Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A History of Skinhead Culture

Here's something I've cobbled together from various sources. Cut, paste, edit, added a bit and the result is what I've posted below. Not in any sense definitive.


Skinhead is not about colour, race, religion, national origin, or anything of the sort. It is a brotherhood of individuals who share the same passions.

It seems that the music of Jamaica had reached an altogether new plateau after the brief, but golden, sounds of Rock Steady. Up until then the bulk of the music produced had tended to be solely for the purpose of the dance, whether fast or slow: and if Ska was pure energy and optimism, Rock Steady, which slowed things down, had became more introspective. Some time in 1968 there was an enormous creative explosion, and from that a kaleidoscope of musical styles was born, which became known collectively as Reggae. I believe this paradigmatic shift came about in part, through the awareness of the musicians, artists, producers, and audiences in Jamaica that the music they were creating had value and use beyond their own needs and desires, to a near global context, and had, whether they wanted it or no, now entered an international dimension.

The sub genre known as Skinhead is of purely British origin, it was not until well into it's existence that it was recognized as such by the Jamaican music industry, and became part of a feed back loop connecting the British Isle's to Jamaica. What is Skinhead in a Jamaican music context? In truth it could be said that almost all music, known collectively as Reggae, from the late 1960s until about c1972 could be claimed as Skinhead, because Reggae was the Skinheads' music of choice, they identified with its content and form and adopted it with pride. As with all styles and movements the story reaches back into its pre-existence. Three defining characteristics of a Skinhead, the mode of dress, the type, or class, of person, and the music, had all existed before the Skinhead had been codified. The most defining characteristic of the Skinhead is, of course, their appearance, and the hair in particular. As is well known many of the very first Skins were at one time Mods who were, for numerous reasons, many to do with fashion, disinclined to dress and behave in the evolving style and attitudes of the Hippie, a predominantly American (West Coast) middle class situation. The haircut and all of the clothes that became standard dress for the (male) Skinhead were worn previously, at one time or another, by Mods. This is not to take anything away from the style of the Skinhead, it just reinforces their commitment to some of the class values inherent in the Mod movement.

Only when Skinheads had asserted their existence were they able to claim the preceding (Jamaican) music as their own. This was partly because it had shared these same characteristics, and had inadvertently helped to define the Skinhead. The early Jamaican music that the Skin's identified mostly with, were cuts like: Derrick Morgan's Fat Man, and Eric Morris's Humpty Dumpty, both on the Blue Beat label, and: Forward March Derrick Morgan, Miss Jamaica by Jimmy Cliff and Housewife's Choice Derrick & Patsy, all on the Island label, it was these, and others in a similar strident or assertive vein, from the pre Ska period that would have later become part of the lexicon of Skinhead Reggae. Yet it was with Ska and the first mention of 'Rude Boys' that the embryonic Skinhead had matured into a recognizable entity.

In the fifties and sixties, there were two main subcultures that mainly contributed to the coming about of what was to be known as "skinheads". In working class britain, youths who listened to the latest "modern" music of the day including soul, reggae, and ska, wore the sharpest, smartest clothes, and endulged in a fixation with motor scooters (vespas, lambrettas), were known as "mods". The mods were typically british kids who had a keen sense of style and working class roots and values. At the same time, in Jamaica, "rudeboys" were gaining in recognition. Rudeboys were youth ganster type Jamaicans who dressed in suits, listened to reggae-ska, and were notorious for there no-nonsense attitude in handling anyone who got in their way. Reggae was a rage that reached far beyond Jamaica, and was becoming very popular in Britain, mainly by the mods. By the mid to late 60's, many reggae artists migrated to Britain to take advantage of the prosperous market amongst the working class kids there.

