Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Subcultural Foundations: The Skinheads

While a previous entry has touted the style and smart sensibilities of the mods, this is about their progression into another culture altogether, the skinhead. The skinhead borrows many features of the mod. The basic style and musical taste remain similar, if a bit skewed toward the ska and reggae brought to London by West Indian immigrants. Early skins also wore slim fitted 3-button suits, but this morphed into a more casual look with polo shirts, short sleeve button downs, and denim. One of the key differences in both cultures centers on the subject of class. The mods were very much interested in higher culture; fashion, philosophy, art, and literature. They could be viewed as upwardly mobile. The skins, on the other hand, had a greater focus on working roots. This emphasis created a much more masculine image that was rougher around the edges.

Breaking away from the mods stylistically in the late 60s, the skins cropped their hair short, thus appropriating the moniker. A key feature of the skins outfit was their combat boots, often gleaming from constantly being polished. Brogues and loafers were also worn by skins, especially in the early years. Levis Sta-Prest trousers were worn short, with no visible break. Jeans were also worn short, but rolled, as to accentuate the boots. Popular brands for shirts were Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Brutus, and others with a high button down collar. These were chosen to mimic the Brooks Brothers polo shirts popular in America. Braces, or suspenders, completed the look, but remained slim (approx. ½ inch in width). Over top, a skin might wear a harrington jacket, crombie coat, or towards the early 80s, a A-1 bomber jacket.

As the culture grew, the rowdy youth attracted the attention of The National Front and other racist organizations who wished to exploit their numbers. The stereotypical image of racist skinheads was touted by the British media, unfairly stigmatizing the entire movement. This drew a great division among skinheads, those who espoused ignorant racist ideals, and those who understood the roots of their culture and embraced all walks of life. Skinheads today can fall into either camp, or even decide to remain completely unbiased, refraining to get involved in scene politics. Regardless of these issues which have confounded our understanding of this dynamic youth subculture, no one can deny their inherent style. Skins still exist, yet they are hard to find. I for one, would love to see more clothing influenced by this culture, for they truly had an understanding of how to flaunt their style and still retain their brutish demeanor.

Source: GetSmart from Styleforum.

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