In the fifties and sixties, there were two main subcultures that mainly contributed to the coming about of what was to be known as "skinheads". Inworking class britain, youths who listened to the latest "modern" music of the day including soul, reggae, and ska, wore the sharpest, smartest clothes, and endulged in a fixation with motor scooters (vespas, lambrettas), were known as "mods". The mods were typically white kids who had a keen sense of style and working class roots and values. At the same time, in Jamaica, "Rudeboys" were gaining in recognition. Rudeboys were youth ganster type Jamaicans who dressed in suits, listened to reggae-ska, and were notorious for their no-nonsense attitude in handling anyone who got in their way. Reggae was a rage that reached far beyond Jamaica, and was becoming very popular in Britain, mainly by the mods. By the mid to late 60's, many reggae artists migrated to Britain to take advantage of the prosperous market amongst the white working class kids there.
Birth Of Skinheads
With the new clash of subcultures in britain, black and white unity was inevitable. The white kids copied their rudeboy heroes in dress and attitude, yet kept certain aspects of the mod identy. A newer group of individuals arose out of the urban working class kids who were looking for a tougher image than the mods were representing, yet still just as stylish. These kids were the first skinheads. With shorter cropped hair than the mods(for convenience in street fights) and passions that included football, reggae, and working class values, skinheads were the perfect hybrid of the two groups. Skinheads stood firm on their stance on racial unity and working class pride.
After the strong birth of skinheads which was and still is said to have been at it's peak in 1969, reggae started to diminish though not completely dying. Skinheads stilll existed but saw adversity in the decline of culture. Skins true to their roots stayed strong to their beliefs. In Britain, national pride was always a value of skinheads. As always is the case, there were a few individuals who lost touch with the roots of unity and displaced there national pride with racial prejudice. White supremacist groups such as the National Front started to see these impressionable youths as perfect subjects to prey upon for recruiting. Those who were weak and not aware of their roots looked to these groups as something to identify with and the skinhead cult was to be tainted unforgivably. Punk Rock was coming into existence at the time as well. Some of the first punk rock music which was street music originally was popular amongst punks and skins equally. Street punk soon gained the label "Oi!" by Gary Bushell. Though Oi! was supposed to be non-political unity based music, there were still individuals who exploited it and used it as a tool for whatever alterior motives they had. True punks and skins overlooked these groups and stayed strong with the values of unity. White supremacist groups such as NF and the British Movement invaded the skinhead cult and raped the cult of its identity. These racist individuals may have called themselves skinheads, but they were nothing more than "boneheads" to those who knew better. Politics had taken it's toll on the skinhead cult and things were to never be the same, but the spirit of '69 stayed true in the hearts of real skinheads. Just as the original skins of the sixties, "Oi! boys" or "bootboys" were the foundation of the cult and were to keep the flame alive.
With the intolerance for the boneheads arose a group started in the UK by Roddy Moreno of the Oi! band The Oppressed, called S.H.A.R.P.(skin heads against racial prejudice). S.H.A.R.P. skins were militant in their anti-racist motives to smash out boneheads and keep traditional roots alive in the cult. Now that the cult had flourished with new passions such as Oi! music, hardcore(started for the most part in the U.S.) and other skinehead traditions, they felt that they had more to defend and preserve. The cult was tarnished with politics, and indifference, and it soon became necessary not only to claim skinhead, but to also put an identifier on what TYPE of skinhead you were. Although those who knew the truth knew that there was only one kind of skinhead, the name was thrown around like a common label. True skins faced much oppression as the boneheads got more recognition in the media for their negative newsworthy actions and beliefs. The name skinhead became synonymous with "nazi" to the outside world who had only the media lies to base their oppinions on. Skinheads had become crucified by society and the "crucified skinhead" image became a popular claim of the true skins and at times seemed to be all they had to hold onto.
Although S.H.A.R.P. had positive intentions originally, it became just another word. Soon anyone who was against racial prejudice, would just get a haircut and call themselves a SHARP. True skins didn't want these individuals who had no clue as to what the cult was truely about and only looked at skinhead as being a racism fighting machine, to be assiociated with them. However, a new breed of young stormtroopers who may have not been around in the old days, but gained knowledge of the cult and strongly identified with its values and traditions, arose out of the ashes of the spirit of '69. These new kids, knew where the roots were and started a skinhead resurrection. Not wanting to make a claim other than just skinhead, they labeled themselves simply "traditional skinhead". Despite musical idiocy occuring such as new "3rd wave" ska and trashy corporate "punk rock", trad skins kept strong with their passions for Oi!, reggae, and traditional ska. The new breed of skins today may not be the original forefathers of the cult, but there is a strong skinhead presence today that has kept the faith and thus skinheads will never die.
The Controversy With "Trads"
Although most all trads agree that a non-political stance is necessary in being a skinhead, many true skins felt that there was an untolerable presence of "fencewalkers" amongst the ranks. Some "trads" seemed to think that being indifferent to boneheads or even compasionate, was an acceptable stance on the racism issue. True skins can't accept that. To quote the traditional American Oi! band Patriot, "...a true skinhead don't judge by your color, only what you do and say...". The strong anti-racist beliefs are what true traditionalists share and try to represent at all costs. The bottom line is, RACISM IS NOT TO BE TOLERATED IN THE SKINHEAD CULT.
To understand more about Skinheads, check out the "Skinhead Family Tree".