South Bend ARA
working to disarm the myth that all skinheads are nazis...
All this info was provided to us by a SHARPskin from NYC. Much thanks. We've included it here pretty much unadultered and unedited. Kudos to the Goose for the great info and all the help!!!
The Rudeboys and Rudegirls, or Rudies, came from the West Indian Black communities of Jamaica and to a lesser extent other Carribbean islands. They were the forefathers of the whole subculture. They started the whole "cropped hair" look, keeping it fairly short. They began wearing 3 piece suits, usually black or darker colors, with pork-pie hats, and ties. Switching from brogues (wing-tip like boots) to normal low-cut boots, like 6 eye at the most. They brought the love of Ska music and dance to Britain, as well as a love of the "gangster lifestyle". In Jamaican slang "rude" means "wild" or "rough", so in other words rudeboys comes to equal our term of gangster.
Throughout the 60s the Rudies stayed on a steady-course, with many White kids adopting and adapting their styles to form their own subcultures, especially the Mods. Racism at this time in Britain was at a low point, if there was any in large scale, it wasn't around the scenes. It wasn't until the mid to late 60s, when Skinheads came around, that any sort of violence and/or hate started between races. The Rudies, Mods and Skins found themselves in constant battles with each other, or with the Teddies (Greasers), Hippies, Rockers and other youth cults. Rudies were the only true Black cult in Britain during the 60s. There was a large sum of Black Skinheads during the late 60s, but they quickly died out.
As Ska and Rocksteady, the main music of most British youth cults, evolved into Reggae, a slower, bluesier stype of music, and with the birth of the Rastafarian religion and Black Nationalism, most Rudeboys retired their suits, boots, short hair and Ska for, tattered clothes, sandals, dread-locks and Reggae. At this point, about 1970, the original, true or Trojan-Rudies were deceased. It was the Skins who kept the Ska scene and the Rudeboy image alive, many of which ended up creating a new generation of mainly White Rudies, known as the 2 Tones. The new Rudies wore everything Black & White, two-tone colors, from wing tips, to blazers, ties, trousers, and so on.
The 2-Tone Rudies reigned from about 1978 to about the mid to late 80s, and, are just about extinct, once again their cult falling on the Skins for continuous protection, growth and development. Today the term Rudeboy has 3 definitions, in the new Dancehall scene (Hip-Hop Reggae) it applies to the mean ruthless Jamaican gangsters in Jamaica and across the world. Its second definition is for the Trad-Rudie or Trojan-Rudies, who keep the original cult alive. The 2 Tones came and went, and were nothing but forming Skins wearing black and white suits. The third definition is used by a lot of Skins, mainly Trad-Skins to speak of a gangster-skin, or a gang-banger, they call them rudies, or rudeboys/rudegirls. The true Rudies of today have little difference from the Trad-Skins, Neo-Mods, or the Suedeheads.
When the Rudeboys came to Britain in mass, they were greeted by a mix of middle-class and working-class White kids that loved their style and music. The Mods already had their own basic style going on. It evolved sweaters, or polo shirts, khakis or trousers, and anything from steel-toe work boots to brogues. Of course the mainstay of a short cropped hair cut was in need. The original Mods were much like the beginning of the Hippy cult. The only difference was, they were about hard work, and hard play, as opposed to the future Hippies "just play" ethics. The Mods were basically White versions of Rudies, only, not as rough at first. It would take a lot to drive the Mods from their clean-cut "good boy" style, to what we would call Skinheads.
Throughout the 60s the Mods spread like wild fire. Out of the mixed, Black and White cities, into the suburbs that were always a majority White. So, the Mods always have outnumbered the Rudies by a lot. With the growth of their cult, Mods from all over formed crews, alliances, and of course enemies. Rudies and Mods had always loved beer, music and sports, the only thing anyone could have something to fight about, was sports, differing teams, meant war. These Mods began wearing identifying patches, tattoos, pins, and colors that connected them with a certain district, city/town and/or football (soccer) team. These new-breed Mods were known as Hooligans, and were basically the formation of Skinheads.
While the football terraces turned into battle-fields for rival Hooligan crews. The inner-city streets around Britain, from Glasgow, to London became prowling grounds for these new Mods that only came out at night. They would hang up their dancehall clothes, and throw on their work boots, t-shirts and jeans and hit the streets looking for what we call aggro (aggrovation) in other words, looking for trouble. These Mods became known as Hard-Mods, and eventually, the minority of original Mods began converting in what was to became those Psychedelic "Swingers" of late 60s British fame. The majority of Mods had already converted to Hard-Mods and Hooligans, and soon, one could not tell the difference between a Hard-Mod or a Hooligan, thus, they were linked together as Skinheads.
