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Traditional Skinheads

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Traditional Skinheads Skinheads have long been a controversial topic but few outside of the scene know the true history of Skinheads and can tell the difference between a Tradskin and a neo-Nazi bonehead. Born out of British working class youths in the late sixties Skinheads had a passion for music, football and pride. Today Traditional Skinheads stay true to the non-racist and non-political values of the Skinheads of the sixties before the Nazi movement hijacked the culture and changed society's view of Skinheads forever. The Skinhead subculture started with the Mods in the early 60’s in England. The Mods were working class youths but looked classy in dress. They listened to reggae and frequently went to night clubs that played ska music. Nearing towards the mid 60’s many of the Mods wanted a harder look that more represented their working class roots. The kept the clean cut Ben Sherman shirts and their love for reggae and ska music but began to sport shaved heads ( in part to counter the popular hippie movement), Levi jeans and steel toed boots which is what many of the youths wore to their factory jobs and thus the “Skinhead” was born. At this time there was still nothing racial about being a Skinhead. Jennifer Abbots wrote an article about skinheads titled True 'Skinheads' Are Not the Racist Thugs of Media Fame in the New York Times saying that, “Instead of opting for the flamboyant, fancy-dress escapism of the Mod and Teddy Boy youth cults before them, the skinheads embraced working-class fashion… They also borrowed from their working-class West Indian neighbors, adopting trilby hats and crombie jackets, peg-legged striped suits and love for ska… The original skinheads loved to dance to these ska beats, often frequented all-black nightclubs” (Jennifer Abbots).Black and white unity in the scene was inevitable. The Skinhead was a direct result of the Jamaican youths and English Mods mixing and congregating together. Racism obviously had no part in the start of Skinhead scene but eventually it did take a violent hold on the culture. Roddy Moreno the lead singer of a popular Skinhead band called The Oppressed shared his view on the matter in a documentary called Skinhead Attitude when he said, “If you’re racist you can’t be a skinhead because skinheads wouldn’t exist without Jamaica. So to deny the culture, which is why eventually we called them boneheads because they’re not skinheads they’re boneheads, we’re skinheads… but obviously the world outside think we’re all the same” (Skinhead Attitude). The racist element to the “Skinhead” came about with the rise of the British National Party in early 80’s. The English have always had pride in their country and where they were born but in the 1980’s with the surge of Pakistani immigrants coming to England that pride was taken to a new level. Many English nationals blamed the immigrants as more and more found themselves out of a job and unable to find new work. The British National Party at this time became very popular with its emphasis on nationalism and anti-immigration policies. The first racist acts taken by Skinheads, black and white alike, were violent attacks on Pakistani immigrants. As the Sothern Poverty Law Center puts it, “Fueling these attacks and cementing the new racist skinhead identity was increasing association with two neofascist political parties, the National Front and the British Movement. The latter, founded by longtime neo-Nazi Colin Jordan in 1968, did the most to stamp a swastika on the racist sector of the skinhead movement” ( After the BNP started influencing young white Skinheads there was a definitive break between racist and non-racist Skinheads. Skinheads were the perfect foot soldiers for the British National Party. Many of them were already troubled, violent football hooligans and their tough working class persona was exactly what the BNP was looking for. They used the Skinheads to spread fear among British people and convince the public to vote for BNP officials much like how the Nazis used the Gestapo in WWII. However, the Nazi movement in Britain was short lived. Despite popular belief, even at this time not all Skinheads were racist, in fact an anti-racist Skinhead organization was started called SHARP or Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. These Skinheads were dedicated to preserving the original Skinhead way of life and made a point to show the people of Britain that the BNP was nothing but another Fascist Nazi regime. With the rise of SHARP, skinheads worldwide began taking a stand against the Nazi boneheads who were poisoning their culture. Still the media paid no attention to the fact that the traditional skinheads were taking back their scene from the Nazi boneheads that dared to call themselves “Skinheads”. A skinhead named Gavin explained in the 1995 documentary World of Skinhead how the media had no right in classifying every skinhead as a Nazi when he stated, “I find the media absolutely incredible because it is totally and utterly based on misinformation and lack of facts by people who have no understanding of the subject they’re writing about” (World of Skinhead). The media has always focused on the racist element to the Skinhead scene. The reality is that the amount of non-racist skinheads has always far out-weighed the amount of racist skinheads. So why when the general public hears the word “Skinhead” do they automatically think “Nazi”? It is because the only coverage of Skinheads in the media is about violent fascist boneheads. For instance, Oprah Winfrey (famous for her TV show and interviews with celebrities in America) had an interview with some skinheads in 1988 on her show but obviously they were Nazis not really skinheads. Oprah began her show with some information about skinheads, “Hi everybody, my guests today call themselves Skinheads… a growing number of these young people are aligning themselves with a neo-Nazi philosophy that teaches separation of the races and encourages violent behavior. They say their heads are shaved for battle and they must save the white race from communists, from homosexuals, from capitalists, from blacks, and Jews. Even their music touts this philosophy, let’s take a listen” (Oprah VS. Skinheads 1988). Oprah then proceeds to play the song “Race and Nation” from an English Nazi band called Skrewdriver. Although a numerous amount of documentaries have been made about Traditional Skinheads, the only people who watch them are Skinheads and Punks who are associated with the scene. The majority of the public however will have learned what a Skinhead is through popular shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show. The media in sense has actually helped spread the neo-Nazis message of hate and has even influenced some troubled young people to want to become the “Skinheads” they saw on TV. Another Skinhead whose name is Paul proves this point when he states, “There are skinheads out there, which there obviously are, who um have taken heed from what they’ve read in the newspapers to become skinheads, and become skinheads for the wrong reasons and maybe gone around causing trouble for no reason, then so the blame with that lies at the door of the media because it’s the monster they created” (World of Skinhead). The media no doubt is one of the biggest enemies that the skinhead cult has ever faced. Today skinheads around the world are still fighting for their name despite the fact that racist skinheads no longer pose a true threat to the subculture. They are unfortunately fighting the stigma that the word “Skinhead” still has to it. However, there is some hope in the subculture even in the media. Just last year in an article with the LA Weekly Nicholas Pell wrote that, “L.A.'s skinhead scene has been around for decades but has gotten particularly popular during this latest revival in the past few years. Unlike the skinheads you've seen on TV, the L.A. scene is not only anti-racist, it's overwhelmingly Latino…early reggae and obscure soul records dominate their collections. At least once a month, several hundred people turn out for old Jamaican stars or mostly forgotten Motown singers” (Nicholas Pell). The Skinhead cult started as a multicultural scene and will stay a multicultural scene no matter what the media or anyone else tries to say it is.

Works Cited
Abbots, Jennifer. "True 'Skinheads' Are Not the Racist Thugs of Media Fame." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Apr. 1994. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. .
"Oprah VS Skinheads 1988." The Oprah Winfrey Show. ABC. Chicago, 1988., 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. .
Pell, Nicholas. "Skinheads United: All Over L.A., Nonracist, Primarily Latino Skinheads Obsess on Classic Reggae and Soul." LA Weekly. LA Weekly, 07 June 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. .
Skinhead Attitude. Dir. Daniel Schweizer. Prod. ADR Productions. By Daniel Schweizer. Perf. Laurel Aitken, Buster Bloodvessel, Roddy Moreno. 2003. DVD.
"Southern Poverty Law Center." Racist Skinheads: Understanding the Threat. The Southern Poverty Law Center, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. .
World of Skinhead. Dir. Doug Aubrey. Channel 4, 1995. DVD., Jan.-Feb. 2007. Web. 14 Apr. 2013. .

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