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The Original British Skinhead Subculture in Photographic Portraits, 1970-1990


The skinhead subculture was born in England in the late 1960s as an offshoot of the mod culture. Skinheads were distinct from other British subcultures due to their uniform of boots, jeans, braces (suspenders), and the trademark shaved head.

h/t: rarehistoricalphotos, amazon Photo credit: Getty Images / PYMCA / Gamma-Keystone / Hulton Archives / Gavin Watson: Youth Club Archive


1970

Their style was an exaggerated version of the traditional unskilled laborer. One of the first scholars to research skinheads, sociologist Mike Brake, classified skinheads as a “traditional working-class delinquent subculture” and documented five traits that defined first-generation British skinheads: toughness and violence; football (soccer), ethnocentrism, Puritan work ethic; and a cynical worldview.


1970

According to author Nick Knight, skinheads first appeared as a distinct youth subculture in 1968. He states in his book Skinhead, “In establishing their own style, the younger brothers of mods adopted certain elements of mod style, combined them with items from traditional working clothes, borrowed some influences from the West Indian blacks and became skinheads.”


1971

Motivated by social alienation and working-class solidarity, skinheads were defined by their close-cropped or shaven heads (long hair was a liability in factory work and street fights) and working-class clothing such as Dr. Martens and steel toe work boots, braces, high rise jeans, and button-down collar shirts, usually slim fitting in check or plain.


1980

In England, there were two waves of the skinhead cult. From its inception, the skinhead subculture was largely based around music. The first group appeared in the late 1960s as an offshoot of the mod subculture and largely died out by 1972.


1980

The second wave arrived in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These skinheads differed from the first generation, in that they were not influenced as much by mod as they were by the growing punk and 2Tone Ska scenes in London. Punk lent itself to violence through its embrace of aggressive music and teenage angst. Skinheads reflected this new influence by combining the exaggerated imagery of the original skinhead style with punk.


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Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Portrait of the photographer as a young skin. Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive


Gavin Watson / Youth Club Archive

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