British Skinhead portraits

Long hair was a liability in factory work and street fights

More functional attire
The skinhead subculture first emerged in London in the mid-1960s, when a split developed among “mod” music fans.

While more affluent mods could afford the fashionable clothes, scooters and amphetamines that typified the subculture, working-class mods had to make due with more functional attire. These “hard mods” often lived in the same poor neighborhoods as Caribbean immigrants, exposing them to the fashions and sounds of soul, ska and reggae. Finding more interest in black culture and music than the effete mod subculture, the hard mods adopted a uniform of work boots, short jeans or pants, simple shirts, suspenders and close-cropped hair. (Long hair was a liability in factory work and street fights.) They soon began referring to themselves as “skinheads.”

Skinhead culture faded in the early ‘70s, but revived as a response to the commercialization of punk at the end of the decade. At the same time, many skinheads became involved in far-right and racist politics. Some factions of skinheads had previously been known to attack immigrants and gay people in addition to their usual brawling; now many were openly sporting swastikas and giving Nazi salutes.

By the mid-1980s, the term “skinhead” had become synonymous with neo-Nazism, fascism and xenophobia. Today a few organizations, such as Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, are attempting to fight back against white supremacist skinheads and honor the multicultural origins of the subculture.

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