What do you initially think of when you hear the ‘subculture of Skinheads’? Do you associate it with racism,disdainful, riots, violence and patriotism? Or a culture based on a mix marriage of Jamaican and white working class London culture, which brought together an electric mergence of liberty for non-racist youths. The reality is the media created a nationalistic picture of the ‘skinheads’ and society labeled them as racist, rioting youths who brought violence within their shadows. Leaving out the one crucial fact: There were two emergences of a skinhead culture: first within the late 1960s and then again within the 1980s.
In the late 60s the youth driven subculture ‘skinheads’ was grounded by previous subcultures:teddy boys and mods and rockers, especially the hard mods. Many of the hard mods were identified by their shorter hair and more working class image. However the main roots occurred from the wind rush generation after the 2nd world war where 492 optimistic west-indian passengers were on board , who brought along their sophisticated, jollification culture, which was integrated within the new developing skinhead subculture. Many white and black youths were driven by a fascination of the mixed styles: from the classic braces to the hard industrial Dr martens and the reggae and ska music. Due to the proliferation within reggae, a whole new form of reggae had emerged onto the music market: skinhead reggie specially for the UK market. Which showed a racial acceptance on both sides within London. However Britain within the 60’s was still a racist country and ‘was seen as a way of life’. For this movement to occur within London,just highlights how social change was coming. A new form of life was emerging out of this new open minded generation, but not all were as opened minded.
When the 70’s were on the horizon the originals from the birth of the skinheads were seen as the ‘parents’ within the scene. New music and styles were emerging ; flares, punk rock: which resulted in the decaying of the subculture. However then when the late 70’s came around youths who resisted fragments of the ‘punk scene’ started to adopt the 1969 skinhead fashion and revived the floor for the skinheads. One women i spoke to who was a skinhead within the late 70s said ‘women would only wear monkey boots and to get the tight jeans look would actually sew our jeans on’ and to quote ‘going to the toilet was out of the question’. I couldn’t imagine waking up early and before doing anything just whipping out the needle and thread box to create a pair of skinny jeans. I guess thats the luxury the 21st century has: All shops have an influx of subcultural fashions in one.
However what many people get confused about is the issue of racism and how it is connected within the skinheads. Little or no racism existed within the movement around the first flux, its in the 2nd flux of skinheads that had been associated with terror and the toxic social problem: racism. The contradictory attitude that existed within the second skinheads, wanting an all ‘white culture’ but then ’embraced’ the non white culture; listening to soul and taking their style and endorsing it as their own. This contradictory attitude is almost quite difficult to understand, it terms of how they could preach racism but still listen to such soulful music? What is most shocking to understand however, is that the first skinheads were multicultural and integrated within each others culture to fetching non-white friends back home and sharing vinyls, showing how Britain was moving away from this ‘racist ideology’ that was so deeply rooted within. Then to move towards a racist period was a serious step back for Britain.
But why? one reason was the media, aka ‘the power vault’, which adore the chance to create a moral panic within society and this is what they did. This later movement carried on through the 80’s where a new essence of punk emerged from style to sound. The style was typically more militant and many football fans who came down to London where skinheads first emerged, took on this style and creativity and endorsed it to be seen as a key feature of the football culture, which is wasn’t. Football stadiums alone are associated with racism, loud young teens, typically white working class males. What the media did was target this group and associated them with the culture of the skinheads on the basis of their attire. Rather than realising that they were not part of the skinhead culture. The media scapegoated skinheads to the point where a social confusion between the cultures had emerged. Over reporting on the culture resulted in police brutality and a crack down on their actions. By no means am i saying that its a myth that allot of those who joined the movement were not racist, as many of them were however a majority of them in fact wasn’t and to label them all as ‘racist’ is ignorant in itself.
The media has a way to turn the argument on the non guilty in order to protect some kind of hidden inequality that many of us in society are unaware of. Not all that you read of, hear and see are in fact reality and what the media does is almost glamourise something to make news coverage.