With the new clash of subcultures in britain, black and white unity became the rule. The british kids copied their rudeboy heroes in dress and attitude, yet kept certain aspects of the mod identy. A newer group of individuals arose out of the urban working class kids who were looking for a sharper image than the mods were representing, yet still just as stylish. These kids were the first skinheads. With shorter cropped hair than the mods (its stayed cleaner when working in the factories) and passions that included football, reggae, and working class values, skinheads were the perfect hybrid of the two groups.

After the strong birth of skinheads which was and still is said to have been at it's peak in 1969, reggae started to diminish though not completely dying. Skinheads stilll existed but saw adversity in the decline of culture. During the 1970's and 80's with the support of the misguided media white supremacist groups attempted to invade the skinhead culture. These racist individuals may have called themselves skinheads, but they were nothing more than "boneheads" to those who knew better. Most all "traditionals" agree that a non-political stance is necessary in being a skinhead. Skinhead culture was born from reggae music and by its very nature is multicultural.

Back in 1969, following a gig in Birmingham, reggae legend Laurel Aitken found himself being arrested and remanded in custody till the following Monday. He had fallen behind on his payments for a paternity claim, and was facing a £200 fine or six weeks of prison food. The only person he could contact to help him was the owner of Pama Records who duly arrived with the money to get him out - and a recording contract. Laurel had little choice but to sign on the dotted line, and so began his fruitful association with Pama, and in particular its Nu-Beat subsidiary.

The story of Jamaican music is littered with as many such tales as it is classic songs. Thanks to a whole host of reasons, from bad business deals to a largely apathetic music press, Jamaican music also boasts far more than its fair share of unsung heroes. And if everybody played by the same rules, the name of Laurel Aitken would be up there in bright lights beside those of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker.

Although born in Cuba in 1927, Laurel emigrated to Jamaica with his family when he was eleven years old, and quickly became involved in the local music scene - busking in the streets, entertaining tourists as they stepped off the cruise liners and singing in the numerous and very popular talent shows of the day.

By the late Fifties, Laurel Aitken was one of Jamaica’s best loved recording pioneers, having been the first local artist to top the JA hit parade with Little Sheila / Boogie In My Bones (R&B), a single that remained in the charts for over a year. Such success brought him to England in 1960, where he went on to record hundreds of tracks, including Mary Lee for the newly formed Melodisc label and Boogie Rock, the first release on the now legendary Blue Beat label.

He continued to work throughout the Sixties, including spells as a recording artist with Ska Beat, Dice, EMI, and Graeme Goodall’s Rio label, but it was with reggae that he was to have arguably his finest hour. Songs like Landlords And Tenants, Jesse James, Scandal In A Brixton Market and Pusssy Price, all of which appeared on Nu-Beat during 1969 and 1970, are classics of the era and are guaranteed to pack any dancefloor at skinhead reggae dances to this day. In addition, Laurel emerged as one of the UK’s leading producers of reggae music, and was much sought after, not only by Pama, but also by their much bigger rivals, Trojan.

Although receiving little to no chart action in the UK (he came closest with the release of another gem, It’s Too Late on Trojan in ‘71), Laurel was selling thousands upon thousands of records at the time. This was true of other reggae artists too, but since most of the sales were through small independent shops they were not included in the returns that would have given them the chart success and radio airplay they most certainly deserved. It’s interesting to note that the music press showed next to no interest in Jamaican music at the time, dismissing most of it as “crude” and “boring”, and radio stations rarely played it until Trojan smashed its way into the charts towards the end of 1969 with a more commercial reggae sound.

Trojan’s success was very much on the back of the base support afforded to the music by the West Indian communities of the day and by the growing hordes of skinheads who could be found dancing away to the sounds of Jamaica at ballrooms and youth clubs throughout the country. Songs like Symarip’s Skinhead Moonstomp (Treasure Isle), Skinhead Jamboree and Skinhead Girl (all to be found on the band’s Skinhead Moonstomp album which has recently been re-issued as a CD by Trojan complete with original sleeve featuring a black and white shot of Blackpool skins), Skinhead Revolt by Joe The Boss (Joe), Claudette’s Skinheads A Bash Them (Grape), and Laurel’s own Skinhead Train (Nu Beat) paid tribute to the fact that it was the skinheads who gave reggae the leg up it needed to reach the mainstream music market.

