If you as Joe civilian ask a skinhead, what is a skinhead, or were did it come from? You are going to get a different answer every time. So, what I’ve done here is to give you my version of how I understand the birth of the skinhead movement.
The skinhead movement never started out to be racist or anti-racist, fascist or anti-fascist. The birth of the skinhead sub-culture was born out of many youth scenes in the mid 1960’s. That’s right I said the 1960’s.
In the early 1960’s in England a sub-cultures would give birth to the skinhead movement. That movement was called the Mods.
In the late 1950s, in the post WWII world of Europe, many young people had a lot of disposable income for the first time. Some of these young people spent their money of fashions that were popular with American soul groups.
The Mod look was always evolving. (fence the Modernist style) With their complete devotion to fashion, scooters and the latest music. For many of the young people who love the Mod scene but didn’t have the money to keep up, so a new look and sub-culture emerged, Hard Mods.
The Mods with lesser means made do with practical styles that suited them. Since many of these youths had to work for a living they look centered on a clean cut working class style. steel-toe boots(Doc Martins), straight-leg jeans or Sta-Prest trousers, button-down shirts (Fred Perry or Ben Sherman), and braces (AKA suspenders). These working-class Mods better know Ska boys or Rude boys spent their money on suits and other sharp outfits to wear at clubs, where they enjoyed soul, ska and rocksteady music.
For the youth on the dole (Great Britain welfare system) the mod scene didn’t make scene. Much like the Hard Mods who had to work for a living, this group wore: steel-toe boots ( Doc Martins), straight-leg jeans or Sta-Prest trousers, button-down shirts (Fred Perry or Ben Sherman), and braces (AKA suspenders ). The few things that separated them from the Mods and Hard Mods were there shaved heads. So, the term Boldies (who would become known as Skinheads) was coined for them. [The bold head was mostly work related. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s lice was a big problem on the docks and in some working areas. Shaving your head was a way to keep you from bringing the lice home.] The other difference was that many Boldies liked Rock-N-Roll.
About the time I was being born and the skinhead sub-culture was too.
In the mid to late 1960’s the Hard Mods and the Boldies started to merge into what we call today the Skinhead movement. With a new style of music that was coming out of the clubs in Great Britain, Punk, with the hardcore beat and new political edge. The Punk scene would influence these two sub-cultures into one scene.
Skinheads had many influences’, from their style of dress to their taste in music.
Around 1968 the Skinhead movement was born. Hard Core Mods, Rude boys (mostly black immigrants who adopted the Hard Mods look) and Boldies who were clean cut and clean living. As clean as a person can be after a few pints in a pub can be. At this point joined together again the Mods (soft Mods really) scene that was becoming submerged in the drug culture as was a new and popularly growing group: know as Hippies.
By the mid 1970s, the skinhead subculture started to fade and some of the original skins dropped into several new sub-groups, like Bootboy or Suedehead, because of their close crop hair. Smoothies, because they could style their hair.
Oi! Music would change the Skinhead scene once again. Oi! Took the hard political edge of Punk and mixed it with the Ska and Rocksteady music beats.
•If you ever hear that Oi! Or that Skinheads started out as non-political you know you are dealing with a complete fool. Skinheads and Oi! music, Has always been political.
•Example 1: Oi! Is the music of the working class, this is a political and class warfare statement
•Example 2: Skinhead are working class, again a political and class warfare statement.
•There is no shut thing as non-political Oi! music or a non-political Skinhead.
By the late 1970’s the nearly out of style Skinhead scene received a much needed boost from the Punk rock and Oi! music scenes exploded. Skinhead like Gary Hodges and Hoxton Tom McCourt (both of the band the 4-Skins) and Suggs (of the band Madness) went back to the original look of the 1969 skinheads and gave the Skinhead scene new life.
By the early 1980’s the Skinhead movement split in to two sub-cultures. The SHARP’s (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) and the ne0-Nazi Skins. The two factions often squared off against each other at clubs all over the world.
The SHARPs scene which was heavily influenced by the communist’s and left wing thinking. The SHARPS started to spread the lie that the skinhead scene was started by black kids in Jamaica. Many SHARPs but not all started to allow drugs into their scene.
The neo-Nazi were heavily influenced by the NF (Nationalist Front) and groups like WAR (White Aryan Resistance) in America. These young kids got sucked into doing all the dirty work for the racist movement. This also gave racist kids a style of dress.
By the late 1980’s the Skinhead scene was all but dead.
The death blow to the SHARP’s came on November 10th, 1988 on the Geraldo Rivera-Skinhead Brawl Show. In the fight Geraldo got his nose broke by a skinhead. After that day the Skinhead movement would always be associated with the racism, white separatist and the neo-Nazi movement.
In the mid 1990’s a group of Skinhead who didn’t like the politics of the left leaning SHARP’s and had a complete dislike for the right leaning Nazi Skins, formed the Trad (Traditional) Skins. Again they went back to the old style: steel-toe boots ( Doc Martins), straight-leg jeans or Sta-Prest trousers, button-down shirts (Fred Perry or Ben Sherman), and braces (AKA suspenders ). Today the skinhead look is sported by many groups of youth. You have Scooter Skins (Called Hard Mods back in the day) Trad’s, SHARP’s, Rude boy (have a skinhead look to them) and neo-Nazi Skins (the smallest skinhead sub-culture). The skinhead movement is not just one group or style.
The one thing that is common among all these groups is a belief that they are the true skinheads. To prove they are the true skinhead they are willing to use violence to make that point. Skinhead on skinhead violence has grown over the years and today includes murder.