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Sensitive Content Notice ⚠️
The following article contains and discusses content that may be distressing to some readers.
Reason for Warning: This page may contain sensitive subject matter as the Skinheads have been linked to white nationalism, neo-Nazism, white power, and acts of terrorism. It should be important to note, however, that the Skinheads weren't always a white supremacist aesthetic and we hope this page actively promotes the idea that the Skinhead subculture isn't inherently racist and only got co-opted by racists later on.

Skinheads are members of a subculture originated among working-class youths in London, England, in the 1960s and soon spread to other parts of the United Kingdom, with a second working class skinhead movement emerging worldwide in the 1980s.

"Skinheads" started as an fashion/subculture heavily influenced by the Jamaican Rudeboys and Ska music which had brought to England by West Indian immigrants, as well as British Mods, African-American soul and R&B, and early Rock and Roll.

The early skinheads were not necessarily part of any political movement, but as the 1970s progressed, the skinheads became more politically active and acts of racially motivated skinhead violence began to occur in the United Kingdom and did become divided along far-right and far-left lines. As a result of this change within the skinheads, far-right groups such as the National Front and the British Movement saw a rise in the number of white power skinheads among their ranks, while the far-left started forming groups like Red Action (formed in 1981), Anti-Fascist Action (formed in 1985), and the globally-known Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (formed in 1987). By the late 1970s, the mass media, and subsequently the general public, had largely come to view the skinhead subculture as one that promotes racism and Neo-Nazism. The white power and neo-Nazi skinhead subculture eventually spread to North America and other areas of the world. In the modern era, the white power skinhead culture became part of what has come to be known as "The Alt-Right".

History[]

Skinhead family tree

The Skinhead Family Tree, explaining the roots and different sub-groups.

Origins and First Wave[]

In the late 60s, plenty of subcultures emerge from the English youth, appearing movements such as Hippies, Rockers, Teddy-Boys, Rude Boys and Mods. It's from the latter that the Hard-Mods appear. These Mods would take a more working-class direction, and would be influenced by the Jamaican Rude Boys, who had a similar clothing fashion and listened to Ska and Reggae. However, the Hard-Mods would be kicked from the Mod movement. Because of that, Hard-Mods would adopt a different aesthetic, shaving their heads and using clothing such as "Fred Perry" or "Londsdale" shirts, "Ben Sherman" jackets or "Lee" or "Levi's" jeans. Althought most skinheads were apolitical, they had a commitment towards their nation, refelcted in their patriotism.

Second Wave: Punk and Oi! culture[]

In the 70s, the recently-born skinhead subculture shared some similarities with the Punk scene, sharing similar music taste like listening to punk rock and ska. Some punks and skinheads also shared a rejection of Establishment values, creating a certain camaraderie between the two groups . However, after 1977, the Punk music and scene starts becoming more mainstream and commercial, lossing its purpose of an anti-Establishment subculture. During those years, Oi! emerges as a new genre of rock music, centered on a working-class ambience. Said genre would also had a strong influence on RAC (Rock Against Communism), a type of nationalist music that encompasses various rock styles.

Splintering of the subculture[]

Nationalists parties such as the NF and the BNP began recruiting followers within the white working-class youth. Some skinheads, who saw inmigration as a treat to their nation and a rise of unemployement caused by them, saw said parties as attractive. Alongside some members of the Punk scene, they start identifying themselves with the far-right and the nationalist movement. Bands such as Skrewdriver, lead by Ian Stuart, openly embraces National Socialism and identifies politically with the National Front. Some other bands that promoted a nationalist and patriotic agenda were 4-Skins, The Last Resort, The Business and Red Alert.

As a reaction, some skinheads that identified within the far-left and communism also start organizing, calling themselves "redskins". Certain bands, such as Sham'69 y Angelic Upstarts, start the "Rock Against Racism" concerts. However, those concerts were mostly attended by punks rather than skinheads. By the 1980s, the skinhead subculture became associated with racism and violence, influenced by the rise of far-right ideologies in Europe. Some skinhead groups adopted neo-Nazi symbolism and promoted white nationalist views. The punk scene would be divided between far-right and far-left adherents, but other members of the skinhead scene remained committed to the subculture's non-political roots.

Skinhead violence[]

During the Margaret Thatcher administration, reppresion starts against skinhead groups, who would start become more violent. Some skinhead youths start engaging in fights and riots against inmigrants and far-left circles, while others, such as Red Action also starts engaging against far-right skinheads such as members of the British Movement. The skinhead scene starts emerging in other countries, expanding itself in the white working-class of Europe, Canada, South Africa (in the Afrikaner communities) and the United States. After the Fall of the Berlin wall and communism in Europe, the skinhead subculture would expand in Eastern Europe.

History by region[]

In Brazil, the skinhead movement arrives in 1985, being the Carecas do Suburbio the first skinhead group formed in South America. The group starts engaging in violence against the police. Two years later, in 1987, the Carecas do ABC forms as an splinter of the former, and would become the most relevant skinhead gang in the country. The group is still active today, and supports an strong anti-liberal and nationalist position. The group accepts afro-descendents in their lines, in contrast with other skinhead groups. During the 90s, the skinhead scene in Brazil would splint, having two main currents: the separatists and the integralists.