The term "skinhead" was one used in later times, but the Mods and Hooligans had just taken a turn for the worst, seeing the change in music and fashion as a threat and lashed out at the majorities of sheep that went marching the way of the yuppie, the hippie, the rocker, the greaser. By 1967 every sports match in Britain and occasionally Europe was destroyed by rioting mobs of Hooligans. A crew of 10 could turn an entire football team and fans against an opposing team and their fans in a matter of seconds. The Hooligans were just showing the people the way, giving them the rage and release they already had inside of them, and letting them know they weren't alone, by lashing out first. Soon the crowd would follow in battle for their beloved team, country, city, family and friends. Just as the Hard-Mods roamed the streets of the British cities, the Hooligans did their turn for their cult on the terraces and playing fields.
Skinheads (Trojan-Skins or original skinheads): 1967-1971
As the Hard-Mods locked down the streets forming crews, and the Hooligans rioted on the playing fields, a new cult seemed to be brewing. When there were no games to go at, these Hooligans returned to their towns, and their gangs/crews, all of which were Hard-Mods and would open war on the Swingers, Greasers, Hippies and even the Rudies who were once their good friends. Mainly though it was Mod against Mod. A new name came out of no wear for these new-breed Mods, called Skinheads. Not because they were bald like many think, but, because one could see the skin of the scalp through the hair, which, during the Beatle mop-top days, and then the long-haired Hippies and Greasers, they would qualify as Skinheads.
Soon the Skinheads took on a fashion of their own. Wearing plaid button-down shirts with collars, and khakis with brogues on when they hit the clubs, and on the streets and at work it was all about jeans, t-shirts and big black steel-toe boots, which due to Skins became listed as lethal weapons in Britain on the Old Bill. The new "fashion poof" were braces (suspenders) and they would remain a part of the Skinhead scene to present day. Skins have always been violent, and always will be associated with it. Its as much nature to Skinheads as it is for a Bee to sting you when bothered. Or in Skinhead terms, Bovver (bov-ver). Aggro was always around, but, at times it seemed secondary to the drinking and dancing down at the local dancehalls and pubs. Ska was still the mainstay of music, and because the Mod was all but dead, and Rudies turning Rasta, it was up to the Skins to keep those cults memory and the music alive. For the first time you saw dozens of "skinhead reggae" bands, playing Ska for and by Skins, the way it should be.
During the early Skinhead days, a lot of Blacks became involved in the Skin cult, but, when the Rasta movement and other Black nationalist/power movements came around they stopped associating with Whites, and left the music and cults to the White Skins. The Skinhead era peaked in 1969, the biggest year for Ska, for Skinheads, and for sports. The sports was great for the Hooligans, and the Trojan-Skins as they are now called, just danced and drank the nights away, showing up to work the next day buzzing and sore from a rough night of swingin' and fightin'.
It was also during this time that we saw the first hint of racism in the Skinhead cult. When "asians", mainly Pakistani, Indian and Bengali started pouring into Britain from their homelands, it was made to seem like an invasion by many a working-class hero and politician. Skins, both Black and White formed new crews, not based around the old gang mentality, they now took on more of a lynch-mob mentality. These Skins were known as Paki-Bashing and seemed to attack anyone foreign (meaning not Jamaican or British).
It wasn't long that, with government crack-downs, the rise of racism, and too much violence that the Trojan-Skins hung up their boots and braces and moved on.
A lot of Skins by the end of 1969, were sick of the typical "skinhead" look and went on to what would be known as Suedeheads. The Suedes grew out there hair, about an inch, just long enough to comb it, and maybe part if. They resorted to the old Mod-like dress, including trousers and khakis, brogues, vests/sweaters and a new addition of the trench-coat. If you've ever seen the movie "Clockwork Orange" those gang members wearing White are modelled somewhat after the Suedeheads. The Suedes were the inner-city Skins, who were sick of the dirty look and the bad attention. To most, they looked like innocent working-class joes, but, they were still Skins deep down. Instead of big steel-toe boots or chain belts as weapons the Suedes made use of the business umbrella, sharpening the point of it to a spear-like weapon, or conceleing a dagger in the handle.
The Suedes came and went quickly, and the only thing that made them "skinheads" in any sense, was the love of beer, sports and ska, which has come to identify the Skinhead cult. Today there isn't much difference between a Trad-Skin, Suedehead, Smoothie or a Neo-Mod. All of them are basically the same kids, just swapping outfits.
Smoothie (Smoothhead): 1971-1974
Now just about the time some Skins turned into Suedeheads, Smoothheads came on the scene as well. These were kids with mop-top like haircuts, longer than the Suedes but shorter than all the Hippies. The Smoothies and the Sorts (female smoothies) took on a fashion completely removed from the Skins. They wore flared-jeans (bell-bottoms) wind-breakers or jean jackets, and some still wore boots or brogues, but the majority wore the likes of sneakers, moccassins, and dress shoes. The only difference between a Smoothie and a typical 70s kid, was their love of Ska, sports and beer. And their associations with Skins and Suedes.