“I used to play a few places back then and you’d see skinheads on the scene”, remembers Laurel. “You used to see a few in the dances, and it just grew. I’ve been having a skinhead haircut since the Sixties so seeing skinheads coming into the dances with their short hair didn’t mean anything to me. I used to be a skinhead and I still am,” he jokes, as he takes off his trademark pork pie hat and displays a bald head.

Laurel continues to perform to this day. Even at the grand old age of 68, live on stage he is unbeatable, a superb entertainer. What’s more, he displays more stamina than most of the young pups in the audience when it comes to dancing around. His popularity today though is largely and sadly confined to the underground ska scene where he is given the respect a man who is known as the Godfather Of Ska and the High Priest Of Reggae deserves.

In fact, most of today’s commentators on the reggae scene should be ashamed of themselves for not giving artists like Laurel credit for their contribution to Jamaican music. “Whenever I do a show, if I see skinheads, I know I’m going to have fun. If I’m in the dressing room, resting or talking, I always ask if there’s any skinheads in the audience, and if they say quite a lot, it makes me happy. The skinheads support the music and if someone supports you, you’ve got to like them.”

Back in 1961, a 17 year old youth by the name of Alex Hughes found himself at a blues party in a London cellar, listening to Jamaican music for the first time and enjoying his first ever taste of Red Stripe beer. The sounds being played were by artists like Derrick Morgan and Laurel Aitken and little could he have known then that he would not only go on to work with such musical legends - he was actually Laurel’s bodyguard for a period in the Sixties - but would eventually join them as a reggae great in his own right. As the Sixties picked up steam, Alex Hughes did a variety of jobs, including professional wrestling, debt collecting and working on the doors of various London clubs, and in particular The Ram Jam Club which regularly had 1,800 punters through the door despite selling no alcohol. As a bouncer, he was in as good a position as any to witness the birth of the skinhead culture.

“The first time the skinheads came to right was during the mod time really, going back to the days of Geno Washington and the mods and rockers. Out of that evolved the whole skinhead thing. All of a sudden the hair became shorter. Obviously I had my hair cut short at the time because of the size I was and I was also a wrestler, putting a mask on my head and things like that. It was the mid-Sixties when I started to see them, probably about ‘66, but by ‘68-’69 it was rampant. Bank holidays were the big thing - you could go to Margate and see them all milling around. But in fairness, when they talk about the trouble, I’ve seen the press making them run up and down the beach, taking photographs and saying run this way, run that way. And then three days later you’ll see it on the front of the ‘paper - SKINHEADS RUN RIOT.”

From working club doors, Alex graduated to working behind the decks, and eventually started his own sound system. Weighing in at 22 stone at the time, and being a frightening looking character, he borrowed a name from a Prince Buster track and called it the Judge Dread Sound System. The way to make a name for yourself as a sound operator was to have Jamaican imports that nobody else had, so the newly christened Judge Dread would make regular trips down to Sheerness to buy records straight off the banana boats. He became more involved in the reggae music scene, and when he moved from London to Kent the Judge started promoting bands too. His biggest coup at the time was booking another skinhead favourite, Desmond Dekker, to play when he was at number one in the British charts with The Israelites (Pyramid).

“I came down to Snodland when my family moved down and I came across this little picture house-cum-bingo hall. There was a few discos in there and I decided to elaborate on that and so brought down the Coxsone Downbeat sound system and started having a few dances and things like that. After a while, I put on a few groups. The first one was The Coloured Raisins at the start of 1969, and at that time people in the area hadn’t really seen black people before. So I not only introduced them to reggae in this part of the world, but black people as well. Then I had The Rudies down here, all nighters, other sounds like Neville The Musical Enchanter and then the ultimate was Desmond Dekker when he was at number one. You just couldn’t move. If you can imagine, number one in the charts, 1969, the streets were packed. After that the Savoy became quite famous in the area, people travelled from miles away, and I had a few groups booked. And then one day the police turned up and there was a massive drugs raid and that was the end of the Savoy as we know it!”

