skinheads

skinheads
   The skinhead style is a direct descendant from the mods of the early 1960s. In the early 1960s the mod movement split in two ways. Some mods were attracted to the scene that became known as ‘swinging London’, and their dress became more outlandish and camp. Some of these mods also became involved in the psychedelic rock scene. Many working-class mods, known as ‘hard mods’, rejected what they saw as the effeminacy of the ‘art-school’ mods and became skinheads.
   These skinheads dressed in an aggressive style based upon the clothing of the traditional British working man, namely jeans, checked shirts, boots and braces. The music favoured by this embryonic skinhead movement was ska, reggae, bluebeat and soul. Some skinheads developed a style of clothing that was based upon Afro-Caribbean youth styles, and wore sunglasses and wide brim hats. Towards the end of the 1960s, skinheads began to develop a fearsome reputation for violence, and were dubbed ‘bovver boys’ or ‘boot boys’ by the media. This name was derived from the skinhead tendency to wear Dr Martens boots, particularly those boots that extended to just below the knee and had steel toecaps.
   Skinheads were often fanatical football fans, and this often led to fights between skinhead gangs and rival football fans. This violence was seen to be the traditional manner of solving disagreements, and fitted into the skinheads’ peculiarly conservative ethos, based around patriotism and masculinity. Skinheads were opposed to the hippie movement and to homosexuality, which often led to groups of skinheads going ‘queer bashing’ and attacking hippies, or any group perceived to be either an easy target or willing to fight. As punk rock gathered steam, some skinheads became involved in this movement. Towards the end of the 1970s, in the wake of punk, skinheads developed their own music in the form of oi. By the 1980s, skinheads had grown so far from their mod origins that they perceived the mod revivalists of the time to be their enemies, and promptly attacked them. Running gang fights between skinheads and mods occurred during bank holidays at seaside resorts such as Hastings.
   Although the skinhead movement has decreased in size since the early 1980s, it is still in existence today. The rivalry between skinheads and mod revivalists appears to have lessened, and skinheads are often seen at scooter rallies alongside mods. A rift has developed between those skinheads who are racist and have fascist sympathies, and nonracist skinheads. The latter are often known as SHARP skins; SHARP being an acronym for Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. These skinheads emphasize the Caribbean roots of the skinhead movement. The majority of British skinheads are either anti-fascist or apolitical, with membership of SHARP far exceeding the membership and votes for right-wing groups. Some elements of the skinhead style have entered into the clothing vocabulary of British youth in general, in particular the Dr Martens boot and brogue shoe, the Fred Perry t-shirt, and the Ben Sherman shirt with buttoned-down collar.
   STUART BORTHWICK

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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