In Germany, the skinhead movement is mostly political, in contrast with the 'mainstream' skinhead subculture in the UK. Most of them are affiliated with the neo-nazi movement, and some of them are affiliated with the Hammerskin movement. After the Berlin Wall fall and the collapse of the GDR, the skinhead scene would expand on the eastern part of the country, where it is more popular.

In the United States, the movement has mostly been associated with far-right circles, but far-left circles are also active in the country. The skinhead subculture appears in the early 80s, when certain segments of the hardcore punk scene embraced skinhead styles . However, many young American neo-Nazis and white nationalists adopt the skinhead aesthetic too. White nationalist groups associated with said aesthetic start emerging, such as the American Front (1985), Hammerskins (1987) and Volksfront (1994). Far-left skinheads appear recently in 1987, in form to counter-rest the influence of far-right skinhead groups. The first redskin organization in the US are the Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP), which opposes nationalist and right-wing skinheads. Other far-left groups are the RASH and GASH skinheads, mostly associated with the ANTIFA movement.

Fashion[]

Skinheads wear long-sleeve or short-sleeve button-down shirts or polo shirts by brands such as Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, Brutus, Warrior or Jaytex; Lonsdale or Everlast shirts or sweatshirts; Grandfather shirts; V-neck sweaters; sleeveless sweaters (known in the UK as a tank top); cardigan sweaters or T-shirts (plain or with text or designs related to the skinhead subculture). They may wear fitted blazers, Harrington jackets, bomber jackets, denim jackets (usually blue, sometimes splattered with bleach), donkey jackets, Crombie-style overcoats, sheepskin ¾-length coats, short macs, monkey jackets or parkas. Traditional skinheads sometimes wear suits, often of two-tone tonic fabric (shiny mohair-like material that changes colour in different light and angles), or in a Prince of Wales or houndstooth check pattern.

Music[]

The Skinheads, initially, were listening to traditionally black music such as ska, reggae, R&B, soul and rocksteady, but then eventually created 2 Tone, a genre of music that mixed Punk with ska, reggae, rocksteady, and pop music of the time. At this time, they were also beginning to listen to Oi! music; a subgenre of punk music that focused more on the plight of the working class and mixed in football chants, pub rock, and British glam rock with the Punk formula. Eventually, the white supremacists took the Oi! formula and they turned it into RAC (Rock Against Communism), which featured lyrics that glorified white power and white supremacy (which, in turn, led the Oi! sound being labeled as racist). In the 1990s and 2000s, when hardcore punk started becoming more popular, RAC adherents started adopting a more hardcore punk sound into its music, which just goes to show that far-right types are completely incapable of creating anything on their own and have to try and co-opt what is already popular, putting their own hateful spin on it, and trying to promote it alongside the already-popular art in hopes that people won't notice just how low-effort the Nazi variant is because the art means nothing to these people; it's just a vessel to deliver their message and the message is the only thing that matters to them.

Video Games[]

The skinhead subculture hasn't had a relevant presence in videogames, being mostly featured as grunts or minions in some games. However, some indie games have featured the skinhead subculture as a core theme. Produced by Resistance Records, a White Power record label based on Texas, has produced two skinhead-related games. The first game, entitled Ethnic Cleansing, a 2002 videogame that allows the player to play as a klansman or a neo-Nazi skinhead. In 2003, Resistance Records would try again with White Law, a game which had you playing as an Irish-American ex-cop that got let go from the force for his political views, who goes around murdering other police officers, child pornographers, and journalists before killing the police chief to win the game. Similar to Ethnic Cleansing, the game plays on a 3rd person perspective instead.

One such record label that specialized in this sound, Texas-based Resistance Records, put out two video games in the span of 2 years with plans to release more (although those plans never came to fruition). The first game, entitled Ethnic Cleansing, was released in 2002 and is generally considered to be one of the worst video games ever made, and that's not even getting into the content of the game itself (which allowed you to choose between either a Klansman or a Neo-Nazi Skinhead and your goal was to eliminate all of the ethnic minorities on a level). The game was a buggy mess on launch, and looked incredibly ugly (even by 2002 standards in gaming) and got slammed not only for the poor gameplay and ugly graphics, but also the racially insensitive content. Resistance Records would try again in 2003 with the game, White Law, which had you playing as an Irish-American ex-cop that got let go from the force for his political views, who goes around murdering other police officers, child pornographers, and journalists before killing the police chief to win the game; and appears to have been inspired by the noteworthy Neo-Nazi book The Turner Diaries, which inspired the Oklahoma City Bombing committed by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Gameplay wise, White Law played exactly like Ethnic Cleansing, but it was from a 3rd person perspective instead of a 1st perspective but was equally graphically ugly. Fortunately, their threats of making more games never came through (probably because they realized making a decent game that people would want to play actually takes work and effort and they'd be damned if they were going to put forth any effort in making a half-way playable game) and Resistance Records appears to have been defunct since 2017, with the website being completely offline since early 2019.

Gallery[]

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