How much do you know about Skinheads? When you hear Skinheads do you automatically think ‘Racist’? Well if you do, then you’re in the wrong! So hopefully this will help educate you a little bit. The skinhead culture began in Jamaica, and was very strongly tied to Rudy Boy Culture. Some of the original Rude Boy’s were also considered to be the original Skinheads, like Desmond Dekker, and Bob Marley. (Yes that’s right, Bob Marley! He didn’t always have those dreadlocks you know!)
When the migration of Jamaican’s to Britain occurred, it was in the late Sixties reggae was at its heights of popularity. This type of music was then soon picked up by the working class, cockney kids in England. Working class is working class, no matter where in the world you go, so naturally these poor, young white kids felt a strong connection with these poor, young black kids. The Jamaican’s also brought their Skinhead culture with them, and ‘us’ English kids adopted this, along with the music.
The Mods, who were, young, rough, tough kids on scooters were the first to pick up the culture, and helped to contribute a great deal of the style. (Rolled up trouser legs, Tonic suits, Scooters, etc…). In 1969’ “Skinhead Moonstomp” was released by Symarip, and was the first album to ever celebrate the British and Jamaican Skinhead mix. Other classic Skinhead hits were –
- “54-46” by The Toots and the Maytals
- “Phoenix city” by Skatellites
- “Isralitles” by Desmond dekker
- “Oh cherry baby” by Eric Donaldson
And the list goes on…
Throughout the early Seventies, the Skin’s enjoyed there day in the sun. They were rowdy and violent by nature, but most of the aggression was directed at the upper class. One of the main venues for their fights was the football field. The upper crust rich kids had their team and the lower class, cockney kids had theirs. This situation was always fuel for a riot every single Saturday. The police then started to arrest everyone who arrived to there wearing steel-toe boots, and were rumoured to be kept in irons under the stand for the entire duration of the game. This weekly football violence continued through out the mid-Seventies. By now Judge Dread was grinding out classics like “Ska fever” and “Big 8”. The music always followed the Skin’s movement, and in many of the reggae hits of the time, you can pick up the stories of what was happening at the time. And now the Skins had a new target…Greaser Punks. Safety pinned, bike chain totin’, leather sportin’, Slime balls! They also went after the discos. Now don’t even get me started on disco. Skin’s were very much against (and still are against) disco because of the promiscuous sexual attitudes and the prevalent drug use that went along with the disco scene. If you want to know more about where punks came from, then go look it up somewhere on the internet. It doesn’t matter anyway, all that matters is that they came on to Skinheads turf and the skinheads weren’t about to let them stay there!
It was at this time that an organisation known as the infamous National Front was gaining popularity in Britain. There was considerable dislike among the general population of Britain concerning the immigration of Asians into England, and it was off this anti-Asian sentiment that the National Front drew its ammunition. They were attempting to stop all immigration from anywhere; they were basically a racist organisation. . They used bullying tactics to scare the new immigrants out of their homes, and one of their main tactics was to requite young tough kids off the street, shave their heads to make them look tougher, (Leaching off the Skinheads rough reputation) and send them to smash some private property. The media then titled them “Anarchist Neo-Nazi Skinheads” and the traditional Moonstomper’s name was forever tarnished by the racist scum bags. Many bands of the time screamed in opposition to the National Front; the Specials, The Clash, The Business ( An Oi! Band), Judge Dread, and many others.
Skinheads then began to disappear, in the late seventies, for some unknown reason. Judge Dread lamented this decline in the Reggae anthem “Bring Back The Skins.” By the end of the seventies they were all but gone in England, with only a few Skin’s still left!
Then all of a sudden they sprang up in America! Oh, joy!!! With the arrival of the third wave of Ska Skinheads they finally had a place in the world again, and by the early eighties there was a sudden surge of them on the native soul. This time there was a definite anti-racist mood to the movement which quickly grew in to S.H.A.R.P. ideology. Skinheads Against Racial Predigest were a backlash against the stereotype that was created by the media’s title of ‘Skinheads’. Ska was also the main thrust of this movement other than Reggae beat of the early British movement. By the nighties Oi! was also a major force. (It also seemed like more than Ska sometimes)
The original Skinhead working class attitudes are still alive, as seen in bands like –
- The Dropkick Murphys (Oi!)
