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Skinheads Essay, Research Paper


Skinheads are working class citizens that enjoy music and beer, yet they are continually portrayed as racists and bigots. Skinheads are constantly called Nazis, but skinheads originated as working class men from England many years earlier. Skinheads spend most of their time with other like-minded individuals. A group of skinheads is usually called a crew. Unlike gangs, crews are relatively non-violent unless provoked. They dress in simple and classy style at all times to showcase their working class roots. Most skinheads will continue living the Skinhead lifestyle until the day they die.

Skinhead roots began during the late 1960’s when the Jamaican rude boy subculture mingled with the British mod subculture. A rude boy is best defined as a “cool super-hooligan.” Rude in Jamaican vernacular meant wild, violent, or reckless. These rude boys were best portrayed in such songs as Desmond Dekker’s “007 (Shanty Town)”, “Rude Boy Train”, and many other such releases. A rude boy is now portrayed as a person who listens to reggae and ska music primarily, dressing in nice clothes and suits. The term mod is short for modernist. Mod is a direct outgrowth of Post War Britain, when all the teenagers suddenly had a disposable income and a desire to find an identity beyond a schoolboy or workingman. The product of this marriage would be what we today call a skinhead. Skinheads preferred physical labor to the mod ideals of effortless work. There were several theories on why the skinheads cropped their hair short and began wearing boots. One theory is that “the rougher kids began cutting their hair close, both to aid their fashion and to prevent their hair from hindering them in street fights.” The other theory is being that “the shaved head and steel toed boots originated amongst the dock workers who required the safety of steel toed boots and shaved their heads as a precaution against head lice.” After work, skinheads would usually congregate to the mostly Jamaican-owned dance halls, wearing their finest clothes. Skinheads also enjoyed going to the pubs and drinking beer, and watching soccer. Skinheads enjoyed soccer, and were overly supportive at times, attacking supporters of the other clubs. During the mid to late 1970’s a resurgence of the Skinhead subculture arose and with it came a sense of football hooliganism never seen before. These hooligans were strictly devoted to their chosen football clubs and would not associate with supporters of other clubs. It soon became a trademark of the terraces as football hooliganism became a widespread problem. West Ham s East End Boot Crew was one of the first mobs to become overtly skinhead but it wasn’t long before it was the norm at nearly every London ground.

While skinheads weren’t being hooligans, they listened to and still listen to many different genres of music. The most common forms of music listened to by skinheads are as follow: Oi!, a form of street punk, 77 style punk, which was the first years of punk, and ska. Oi! Music expresses the life of being a skinhead. The struggle of labor and social aspects. 77 style punk is the best kind of punk because it is basic with good foot tapping rhythms. Keeping punk pure and full of passion. Ska is what became skinhead s dance music. First-wave ska was a Jamaican dance music that exploded from Jamaica in the early 1960’s. Jamaican immigrants brought ska to England. Which fell loudly on the ears of skinheads to come. First-wave was a mix of Rasta, Calypso, and other Caribbean rhythms mixed with the traditional African sound. Some artists from this period were Judge Dread, Desmond Dekker, Laurel Aitken, and The Skatalites. Second- and third-wave revivals came around during the mid 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s. Second-wave ska was associated primarily with the Two-Tone movement. This movement was dedicated to racial unity and stomping out racist factions. Two-Tone bands played concerts whenever possible to spread their ideas. Second-wave ska was a mixture of R&B, soul and traditional ska. Such major bands as Bad manners, The Selecter, The Specials, and The English Beat were among the defining bands of this movement and did plenty for the non-racist cause. Third-wave ska is the most recent wave to come around. Third-wave is a mixture of ska and punk, not following the traditional ska beat, such as the Skoidats, Skofflaws, Slackers, or Stubborn-All-stars.

