Skinhead Girl Style
“Gear is vitally important to skinheads and suedeheads”. FACT.
Half a year ago, I wrote these few lines to share more or less what would have been worn by skinhead girls and sorts back in the late 60’s and early 70’s but now, as everyday new things come to light and we learn a little bit, I feel the need to update it. It is such an interesting topic; unfortunately, very few things have been written about it. Therefore, I would like to share once again the new things I have “learnt”, some additions and some modifications, hope you like it :)
As I said in the original post, we would require a whole book to explain all the things related to the Style of the Skinhead Girls. There are so many details if we take into account different aspects such as the country, region, city, age, money, year, month… Fashion changed quickly back then! A whole world indeed! And sadly, most of us weren’t there to live it and see it. However, I have managed to meet knowledgeable people who have kindly shared their experiences and information about the proper style with us, such as Rosa and Jan and all the other original skinhead girls who have got in contact with me, thanks a lot! Shall we start?
Shirts, blouses and tops
Skinhead girls would usually wear the same button down shirts as the boys, particulary during the weekend when you really had to look the part. There were quite a few makes but the most well-known ones by us nowadays are definitely Ben Sherman, Brutus, Jaytex, InShop and perhaps, Arnold Palmer, Naytex (rip-off of Jaytex) or Timex. Those makes would make shirts for men only, except InShop which would produce shirts for girls as well (beautiful shirts I may add). Moreover, we can’t forget that back in the day, they would also wear US imports which had a box pleat (not full) and the first button a bit lower than their UK versions. Here are a some examples of shirts, the most popular ones being plain, striped, with gingham check, window pane check or madras check:
S/L Brutus with red gingham check, L/S Jaytex with brown/orange/beige gingham check, pink/beige striped Ben Sherman, S/L checked InShop? (Not sure about the make as it does not have a label but I have seen this one by InShop and Mr. Pigalle), L/S US madras check shirt
We have to bear in mind that shirts back then didn’t have such a great emphasis as nowadays and it was also very common to see girls wearing blouses instead of shirts. Probably for a more informal/casual look, for example during the day, skinhead girls would also wear knit tops (short sleeve jumpers) or twin sets. This style is, unfortunately, not so seen these days but I’m crazy about it and wear it almost everyday for work; believe me, they are very comfortable and warm in the winter depending on the fabric and a cheaper alternative to shirts. They would have a crew or mock neck, plain or with little buttons. I have also seen photos of girls wearing them with suits, very nice.
Here you can see more examples of this fantastic piece of clothing:
Pale yellow crew neck jumper with little details on the neckline and sleeves, red mock neck jumper with ribbed pattern, plain sky blue crew neck jumper, mustard crew neck jumper with raglan sleeves, beige mock neck jumper with little buttons to the front
Moving on to the 70’s side of things, button down shirts would still be worn, particularly in the cities where the fashion arrived a bit later, but there were two other popular styles: the beagle/penny round collar and the pointed collar. Nowadays, penny collar shirts are very popular but I’m not too much into this style anymore and only have two examples to show you but you know them well:
Yellow Jon Wood and checked InShop shirt
Coats and jumpers
The jumpers would have a crew or mock neck. Twin sets, cardigans and ‘V-neck’s were also popular. But to make things easier, Jan, an original and very smart skinhead girl, told me that what they would really wear is a suit jacket.
Regarding tank tops, have you realised that even though they were very popular among boys since the late 60’s, they were not often seen on girls until the early 70’s? They would have a v-neck or round-neck and would be plain or with horizontal stripes or fair-isle patterns.
About coats, there is one that screams out skinhead: the sheepskin coat, popular in tan colour in the earlier days and then in the same or darker shade. However, the smartest ones would be the crombie style coats, in fashion since the winter ’69-’70. Other styles to keep you warm were the tweed coats, suede jackets and harringtons.
The skirt thing is very easy: usually mini-length and A-cut. They had pleats, small pocket flaps, buttons, etc. Skinhead girls would have never worn a midi or a maxi, although this changed in the end of the suedehead/beginning of the smoothie era (midis) and then in the end of the smoothie era (maxis).
These short skirts would be made of Trevira, a cheaper alternative to mohair, in a tonic style but not so loud colours, rather dark. They would also be made of a tartan pattern (in the early 70’s the bias cut would be very popular too) or just plain.
Tonic skirts but I was not very creative I’m afraid… Dark brown, mid blue, navy blue, plum.