By the end of the year, the Judge was working for Trojan Records and its artists booking agency as a debt collector. It was while working for Trojan that he decided to take the B side of one of the records he used to play, Little Boy Blue, and go into the studio and record a demo. It only cost him seven or eight quid and was never intended for release, just for his own benefit. One day though, he was in the Trojan office and he was playing the demo to the band Greyhound when the managing director walked in. The MD asked if the song was one of theirs - at the time Trojan were releasing an amazing 40 or so singles a week - and when he heard it was Alex, he suggested releasing it.

Prince Buster had scored a massive underground hit with his Big Five, and to capitalise on that success Judge Dread’s debut single was re-named Big Six and released on the Big Shot label in 1972. It was an instant hit, selling over 250,000 copies in the UK and amazingly enough it charted in Jamaica too.

Judge Dread then took the art of rude reggae to new heights, with a string of top thirty hits including Big Seven, Big Eight, Je T’Aime and The Winkle Man. Like all Judge Dread releases, they were instantly banned by radio stations because of their saucy lyrics, but that just added to their appeal and helped guarantee their success - although the powers that be didn’t always acknowledge this success thanks to pressure from the nation’s moral guardians like Mary Whitehouse. “Big Seven was selling something like 70,000 copies a day and should have gone straight in at number one, but got no higher than number five.”

In 1973, following his appearance at the Ethiopian Famine Disaster concert alongside Bob Marley and Desmond Dekker, Judge Dread released a cover of Clancy Eccles’ Molly as a charity record to raise further funds. Incredibly it too was banned by radio stations because of the Dread connection - it was obviously more important to keep the Judge off the airways than it was to help feed the starving millions. Eleven years on though, and the very same radio stations were falling over themselves to promote the Band Aid project. Such is the sick world we live in.

By the mid-Seventies of course, the skinhead culture seemed had hung up its boots en masse, but it certainly hadn’t been forgotten by Judge Dread. In 1976, he released his Last Of The Skinheads album on Cactus. On it was the classic ode to days gone by and a demand to return to them in the shape of the song, Bring Back The Skins. It remains arguably the finest reggae cut in honour of the culture ever released. “I decided to write that song, not knowing at the time that it would become the skinhead national anthem. You can forget your Skinhead Moonstomps because Bring Back The Skins actually depicts what it was all about. The days when people would go down the Palais, and probably they would have a fight and dance to reggae all of the night. The whole way of life was more permissive then too so of course you’d blag a bird, so the song actually relates to what went on in ‘69. The greatest thing about it was that a few years later, the 2 Tone thing came along and the whole thing was revitalised again.”

The Judge remained both a recording and performing artist until his death in 1998, and like your Laurel Aitkens and your Desmond Dekkers and your Derrick Morgans, still commands a healthy skinhead following, not just here in Britain, but throughout the world. In fact, it’s actually quite ironic, but if you want to know about the true greats of early reggae history today, you might be better off asking a skinhead than a kid with Jamaican roots.

Chris Prete, who runs The Official Trojan Appreciation Society as well as supplying the label with top notch release projects and sleeve notes to match, is one such skinhead who is a walking encyclopaedia on the subject. Chris first became a skinhead when he was 11 or 12 years old, mainly because all of his mates were skinheads and he liked the sharp, clean image. “There weren’t many people who weren’t skinheads or who didn’t have long hair. You were either one or the other, or at least that’s how I saw it at the time. And in London, it seemed to be mainly skinheads.”