- The Skoidats
- Inspector 7
- Bad Manners (2-tone band who’s still around)
Unfortunately at some point there sprang up a contingent of “Gay Skins”. They are typically stippified by wearing green boots, or at least green laces, and also green or pink braces. They are by far the smallest faction of Skinheads (even smaller than the Nazis) and they get no support from any other group. The largest group are the Trads, or Traditional Skins, then The Sharps, then Red/Anarchist Skins, then Mods, then Racist Skins and then The Gay Skins. The racist skins are by far the most vocal, and because of this they are plastered all over tv giving the world the idea that Skinheads are all Neo-Nazis, when in fact the opposite is true. “Pride without prejudice” was always the motto of the Skins, and true Skinheads still hold to it. The “Crucified Skins” cry has gone up in opposition to this bad press. Many other small factions like Liberty Skins and the South Florida Tri-county Skins exist within major divisions. Disco is still fought, and with the release of movies like “Boogie Night” and “Studio 54”, which glorify disco’s loose sexual attitudes and cocaine usage, the need of opposition to disco seems to be needed a hell of a lot more now, then what it did before. Punks aren’t fought no more, in fact there has been a great deal of Skin-Punk unity now. Of course Skins and Rudies are still tight, but when mainstream reggae, under Bob Marley’s banner, took a turn towards marijuana promotion the Skins split and lest the hippies to their own inevitable destruction due to their apathy. (Oh and by the way, the hippies get no love from Skins either) The main under-current of the entire movement has been respected, both of one’s self and of others. I have personally seen Nazi’s and Sharps become best friends simply by accepting each other and putting their differences in attitude aside. Hate will destroy anything it is involved in, but you can be against an attitude with out hating the person holding it. (Soap-box time) The sharps hate the Nazis, the Trads hate the Reds, and everybody hates the Gay Skins. If we were to except our differences there would be a lot fewer problems, but Skins take pride in what they believe and they stand by it one hundred percent, many times different opinions aren’t tolerated. Good or Bad, Skins stand by their principles, but in any event Skins, Like Ska, seem to be here to stay this time…
^^ I wrote that in case anyone looked up what a skinhead was online and found a load of bullshit about us. Its not true we aren’t racist and never will be. Skinheads are still alive and proud in England – me being one of them. Huge meet ups goone everyday. its amazing. And people love us here, still.
I also found these online for you –
I also started writing this a few years back for my college work, but I never got to finish it at the time. – I will have to finish now, when I have more spare time. –
Skinheads are kind of ‘subculture 2’ with well defined aesthetical, iconographical and ideological connotations, which are deliberately, show and very clearly flaunted.
These kind of people are easily recognized on the main bases of their- behaviour, clothes, music styles and phrasing, expressions. These aspects help skinheads show their identities to ‘others’ and strengthen their own.
It is quite hard to reconstruct in depth, the history of this social movement from the start: as skinheads seem to have a magmatic, unclear nature, which makes it extremely hard to analyse and difficult to identify its roots. The lack of official studies on this subject is great, even if, on the other hand, non-scientific sources, self-interpretations of skinheads themselves and journalistic records are quite common. Despite this uncertainty, however, it is still possible to roughly piece together the key happenings which made this phenomenon rise.
The journey begins in England in the 1960’s, were music was the main expressive instrument used by youth in the suburban neighbourhoods. In that period of time, music genres such as, Soul, Jazz and Ska were spreading amongst younger generations, with themes particularly addresses to youths and their role is the society and adapting unconventional aspects far different from the traditional ones. These music genres were forceful and understandable without any specific knowledge, with their own behaviour rules and reference codes figured as new, alternative options. Therefor post war generations identified their new needs and expectations with this kind of music themes. Actually it’s not surprising that music and musical idols play a decisive and essential role in the birth of the skinheads phenomenon.