Oi! is street punk, plain and simple. The word Oi comes from Cockney slang meaning “Hey.” It is also a shortening of the Greek oi polloi, meaning common people. Oi! Began more as a movement than as a sound. Oi! Bands sung about real issues faced by youth in the UK, such as unemployment, prison, authority, and social injustices. Many of the original and most revered bands had an obvious left-wing slant. The first time the word Oi! was used in a song was by the Cockney Rejects, singing “Oi! Oi! Oi!.” Gary Bushell gave these street punk bands of the late seventies/early eighties the name Oi because they refused to be a part of the plastic punk genre. Bushell also gave the world its first taste of Oi! in the Oi! The Album compilation. This compilation exposed many people to the movement and preceded the numerous Oi! compilations that followed it. The forefathers of Oi! Sham 69, The Lurkers, Cockney Rejects, CockSparrer, Angelic Upstarts, and the Business, played what the smarter press of the time called real punk. Around 1980, the 4-Skins, Infa Riot, The Last Resort, Combat 84 other like-minded bands began appearing all over England. The impact of the early 1980’s Oi! scene could be felt around the world. When Oi! hit American soil, it found its way into the hardcore scene, influencing many other scenes instantly. Socially, Oi! is the converging of skinheads and street punks, emphasizing working-class concerns and themes. The main themes being labor, fighting, drinking, self-pride, self-respect, also known as the politics of life. Such bands as Blitz, The Oppressed, Anti-Heros, The Bruisers, Patriot, and the Dropkick Murphy’s are all fine examples of Oi! music.

The last of the three main musical genres listened to by skinheads would be none other than punk rock. Punk rock is a melding of loud, snarling vocals, and overly distorted guitars grinding away as fast as they can. Punk rock came around during the late 1970’s. In Britain, the Sex Pistols broke down the walls of society, singing anthems of anarchy and chaos. While the clash taught the world about the rhythms of punk through life in London. At the same time, in the USA, the Ramones broke loose and did their part to bring punk rock to the eyes of everyday society. These bands are often referred to the first punk bands ever. When punk exploded in both countries society saw them as violent, troublesome youth trying to overthrow the system. Punk has gone through many changes since its inception in the seventies. Some of the most noticeable punk bands are U.S. Bombs, Rancid, Germs, and Social Distortion.

Skinheads need to look good while they’re out and about. Skinhead fashions have changed very little since the early days of the 1960’s. The most defining points of skinhead fashion would be the boots, braces, flight jacket, and rolled jeans. The color of a skinhead’s bootlaces and braces does not anything. Red doesn’t stand for Nazi, white doesn’t stand for white power, and blue doesn’t stand for SHARP. Laces just keep our boots on and accent them, and braces merely hold up our pants.

When one claims skinhead he should be well educated on the subculture and music. Freshcuts are usually found where there is a scene already, while some still claim freshcut when they’re just coming in. A freshcut isn’t a fly, new hairstyle, but a skinhead in training so to speak. Freshcuts are usually the younger generation of skinheads, usually somewhere in the teen years. Older skinheads tend to teach these younger members what they need to know and what to do and do not do. Older skinheads also tend to pick on these younger members to see what they’re made of. It’s popular belief that freshcuts get beat up so they can claim. This is not true because this would make skinhead crew nothing better than any other street gang.

It is popular belief that skinheads are racist, Nazi hate mongers. However this is not true. Skinheads are seen as Nazis, white power morons only because that’s the way the media wishes to portray them. These morons claim to be part of a subculture originally started by members of both black and white skin color. All true skins have suffered because of the infection known as politics. There are several factions of the skinhead subculture, you have the traditional skins, the sharp s, the boneheads, and the rash skins. Traditional skinheads are just hooligans living to have fun. This is where my place lies. Trads are hard workers and dedicated men. Filled with pride and honor. Hooligans who know their place in a life filled with pride and determined to have a good time. Sharp s or skinheads against racial prejudice are often the ones to jump up and go after Nazis just because they feel the need to. They take the traditional ideas to an extreme often. Boneheads as we all should know are the Nazi, racist bigots who claim skinhead and give the skinhead name such a bad rep. Rash s red and anarchist skinheads are just what their name implies. They have no business in being skinhead. Unfortunately though racism has infiltrated the skinhead ranks. The first affiliation between skinhead and racism was during the late 1970’s. The National Front saw the violent life of the skinheads as a perfect breeding ground for white supremacist action. The National Front and British Nazi Party both recruited heavily from the skinhead regimes, but mainly from the football hooligans who tended to be more violent. These hooligans looked enough like skinheads to make it seem that skinheads were the root of this racist problem. Ever since then, skinheads and racism have been synonymous together in the minds of billions of people around the world.

All in all, skinheads sprang up when British mods and Jamaican rude boys merged together. Ever since, they have been spreading worldwide and growing in numbers. Skinheads listen to Oi!, Punk, and Ska among others. They wear the traditional steel-capped boots and braces of the working class, because that’s where their roots lie, and because many skinheads are part of the working class. To claim one must immerse themself in the subculture and know it’s what they are and not what they think is cool. Skinheads are not racist and never have been. Nazis posing as skinheads have ruined the reputation of the traditional skinheads, forcing the world to perceive them as racists. Being a skinhead is a way of life, not a classification.

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