Chris and his mates would imitate the older kids who were also skinheads, roaming the local streets in gangs named after pubs, street corners and the like - the Acre, the Estate, the Queensbury. It was the older skins who first introduced him to reggae - Derrick Morgan’s Tougher Than Tough was one of the first records Chris heard - and he has been captivated by the music ever since. His Trojan collection boasts over 1,000 singles and 400 albums - he also had a lot of Pama releases too, but sold them to concentrate on his first love, Trojan. There are plenty of skinheads out there who would give their right arm for a tenth of the sounds Chris keeps neatly sorted by label, from Attack to Upsetter, the latter of which he ranks alongside Downtown and Trojan itself as the top names in skinhead reggae. Personally though, he rates the Copperfield Reid and Treasure Isle subsidiaries as the icing on the Trojan reggae cake.

To me skinheads and reggae go together. You can’t separate them. It’s a basic music, simple and not complicated. It’s got a hook with the bass beat, and once you start getting into the music, it’s hard to walk away from it. The deeper you dig, the more good things you discover. It really is amazing that so much good music has come out of a small island like Jamaica.”

It’s not just the original skinheads who feel this way about Jamaican music. It is as popular today among skinheads as it has always been. “It’s hard to describe,” says Jacquel, a skingirl from Edinburgh in Scotland who now lives in London, “but it’s a really good feeling if you hear a good song and you really get into the rhythm and want to get up and dance. It’s something that affects you, and that’s why I like reggae and rock steady because it touches your soul.”
Toast, a skinhead from Ramsgate who produces Tighten Up skinzine agrees. “I think it should be remembered that skinheads put reggae into the British charts. If it wasn’t for skinheads and the movement in ‘68, ‘69, I don’t think reggae would have made it into the charts. Maybe Bob Marley wouldn’t have got to where he got to if it wasn’t for the british working class youth.”

Another one time skinhead who has since devoted his life to the appreciation and celebration of Jamaican music is Gaz Mayall, son of blues man John Mayall. Gaz is not only the proud owner of one of the largest collections of Jamaican vinyl anywhere in the world, but for over a decade now he has been willing to share its joys at his weekly Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues, London’s longest running club night (currently to be found at St. Moritz in Wardour Street every Thursday night).

“Skinhead was a fashion thing, it was a music thing, it was about dancing, and it was about sex. You’d go to a party, put a sound system in and buy a load of beer, and all the girls would be looking at the boys, and all the boys would be looking at the girls, and within ten minutes you’d have a big fat skinhead chick sitting on your lap! You’d be listening to Big Five and your own big five would be right there! 99½% of all the people who were skinheads between ‘68 and ‘71 have some great memories. It was just the vibe of the times. Great music and great style.”

When you talk to anyone who was a skinhead during the original era, the memories come flooding back as if it was yesterday. “I was the first skin in the area,” says Stuart, who brought the skinhead fashion to Bridlington on the East coast of England from his native Leeds. “I got quite a few strange looks at first because everyone had long hair, permed hair, and was into Mungo Jerry, that kind of music, and I was into reggae and all the opposites. Then I got involved with two scooter clubs from Leeds, one called The Lulus and the other The Incas, and after a few years the full length of the seafront was full of scooters with the mirrors on, cradle back rests. There were hundreds of skinheads here in the summer, but in the winter there was maybe a dozen.”

At the time, most people no doubt thought that Stuart and the other Bridlington Skins would amount to very little, but nothing could be further from the truth. “People marked you as a villain or a con or a thug, that sort of thing. Since then I’ve had my own pawnbroker’s shop, I’ve had a glittereller’s shop, I’ve got my own 44 bedroom hotel with a pub, cabaret club, I’ve been a promoter, sang on the Motown Show with The Temptations, The Four Tops, Judge Dread . . . A lot of my friends are now in business, they’ve all got on and they’ve all been skinheads. They’re as good as anyone else. The media treat skinheads wrong, just like they treat a lot of people wrong. People should go by personal value, not face value. You should never judge a book by its cover because there’s good and bad in all.”