For jeans, the well-known ones are: Levi’s, Wrangler, Lee… However, this depended a lot on where you lived. Someone with the London look probably would have never worn a Wrangler and would stick to Levi’s. Someone from the North or from Scotland would gladly wear a Wrangler and so on.
Girls would often wear their jeans with heels (without the turn-ups), as seen below, but they would also wear them with boots and turn-ups:
The most popular one was a kind of shift dress with or without a pocket on the chest for a hankie but usually with one, popular since 1970, I haven’t seen any like this one from the late 60’s.
Some of its features are the round neck, the mini-length and the darts only on bust, but sometimes at the back of the neck as well. It fastens with little buttons to the front (I tend to use the smallest ones or the second smallest ones) but can also be plain to the front with a zipper to the back of the dress. Quite a simple dress and very smart if it is made taking care of the details and with a nice fabric. In this video (min 0.26) you can see an example of this type of dress on the skinhead girl who is dancing with the West Indian boy:
And some pictures:
There would be versions with penny round collar, dagger collar, peter pan collar, button down collar, long sleeves, short sleeves as well… Many styles to choose from.
Other popular styles would be the two-piece keyhole dress (keyhole at the back of the dress) and, also in the early 70’s, the pinafore and the smock, a very short empire waist dress worn with or without trousers.
As with skirts, at the very end of the smoothie era, midi and maxi dresses would be worn too. The style would be the halter-neck: sleeveless, backless dresses with straps tied behind the neck. Nice but difficult to be worn, I have never seen anyone with this type of dress these days.
At this point, I think it is important to mention that the aim was always to Look Smart. Skinhead girls would not wear dolly styles because that was in fact what differentiated them from the rest of the common girls. This is a VERY important aspect that people tend to forget nowadays, not all the 60’s and 70’s clothes are skinhead gear! Lee explains it quite well in these lines from the ‘People say we’re violent – and we are…’ post:
Suits would usually be off-the-peg, with a manlish and fitted cut. The length of the jacket would vary, for example hip length or 3/4 length. They would have long sleeves, the common thing, but there were also short sleeve jackets.
Jackets would come with 3, 4, 5 or even 6 buttons to the front but they could also be double-breasted. They would have a chest pocket for the hankerchief, twin jet pockets or pocket flaps. In the case of pocket flaps, nothing exaggerated. The common thing would be one pocket flap to each side and maybe a ticket pocket to the right, but I must admit I have also seen jackets with 3 pocket flaps to just one side.
Sleeve buttons would depend on the year, maybe 4 or 5 as and average and sometimes they didn’t even have buttonholes! In the smooths & sorts period, jackets would have lots of buttons on the sleeves.
Another important aspect of the suits is the back vent, usually very deep. Personally, this is the detail I pay most attention to and I have a repro of a skinhead girl 60’s suit (the one in the pic above) with the back vent almost up to the shoulder blades, cool even if I say so!, but the common thing would be up to the waist.
Fabrics for the suits would be plain, tonic (trevira, mohair), Prince Of Wales, pinstripes… Colours tended to be dark, nothing that brought too much attention, such as petrol blue, navy blue, bottle green, brown and black. Nevertheless, light brown/beige was also a popular colour.
We have to bear in mind that girls back then would have very few pairs of shoes. I have read pieces where girls say that they only had one, two or three pairs of shoes. Do you imagine that nowadays? Most of the girls I know wouldn’t survive!
It is true when they say that skinhead girls would wear the fashion shoes from the day BUT there is a nuance. Shoes, according Jan who used to wear the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen, did not have to be from a certain make but from a certain style. In general, they would be slip-on shoes with chunky heels (never stilettos, those were for greasers), high tongue and a chain or buckles. The black skinhead girl some pictures above said exactly the same and if you look closely at pics of original skinhead girls, you will agree too.
I may be weird lol but I took the opportunity to ask Jan about my shoes and she stood out these ones as a style she would have worn. When we talk about loafers, we talk about something like this (for girls, of course):
And I tend to think that these ones would also match this style:
Other popular styles would be Mary Jane shoes, a type of “dolly shoes” exactly the ones by Anello and Davide as the skinhead girls are wearing in the pictures, and slingbacks :
If by now you’re thinking you don’t have many options not even regarding shoes, well, it might be true, sorry! Luckily, in the 70’s other styles and colours came into fashion for skinhead girls/sorts, such as the lace-up shoes like the ones from Ravel or Dolcis which I love but weren’t worn in the early days. And let’s face it, it is important to match well your shoes with your clothes, with your hair, with your… Phewww! Who said being a (skinhead) girl was easy?!