Generally speaking it is possible to affirm that at the base of skinhead movement there is a union between at least two different subcultures (mostly due to similar music tastes and preferences). The first subculture was the one brought by the young immigrants of Jamaica (and their sons) with there Jamaican music styles. This actual group was, actually, not completely immigrated and accepted by the official society and was often accused of crime costumes, which had to be avoided. They were also blamed for being responsible of micro criminality.
Consequently they assumed rebel and unconventional attitudes, making use of marijuana and mixing their traditional Jamaican clothing style with role models of Hollywood movie gangsters’ one. Out casting their own country, those young boys were generally called Rude Boy, ‘dirty’ boys. They go possession of this pejorative expression, commonly used to address them by the society, and turned over its meaning into a positive attribute, proudly using it to symbolize their willingness to refuse the integration into the conformist and bourgeois British society that was isolating them.
The second subculture was Mods (Short for Modernist), which young proletarian English boys belonged to. This social class, at the time was suffering from massive transformations due to changing social conditions and growing consumerism-models which were spreading across all social levels. Pretorian young boys had anti-conformist role music models as well, or , at least, they defined them so (in ones to notice also reggae and rock steady).
A social distress and a strong detachment from middle class values were the common ground which linked those two subcultures, which were both looking for alternative solutions. This similarity made them develop a sort of collaboration and mutual understanding, and they started sharing places, concerts and behaviours. The musical, social, and, afterwards, political hostility towards the dominant social codes was an additional common feature, which made their union stronger. They also started developing some kind of antagonism towards those young groups which seemed just to pretend, and not really feel, contempt for the existing reality: Rockers and Hippies in particular were two sub-cultures that used to wear their hair long, and this is not just as a coincidence. The rockers’ powerful-motorcycle mania and their leather jackets, which became tier uniforms, were forms of consumerism just superficially hidden under popular elements. The hostility towards Hippies was stronger from Rude Boys and Mods, and the opposition against this subculture was a crucial element for the Skinheads’ origins. In the middle 60’s the spread of Hippy movement led to several transformations in young generations’ culture, giving origin to another subculture with its own distinctions and differences from the Mod’s. People began to look at Hippies as bored well-to-do people, who could afford expensive clothes, universities, colleges and any other kind of prestigious further education structures. They were targeted as the ones used psychedelic drugs which were too expensive for the young groups living in the working-class neighbourhoods and, moreover, as the ones with psychedelic rock-music passion, who were just attracted by the latest trends. Their international, left-wing and communist-sympathizing political activism was perceived as far more abstract and different from the needs of the real working-class men: a kind of game played by unsatisfied bourgeois. Hippies, with fake sloppiness, were also accused to be part of an artificial trend, while their outwards refuse of material assets was seen as a fake poverty, built by people who, in fact, were rich enough to live with out working, thanks to their leisured classes of origin. Both Rockers and Hippies were blamed for their lack of roots, anarchism, disdain for their homes, and were seen as elfish individuals who condemned things that some others could only dream theirs lives of sacrifice and work in the suburbs, without any hope to go away. Rockers and Hippies were, in fact, offering new role models, alternative, different, and they were the opposite of what Skinheads wanted. They were Skinheads’ rivals, the reality they had to face and distinguish from.
In the urban decay of the more deprived areas, the general opposition against Rockers and Hippies and the common experience of marginalization, combined with similar music genres, made Mod and Rude Boys young cultures mix and join together, in the late 60’s. This amalgamation gave birth to a new synthesis, with its own original musical, ethical and aesthetical reference codes: The Skinheads’.
The official date, which is acknowledged by its own members, is 1969, still celebrated and recognized in the ‘the Spirit of 1969’ motto. The typical musical model of Skinheads’ rising, at least at the beginning, was Punk-Rock, especially in its Oi version.
One of the social basic of Skinheads’ phenomenon is, for sure, the gradual decay of English suburban neighbourhoods, and the slow, although unstoppable, embourgeoisement of the working class’ lifestyle and expectations. Public assistance services provided while the economic boom of the 60’s was rumbling on, didn’t change at all lifestyles and needs of the lower classes, in their working class areas.