Skinhead

From The Dress Code
Skinhead.jpg
Mode Alternative
Status Unknown
Era 1960s
Scene UK, North America
Influenced by Unknown
Influenced Unknown

Summary

A skinhead is a fashion identity based on the eponymous subculture that emerged from working class youths in London, England, in the 1960s and soon spread to other parts of the country, with a second working class skinhead movement emerging worldwide in the 1980s. Motivated by social alienation and working class solidarity, skinheads (often shortened to "skins") are defined by their close-cropped or shaven heads and working-class clothing such as Dr. Martens and steel toe work boots, braces, high rise and varying length straight-leg jeans, and button-down collar shirts, usually slim fitting in check or plain. The movement reached a peak during the 1960s, experienced a revival in the 1980s, and, since then, has endured in multiple contexts worldwide.

Characteristics

Hair

Most first wave skinheads used a No. 2 or No. 3 grade clip guard cuts (short, but not bald). From the late 1970s, male skinheads typically shaved their heads with a No. 2 grade clip or shorter. During that period, side partings were sometimes shaved into the hair. Since the 1980s, some skinheads have clipped their hair with no guard, or even shaved it with a razor. Some skinheads sport sideburns of various styles, usually neatly trimmed, but most skinheads do not have moustaches or beards.

By the 1970s, most female skins had mod-style haircuts. During the 1980s skinhead revival, many female skinheads had feathercuts (Chelsea in North America). A feathercut is short on the crown, with fringes at the front, back and sides. Some female skinheads have a shorter punk-style version of the hairstyle, called a Chelsea cut, which is almost entirely shaved, leaving only bangs and fringes at the front.

Clothing

Skinheads wear long-sleeve or short-sleeve button-down shirts or polo shirts by brands such as Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, Brutus, Warrior or Jaytex; Lonsdale or Everlast shirts or sweatshirts; Grandfather shirts; V-neck sweaters; sleeveless sweaters (known in the UK as a tank top); cardigan sweaters or T-shirts (plain or with text or designs related to the skinhead subculture). They may wear fitted blazers, Harrington jackets, bomber jackets, denim jackets (usually blue, sometimes splattered with bleach), donkey jackets, Crombie-style overcoats, sheepskin ¾-length coats, short macs, monkey jackets or parkas. Traditional skinheads sometimes wear suits, often of two-tone tonic fabric (shiny mohair-like material that changes colour in different light and angles), or in a Prince of Wales or houndstooth check pattern.

Many skinheads wear Sta-Prest flat-fronted slacks or other dress trousers; jeans (normally Levi's, Lee or Wrangler); or combat trousers (plain or camouflage). Jeans and slacks are worn deliberately short (either hemmed, rolled or tucked) to show off boots, or to show off socks when wearing loafers or brogues. Jeans are often blue, with a parallel leg design, hemmed or with clean and thin rolled cuffs (turn-ups), and are sometimes splattered with bleach to resemble camouflage trousers (a style popular among Oi! skinheads).

Many traditionalist skinheads wear braces, in various colours, usually no more than 1" in width, clipped to the trouser waistband. In some areas, braces much wider than that may identify a skinhead as either unfashionable or as a white power skinhead. Traditionally, braces are worn up in an X shape at the back, but some Oi!-oriented skinheads wear their braces hanging down. Patterned braces — often black and white check, or vertical stripes — are sometimes worn by traditional skinheads. In a few cases, the colour of braces or flight jackets have been used to signify affiliations. The particular colours chosen have varied regionally, and have had totally different meanings in different areas and time periods. Only skinheads from the same area and time period are likely to interpret the colour significations accurately. The practice of using the colour clothing items to indicate affiliations has become less common, particularly among traditionalist skinheads, who are more likely to choose their colours simply for fashion.

Hats common among skinheads include: Trilby hats; pork pie hats; flat caps (Scally caps or driver caps), winter woollen hats (without a bobble). Less common have been bowler hats (mostly among suedeheads and those influenced by the film A Clockwork Orange).

Traditionalist skinheads sometimes wear a silk handkerchief in the breast pocket of a Crombie-style overcoat or tonic suit jacket, in some cases fastened with an ornate stud. Some wear pocket flashes instead. These are pieces of silk in contrasting colours, mounted on a piece of cardboard and designed to look like an elaborately folded handkerchief. It was common to choose the colours based on one's favourite football club. Some skinheads wear button badges or sewn-on fabric patches with designs related to affiliations, interests or beliefs. Also popular are woollen or printed rayon scarves in football club colours, worn knotted at the neck, wrist, or hanging from a belt loop at the waist. Silk or faux-silk scarves (especially Tootal brand) with paisley patterns are also sometimes worn. Some suedeheads carried closed umbrellas with sharpened tips, or a handle with a pull-out blade. This led to the nickname brollie boys.

Female skinheads generally wear the same clothing items as men, with addition of skirts, stockings, or dress suits composed of a ¾-length jacket and matching short skirt. Some skingirls wear fishnet stockings and mini-skirts, a style introduced during the punk-influenced skinhead revival.

Footwear

Most skinheads wear boots; in the 1960s army surplus or generic workboots, later Dr. Martens boots and shoes. In 1960s Britain, steel-toe boots worn by skinheads and hooligans were called bovver boots; whence skinheads have themselves sometimes been called bovver boys. Skinheads have also been known to wear brogues, loafers or Dr. Martens (or similarly styled) low shoes.

