A Fascinating History of Skinhead Culture

Yes, there’s more to skinhead culture than music. Here’s a fascinating look at the scene from Vice.

It’s easy to see why artist and collector Toby Mott is enthralled by skinhead culture; it sprawls decades in history, has seen various iterations, and, if you take a step back and look at the movement as a whole, you’re met with a bunch of head-scratching contradictions.

For example, if early skinheads were influenced by Jamaican rude boys and rocksteady music, how did later skinheads come to be defined by their racist propaganda? And why, if skinheads became associated with the far right, was their look also widely adopted by the gay community? And finally, if skinheads were about working-class authenticity and masculinity, why was the movement so meticulously concerned with fashion and aestheticism?

These issues are all addressed in a new book, Skinhead – An Archive, a collection of the skinhead ephemera Toby’s picked up over the years, compiled beautifully by Ditto Press and designed by Jamie Reid. The book takes its focus on the punk-influenced skinhead revivalism of the late 1970s and 80s, but also traces its roots back to 60s England. From zines, posters, photos, and pamphlets, it’s pretty much the most extensive skinhead archive available to buy. We asked Toby about how the book came to be.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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