Skinheads are a subculture that use fashion as a way of identifying other members of their group. You can identify them by their shaved heads, red suspenders, combat boots, and tattoos. While today when we see skinheads or hear about them we almost always associate them with racism. They are affiliated with other groups such as the KKK and the Aryan Brotherhood. But there are groups of skinheads that exist who are vehemently against racism. SHARP’s for instance are a group opposed to what the skinhead culture has become. SHARP stands for skinheads against racial prejudice. If you look into the history of the skinhead movement it was never intended to be racist. It wasn’t until a few years after its origin that hate groups begin to target skinhead youth because they were impressionable. Very closely tied to the working class, the skinhead fashion was born out of necessity. Steel toed boots because many worked in factories, and shaved heads for the same reason. It became a uniform of solidarity. With the competition for jobs and the influx of Indians into England, the group began to take a turn towards the skinheads we see today. Hate groups used this influx of immigrants and the loss of jobs to breed hate into the group.
These are early skinheads from England
The fashion of American skinheads we see today is still pretty similar. I asked my friend from back home who now resides in Philadelphia, where skinhead culture is alive and well, what it means to him, he is a black skinhead. “To me it’s the family I didn’t have growing up. They are my brothers, my sisters, and my parental figures. When I see the boots and suspenders and hear someone yell Oi! to me, I know they are my brother. They get me into trouble and keep me out.” When I asked him about the idea of racism in the movement he had this to say, “F@*K them, they don’t know what it’s really about, and they don’t even know the history of what they are claiming to support. When I see a swastika tattoo on one of these guys, I call them out. If they don’t like me and what I am because of my skin, I’ll fight them, haha.”
Black skinheads were very common in England in the 60’s
Another friend of mine had some similar things to say. “It’s about family. Its a bond, a brotherhood.” I asked him what it represented to those who weren’t part of the group. “Well, depends on how you look at us I guess. For most they think I’m a criminal, and that I hate everyone. The only people I hate are yuppies, I f@*kin hate yuppies. I hope when they see me they are terrified.” Yuppies, by the way are white color workers, who are generally upper middle, or upper class. They are everything blue color skinheads are against.