In recent years, other brands of boots, such as Solovair, Tredair and Grinders, have become popular among skinheads, partly because most Dr. Martens are no longer made in England. Football-style athletic shoes, by brands such as Adidas or Gola, have become popular with many skinheads. Female or child skinheads generally wear the same footwear as men, with the addition of monkey boots. The traditional brand for monkey boots was Grafters, but nowadays they are also made by Dr. Martens and Solovair.

In the early days of the skinhead subculture, some skinheads chose boot lace colours based on the football team they supported. Later, some skinheads (particularly highly political ones) began to use lace colour to indicate beliefs or affiliations. The particular colours chosen have varied regionally, and have had totally different meanings in different areas and time periods. Only skinheads from the same area and time period are likely to interpret the colour significations accurately. This practice has become less common, particularly among traditionalist skinheads, who are more likely to choose their colours simply for fashion purposes.

Origins

In the late 1950s the post-war economic boom led to an increase in disposable income among many young people. Some of those youths spent that income on new fashions popularised by American soul groups, British R&B bands, certain film actors, and Carnaby Street clothing merchants. These youths became known as mods, a youth subculture noted for its consumerism and devotion to fashion, music and scooters.

Working class mods chose practical clothing styles that suited their lifestyle and employment circumstances: work boots or army boots, straight-leg jeans or Sta-Prest trousers, button-down shirts and braces. When possible, these working class mods spent their money on suits and other sharp outfits to wear at dancehalls, where they enjoyed soul, ska, bluebeat and rocksteady music.

Around 1966, a schism developed between the peacock mods (also known as smooth mods), who were less violent and always wore the latest expensive clothes, and the hard mods (also known as gang mods, lemonheads or peanuts), who were identified by their shorter hair and more working class image. Hard mods became commonly known as skinheads by about 1968. Their short hair may have come about for practical reasons, since long hair could be a liability in industrial jobs and streetfights. Skinheads may also have cut their hair short in defiance of the more middle class hippie culture.

Scenes

The rise to prominence of skinheads came in two waves, with the first wave taking place in the late 1960s and the second wave originating in the mid 1970s to early 1980s. The first skinheads were working class youths motivated by an expression of alternative values and working class pride, rejecting both the austerity and conservatism of the 1950s-early 1960s and the more middle class or bourgeois hippie movement and peace and love ethos of the mid to late 1960s. Skinheads were instead drawn towards more working class outsider subcultures, incorporating elements of early working class mod fashion and black Jamaican music and fashion, especially from Jamaican rude boys. In the earlier stages of the movement, a considerable overlap existed between early skinhead subculture, mod subculture, and the rude boy subculture found among Jamaican British and Jamaican immigrant youth, as these three groups interacted and fraternized with each other within the same working class and poor neighborhoods in Britain. As skinheads adopted elements of mod subculture and Jamaican British and Jamaican immigrant rude boy subculture, both first and second generation skins were influenced by the heavy, repetitive rhythms of dub and ska, as well as rocksteady, reggae, bluebeat, and African-American soul music.

Skinhead culture became so popular by 1969 that even the rock band Slade temporarily adopted the look as a marketing strategy. The subculture gained wider notice because of a series of violent and sexually explicit novels by Richard Allen, notably Skinhead and Skinhead Escapes. Due to largescale British migration to Perth, Western Australia, many British youths in that city joined skinhead/sharpies gangs in the late 1960s and developed their own Australian style.

By the early 1970s, the skinhead subculture started to fade from popular culture, and some of the original skins dropped into new categories, such as the suedeheads (defined by the ability to manipulate one's hair with a comb), smoothies (often with shoulder-length hairstyles), and bootboys (with mod-length hair; associated with gangs and football hooliganism). Some fashion trends returned to the mod roots, with brogues, loafers, suits, and the slacks-and-sweater look making a comeback.

Members of the second generation in the 1980s were often ex-punks. However, many of these second generation ex-punk skinheads, though fans of ska and reggae like the previous generation of skinheads, continued to listen to and create punk music and were heavily involved in the punk movement. Skinhead subculture has remained closely connected with and has overlapped with punk subculture ever since. 1980s skins were closely aligned with first wave punk, working class Oi! and street punk, ska, reggae, 2 Tone ska, ska punk, dub, anarchists and anarcho-punks, and hardcore punk. Contemporary skinhead fashions range from clean-cut 1960s mod-influenced styles to less-strict punk- and hardcore-influenced styles.

During the early 1980s, political affiliations grew in significance and split the subculture, distancing the far right and far left strands, although many skins describe themselves as apolitical. As a pro-working class movement that was initially highly regionalized and excluded by society's moral norms, skinhead culture sometimes attracted some violent and hard-line political elements and was eventually tainted in the mid-1980s by the tabloid hysteria of fringe and violent racial elements representing extreme racism. From the 1990s, disaffected, Neo-Fascist or Neo-Nazi youths in the former nation of East Germany, Spain, Finland, Central and Eastern European countries such as Russia adopted the style. However, many skinheads remain influenced by dissident, pro-working class left-wing, syndicalist, or center-left type politics or otherwise independent pro-working class politics that have been part of the movement since the beginning, particularly in the U.K. and the U.S., while others continue to embrace the subculture as a largely apolitical working class movement.



"Retrofashion" is not in the list (Unknown, Active, Retired, Deceased) of allowed values for the "Status" property.


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