It’s been over 20 years since Stuart was a skinhead, but he still sees himself as belonging to the skinhead culture, almost as if it is something that stays in your blood forever. A feeling shared by many others who have given part of their life to being a skinhead. I once went to a work’s party, and it was a smart affair so I turned up in a tonic suit, loafers and Bennie. Anyway, this lady came up to me and said, “Is that a Ben Sherman shirt?” She was in her early forties, but from the collar alone could tell what make of shirt it was. It turned out that her husband, a bank manager no less, had been a skinhead first time around, and still refused to throw out his old shirts even though they no longer fitted him. I then spent the rest of the evening drinking and talking with him, as he reminisced about skinheads in his home town of Gateshead.

I was also stopped by a policeman once, and just thought it was yet another Noise Up Skinheads day. But no, this bobby had seen my Trojan Skins patch, and couldn’t stop talking about how he used to be a skinhead into reggae, how he collected Trojan, joined the Trojan Appreciation Society, still had the members’ medallion, and so he went on. As Stuart says, “You never really get out of it. It’s you.”
Not so long ago, Stuart appeared on a TV programme, over an incident where he had caught one of his employees stealing from hotel rooms. Knowing that the police would do very little about it, Stuart had set up a video camera in a room and caught the bloke in the act. Then together with his son, Stuart grabbed hold of the thief, took him to the basement and “extracted a confession”. Locals who are equally fed up with nothing happening to petty criminals saw Stuart as a vigilante, and he was praised in the local ‘paper. However, the TV documentary tried to make him out as a thug who took the law into his own hands. Just as Stuart still sees part of himself as belonging to the skinhead culture, very few skinheads reading this will think he did wrong. You don’t let people sh!t on you and get away with it.
“I consider myself a skinhead even although I don’t look like one now,” says Rob Hingley, echoing the feelings of countless ex-skins. “I looked like one in the past, but I think it’s more of a mental state of being in a movement that’s been around since 1967, and being proud of your working class heritage, being clean and tidy, and having respect for people around you. It’s a proud badge of working class courage, that’s how I see it. I might not look like a skinhead anymore, but it’s in my heart.”

Graham, another original skinhead from Bridlington, has never hung up his boots. To this day he can be found working the doors of nightclubs with a cropped head and wearing his crombie coat and boots. “I first became a skinhead in 1970. It was after we’d seen some of the older lads like Stuart and we thought, that looks good. We couldn’t afford the Doctor Marten boots or the Ben Shermans so we just made do with army boots, granddad shirts, and as we could afford it, we bought the clothes. You felt ten feet tall when you put your boots on, you felt really good, felt like somebody.”

Brian Kelson has also remained true to the skinhead faith more or less since first signing up in 1970. “It was work all week, so come Friday night you’d put on the gear and go up the pub, leave the scooters at home, have a few beers, decide who was going to drive. We used to go up a local nightclub and there was always a big mixture of people .... so there was always a lot of trouble. That was just the sort of place it was. If we got bored, we’d go to a disco in a smaller town and they’d immediately see you as alien because you were dressed differently - short hair, suits, sta-press, whatever - while they were just average boys about town. You’d ask the DJ to play some reggae - they’d always have Al Capone, Israelites - and you’d start dancing and talking to some of the girls, and you could guarantee the local lads would come over. You were different, coming into their club, dancing to strange records, chatting their girls up, so it would always kick off. Then, it was just a laugh, great fun. You’d always end up having a punch up. Everything would go flying, chairs and tables and whatever, you against them, a big divide down the middle. Because you were dressed differently you attracted trouble and people thought you were looking for it.”

