Police in Brighton confiscating a
Skinheads grew out of the Mod subculture in the late 1960s, sharing the same interest in the sharp suits and Ska and Blue-Beat music of the Jamaican rude boys. This relationship to Mod is reflected in the importance of detailing in skinhead dress.
A distinctly urban style, their functional clothing reflected their pride in being working class: heavy boots, shortened jeans, button-down shirts, braces and shaved heads. This hard image was in direct contrast to the middle-class bohemianism of hippy style, and hippies were frequently targets for skinhead 'aggro'.
Skinhead style now is characterised by a uniform that has consolidated elements of skinhead dress from over the past 30 years. Whilst there are noticeable differences between skinhead factions such as the smarter 'suedeheads' and the harder and scruffier Oi! skins, the essence of a skinhead wardrobe remains relatively constant. Labels and garment styles remain the same, whilst some details, such as collar length and brace-width, reflect wider changes in mainstream fashion.
Sussex born Ben Sherman has a long-standing association with Brighton, having been originally established here in the 1960s as Sussex Shirts with a small factory in Hove and a shop on Duke Street. His Ivy-League style button-down checked shirts have been one of the staples of the skinhead wardrobe since the late 1960s. The shirts are usually characterised by their checked fabric and button-down collar with fastenings on the collar points and at the centre of the back collar. Details such as collar length and cut have been altered over the years to keep up with mainstream fashion, and this has lead to greater value being placed on early Ben Sherman originals by skinheads. Other shirt brands that were popular with skinheads in the 1970s were Brutus and Jaytex button-downs.
Dr Martens boots
Quintessential skinhead footwear, Dr Martens boots with the Air-Wair sole were invented in 1947 and marketed in Britain as labourers boots. Originally only available with 8-hole laces, by the 1980s 14-hole black Dr Martens were the most common style worn by skinheads. The higher the boots, the shorter the leg-length of the jeans to expose the maximum amount of boot.
At the height of football hooliganism in the 1970s and 80s steel toe-capped boots became classed as an offensive weapon. Police would often remove the laces from skinheads' boots as a preventative measure against skinhead 'aggro', preventing the wearers from being able to kick with or run in them. The Brighton Argus, 5 May 1981, reporting on the May Day Peace march, described how 'a special de-lacing operation was mounted.... Squads of officers confiscated the skinheads' boots before the march got under way' (above) to prevent trouble against the marchers from the skinheads.
Female skinhead style was very similar to the men's, although slight modifications feminised the look. Their most distinctive feature was the haircut known as a feather-cut. The hair was cropped very short on the top but leaving a longer fringe, often bleached, around the edge of the hairline.
The girls would wear the same styles of Ben Sherman or Fred Perry shirts and the clip-on braces as the men, although these were often teamed with mini-skirts and fishnet tights worn with Monkey boots - a lighter and shorter boot than the Dr Marten.
Make-up drew focus to the eyes with dark eyeliner and narrow eyebrows.
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