Yes that's correct, even though the Skinheads evolved into Suedes and Smoothies, the Skinheads were still around, just in less numbers. After all, this is a "cult" isn't it? What kind of cult would it be if we died out and just now came back? The Smoothies were the last of a generation, the Suedeheads just gave up, but the Skins were always there, but they evolved more and more.
Just as it seemed the Skinhead cult had died, the towns came to life again, with an aggressive, fanatical form of Skin known as the Bootboy. Today the term Bootboy is used for all Skinheads and associated cults, but the true Bootboys are all but gone today. The Bootboys brought back the jeans that the Suedes and Smoothies had left behind, and they also brought back the big 8 to 10 hole boots (only count the holes on one side of the boot, known as eyelets). With the rage of Disco and Glam-Rock filling the youths ears, and drugs being the rage, the Bootboys in the smaller towns, kept drinking, kept blasting Ska and Skinhead Reggae, and talked about the days of the Spirit of '69. Keeping it alive in themselves, and their future generations. I believe it was the Bootboys who first introduced the flight-jacket (bomber-jacket) to the Skinhead cult in the mid-70s. Don't quote me on that though. They also started the fashion of wearing military clothing, like camoflauge jeans, and combat boots, even black jeans were big. But, unforntunately black and camo jeans and combat boots are stricking a Nazi thing now.
If it were not for the Bootboys, the Skinhead cult most likely would have died out, and the Bootboys were just waiting for the opportunity to bring back their beloved subculture and working-class message to the communities.
Here are some color codes generally used by Skinheads for laces and braces (suspenders) althought mainly for laces in the USA:
Black: Basic color, usually means you just bought your boots and they are too new to warrant buying a new pair. Black is the color of many crews, and in many places a SHARP color. Two-Tone followers wear a lot of black.
White: Usually means White Power or White Pride. Although White laces was started by non-racist Hooligans in the 60s, and then used by the 2-Tone followers, now it is mainly a racist thing.
Red: Means many things. Mainly used by Nazis to symbolize Fascism and the color of the Nazi German flag. The infamous non-racist Redskins of socialist-communist fame also wore a lot of red to show allegiance to a certain political grouping. But folks, politics ruined the Skinhead cult, and, they're just not for Skins. Gang-banging Skins like the Peckerwoods in CA use the red to symbolize "blood spilt on the streets", whether its your blood, or blood of your enemies, or blood-brothers, what have you.
Blue: This color has more meanings than any of the others. In many areas it symbolizes "Cop Killer". In other areas it will symbolize "Straight-Edge" aka "sXe" or "xxx" which means no drugs, alcohol, and the triple-x cats it means no drugs and alcohol plus no tobacco, no premarital sex, no violence, no profanity. They might as well be Hare Krishnas then. I mean, no dissing sXe Skins, but, they go against everything Skins stand for, drinking, fighting, and excuse my french "fucking".
Blue has also come to be a mainstay for SHARP Skins. I wear Blue laces the majority of the time, to symbolize both SHARP, Cop Killer, and a patriotism. Oh that's right, blue is a big color for those really patriotic skins. I myself have a stars & stripes set of braces I wear on holidays.
Green: This too has a lot of meanings. In some chapters of SHARP, which is rare, I've seen green laces and/or braces to symbolize SHARP. Mainly the green I've seen is for us Irish-American, or Irish, Skinheads. I used to wear Green all the time, to symbolize Celtic Pride, or Irish Pride. Green is big in the Boston Skin scene, cause the majority are Irishmen. Green is also used alot for those Vegetarian Skins, from the wannabes to the strict Vegans, it also symbolizes Environmentalist. And for all around Ska purposes a lot of Skins in NYC will wear green to symbolize "Keep on skanking".
Pink: Usually a female thing, for Chelseas and Skinchicks. There are some gay Skins in the USA that wear pink. Oddly enough I've read up on gay-bashing Skins who wear pink laces. Now, if I am a homophobic gay-basher, and hate gays, than, why would I wear pink? How gay are they?! hahaha...There is a gay chapter of SHARP in Germany that wears pink, along with normal SHARP colors.
Yellow: This is an weird one. In certain areas Yellow can symbolize Asian Killer, or Spanish Killer (for those anti-hispanic Skins). It is also a big SHARP color along with Blue and Black. In Canada, Skins there wear Yellow to mean Cop Killer.
Orange: This is rarely seen in the USA outside of certain Skin crews that choose this color. It is mainly a British thing, with Orange symbolizing Wolverhampton I believe, or Manchester United or something like that.
The rest of the color spectrum is up for grabs really.
Here's some links to skinhead sites
Kansas research project
Oi! Italins Skin E-zine
Stomping 4 Oi 77