Regarding boots, I only own a pair of monkey boots, which I have been told were worn by younger skinhead girls (and that the rumour that they were not worn by boys is only a myth). I have never seen a pic of a girl wearing monkey boots but I love to think it’s true as they are so comfy. Doctor Martens would also be worn and in the 70’s, from time to time lace-up/gogo boots.
Shoes were made of patent leather, real or faux. Also suede, sometimes with crepe soles. In the early days, the colour would be mainly black but also white, brown and red were worn. In the 70’s, as I have said before, there were more colours to choose from.
Hair and make-up
Skinhead girls, at least the older ones, loved make-up and wore loads of it, yes! The make-up would be the typical late 60’s one: very heavy in the eyes with a crease in the eyelid, thin eyebrows (very, very thin, sometimes they would pluck them out and pencil them back, Jan told me), false eyelashes top and bottom, some blush and pale lips; like Julie Driscoll, for example, who also had the perfect hairstyle:
The most popular haircuts would be the short on top with longer sides and with the fringe like an arch, like Julie above, and a longer version, “feather cut”, like an hybrid among Rod Stewart/Adam Faith/David Bowie. Hmmm get it? Also side-parted.
One thing we should bear in mind is that parents in those days were not as permissive as today and some of them wouldn’t let their daughters wear these kinds of haircuts. Some girls would choose to wear it longer, usually the older ones, but others would wear it long because they weren’t allowed to have it short. The ones who would wear it long, would wear it loose, with side or middle parting or off the face with a hairpin, with a ponytail or wrapped into a bun, leaving hair to the sides, sometimes as ringlets, a very popular style in the late 60’s, early 70’s, for example as in this pic:
Handkerchiefs back in the day were very different from the modern ones, they were usually made of silk and simple. They needn’t be the same colour of the shirt but sometimes they were, not the same fabric/pattern though (e.g. gingham). Popular colours were red and blue and it may sound funny but in the case of the crombie coats, skinheads would sometimes pull the red lining out of the chest pocket to wear it as a hankie, very original.
Regarding the way they were folded, the most popular ones would be the one point fold, the square fold and the puff fold. You didn’t see 4 or 5 points as nowadays and it wasn’t necessary to wear pins, although it is said that due to fights or girls taking the hankies away from them, boys did wear pins usually. Some wore them, some not.
It didn’t exist something like “skinhead girls’ jewellery” and it wasn’t common to wear many things (vintage rings or bracelets) either. What skinhead girls did wear were hoop earrings, charm bracelets and maybe a little watch (not with millions of straps), maybe a little chain… But these are details that any person would wear in those years, were they skinheads or not.
In the smoothie era, love beads would be popular. Oh those 70’s!
A very good source told me that a very special perfume among skinhead girls was “Youth Dew” by Estée Lauder. Youth Dew is a real iconic perfume launched in 1953. Women loved it/love it and I bought a bottle to try it. It is a bit strong but, personally, I like it.
I have also been told by original skinhead girls that they would wear Brut aftershave! I would have never thought it.
It wasn’t common for girls to wear braces, although there are some photos showing girls wearing them (usually young ones).
In the early days, the ones they wore were the light coloured tights, (white, ivory), just plain without any pattern. In the early 70’s, apart from the light coloured tights, other colours such as black, grey or natural were also worn but fashion changed quickly back then. Tights then would be plain or patterned, particularly to the sides with flowers, holes (holy cow), argyle, zig-zag… As the ones shown in the next picture from 1971:
By the way, that picture above, captures the real 70’s style for sorts. No fancy dresses but rather a very smart look with a cool suit.
Knee socks were another popular style. They were usually worn with the loafers mentioned some paragraphs above and were popular among all girls back then, not only skinhead ones.
This little excursion ends here. I hope that you have liked it and that you have found it interesting or at least not boring! I am missing a lot of details, for sure, but there will always be more time to update it. Never forget that nobody’s born knowing but if someone gives us some information, more than welcome!
Good luck in getting that smart look we like so much, it’s a matter of patience and a lot of interest in doing things well (not mixing years, matching hairtstyle/clothes/shoes, etc.).
And as always in parting, we wish you REGGAE!
♪♫ Put on you mini-mini-dress, I want you to look the very best ♪♫