting up everywhere like radioactive fungus.

Down in Kensington, shopping mecca for young lovelies on a recessionary budget, shops such as Sign of the Times are turning a profit on the flash and tack of revamped punk couture: gold lame dresses, slashed and safety-pinned; silver PVC pants; wispy, synthetic see-through tops. In Soho, Acupuncture does a healthy trade in second-hand and original Vivienne Westwood Seditionaries designs. In keeping with the McLaren tradition, the shop has a house band. Acupuncture's manager, Barnsley, a clubland legend in his own lunchtime, waxes lyrical over his teenage punk proteges, known collectively as the Walking Abortions.

And so to Leicester Square, the Maximus night-club. 'Blow-Up', the Saturday night event hosted by Dazed and Confused magazine, is at the heart of the punk revival, club sources are saying. Mark Wigan, co-host, says the punk look is just that, not an attempt to revive an outdated form of youth rebellion. 'It's just another texture, another style that's being mashed together with lots of others to create something more contemporary. It's a mix-and-match attitude. People are getting away from that clubwear thing, getting away from labels like John Richmond, Stussy and Duffer of St George.'

But others, including Tony Marcus, cultural critic for i-D and Mixmag, take a harsher view. At 27, Marcus is too young to have witnessed punk at first hand, but his judgement of its latest, mirage-like apparition will strike a chord with bitter old Clash fans everywhere. 'It's a fourth-generation rave scene that's desperately floundering around for some direction,' he says. 'There is no creativity, no anger, no urgency, none of the attributes of the true punk spirit.'

Night-clubs come in two varieties, asserts Marcus. First, the occasional few that promote new ideas and attitudes among young people, empowering those who attend. The rest merely sap power from their clientele, sucking up any idea or image, no matter how hackneyed, in order to maintain some veneer of vitality. 'They tell people, 'Yeah, you're cool, you're where it's at.' But if you look, there's nothing new happening at all.'

'Blow-up' is at bursting point when I arrive, stuffed with young clubbers, their baby-faces slick with sweat and distorted by chemicals. Graeme Park is pounding the floor with sinewy, pulsing Garage tunes. Wigan's mish-mash theory seems justified: there are styles from practically every main youth and fashion movement of the past 25 years on display here. Sadly, I arrive too late for the live performance by Zipper, Adamski's new band, which someone describes as 'glam punk with a house backbeat'. All the band, it transpires, have 'crazy-coloured punk hair and platform boots'.

By the bar I meet Kerry, Wigan's better half. Sitting on her lap is Helen, early twenties, short bleached hair, deathly white make-up, loud lipstick and a pair of shiny black PVC jeans. I smile and nod. Clearly a drink or two past her best, she screws up her doll-like face and tells me to 'fuck off'. I can't believe my luck.

'You must be a punk,' I say, smirking. 'I can tell because you're so outrageous.' We bounce back and forth, Helen's strident insults effortlessly absorbed by my patronising smugness. She threatens to smash her beer bottle over my head. I fall around, clutching my sides. When, after a pipe, she is wearing a stoned grin, I taunt her: 'You're not so tough now, are you?' She tries to insult me, but cannot keep a straight face. This punk revival, real or imagined, is going to be fun while it lasts.