“There’s nothing like being in a gang,” recalls Lee Thompson, who would go on to find fame and fortune with Madness, a band who were at least partly responsible for the return of ska in the late Seventies and the reason behind a new generation of school kids shaving their heads and lacing up a pair of boots. “I first saw skinheads in about ‘68 and I thought, 'I like that'. There was a pair of flares laid out in front of me and a pair of Doctor Martens and for some reason the Doctor Martens appealed to me more than the pair of flares. Plus the people I knocked about with were that way inclined - shaved heads, jackets . . . it was a good year for fashion. We used to knock about Parliament Hill Fields and we were called the Highgate. The leader of the gang was Dave Nash and the next in line was a chap called Dennis and they must have only been five foot three, but they looked eight feet tall. We used to do stupid things like smashing windows and that. There was a bowling green next to us where old people used to enjoy their Sunday afternoons and one day we went over there with our steel combs and carved our names in the bowling pitch. They had to take the whole thing up and re-lay it.”

Britain has given birth to countless youth cults since the Second World War, but few come close to challenging skinheads who represent the greatest of them all. And that’s particularly true of the original skinhead era. At the time, communities were being demolished to make way for high-rise flats and jobs were being replaced by machines, and somehow the skinhead cult, with its style, passion, power, defiance and aggression, seemed to be the perfect celebration of working class pride. Skinheads worked hard and played hard. They went cap in hand to nobody. They were smart, clean and sussed. To be a skinhead was to join in the celebration, it was about standing together with your mates, it was about being somebody in a world of nobodies. At face value it was just another fad, but its roots were so powerful and meant so much to those involved in it that the culture has stood the test of time for over 30 years now.

“1970, on holiday somewhere down south, I first saw a gang of skinheads running riot around this seaside town,” remembers Nidge Miller, later of Oi! band, Blitz. “A week later I had my head shaved, got my boots, my braces and a shirt. Almost everyone was a skinhead really. Back then you were a skinhead or nothing.”

American Skinheads

by Uncle Al of Murphy's Law

Skinhead style started to show itself in the NYHC scene at its beginning. The true Oi skinheads appeared in Britain in the late 60s. America also had its version of skinhead with the gangs in the Bronx (The Fordham Baldies actually existed). The first ones I met were at a show at CBGBs in 1978. They were there to see a band called Mike Pardo's Straight Edge (meaning the razor,not the yet-to-happen sXe). Big,mean looking guys with leather jackets and massive tattoo work, totally impressed this kid.

"Collosal man was a skinhead.." The Psychos

By 1981 a new generation of skins started appearing at American punk rock shows. Not much resemblence to the Oi type, more like punks with shaved or buzzed heads. The boots were basic black combat boots, leather or army coats, jeans with torn knees, work gloves, chain belts. It was the ska followers, more educated in British ways, that brought more of the look into the scene with creepers, Fred Perry shirts, while punks brought in the Oi sounds like the Business, The Exploited, Sham 69, The Cockney Rejects, GBH. The first true skinhead band I saw was the 4 Skins at some club uptown.

"Skinhead rebell...kick'em in the ass....Skinhead rebell...ain't got no class" Murphys Law

The skinhead style wasnt the only one that worked its way into the scene. There was also the Rasta influence and the home-boy look of sneakers and adidas sportswear,then came the skater street look. NYHC started to become a wide mix of styles. Straight Edge bands seemed to be wearing the look too, so the was a wide cross influence. By 1983 the mohawks started fading out, so most shows became a sea of bald heads and tattooed bodies. Soon the combat boots and chain belts gave way to Doc Martins and braces. Agnostic Front became straight-up skinhead, American style.

"We gotta stick together..punks and skins..united and strong" A.F.

Up to this point it was just that - style and music. Though the New York scene seemed to be largely white, catholic school types, there were also jewish, black, latino and asians in the mix too, I'd guess about a 60-40 ratio, so it could hardly be considered a prejudiced bunch. Of course I cant say what was in the hearts of every individual but racial politics was at the time avoided. There was too much fun going on for that kind of stuff.

"Dont forget the struggle..dont forget the streets.." Warzone

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love your article,I'm from the Philippines. I can say that skinhead culture exist here since the 80's, however, were like a few dozen in the scene which makes us special....