(Taken from Valentine Magazine – November 1970)
We’ve got to work hard to keep up with Valentine birds – you’ve always got such a lot going around you! In last week’s issue, greaser girl, Sue, took us into the world of leather gear and bike boys. We came back and told you what we’d seen and heard and you asked for more. So this week we sent Jackie on the other side of the tracks – she came back with the Skinhead Saga! See what you think.
Skinheads according to the newspapers, are the Teddy boys of today – public enemy number 1AA… Where the Teddy boys were famed for their lethal winklepickers and gang fights, the skinheads are infamous for their ‘bovver’ boots and their football crowd aggro. Every day we hear more tales of skinhead violence, and every day the numbers of skinheads seem to grow. I decided to find out what skinheads themselves thought of their image: For the girl’s point of view I spoke to a reader, Lee Russell, of Stepney.
I met Lee and her boyfriend Graham on common ground in London’s West End. Everyone concerned thought it was safer. As Graham himself admitted, it might have proved difficult to interview them on their territory: “If you’d come out with hundreds of quids worth of camera equipment, you wouldn’t have got back with it…” he said.
Lee and Graham are both seventeen and are still at school in the East End of London. As soon as we met they informed me that this article was too late – that the old really close-cropped skinheads were a dying breed! “All the blokes are growing their hair a bit now”, Graham said. “The birds like it a bit longer…”
“The girls are all having that new cut with fluffy side-burns”, Lee told me. “My own’s just growing out… The original skinheads are growing older, that’s why things are changing.”
“But what made you become a skinhead in the first place?” I asked Lee to start the ball rolling…
“Because I fancied the blokes – I like short hair, I think it looks clean and smart. Skinhead blokes look very smart when they wear suits – a long haired bloke in a suit looks ridiculous. I like a bloke in a three-piece mohair suit with brogues. I’m not keen on the boots nowadays. I used to like them but now I think the brogues are smarter. Of course they’re not allowed in some pubs if they wear boots – people think they’re going to cause trouble…”
But what was it she liked about the boy’s characters?
“Well, skinheads are nicer than haires because they don’t take liberties. They are not so ‘handy’ and they stop when you tell them to. Skinhead boys are tough, but that’s the way I like boys to be. Mind you, if a bloke had a special reputation for being really hard, I’d steer clear of him. I wouldn’t want to go out with a ‘hairie’ though, because they’re often frightened of skinheads…”
Graham laughed. “If you’re at a bar and a ‘hairie’ type bumps into you he nearly drops his beer, he’s so scared. They look like women so they must act like women after all!”
Lee nodded in agreement. “I couldn’t go out with a hairie'”, she said, “I’d have nothing in common with them. I can’t understand their music for a start – it gives me a headache, and you can’t dance to it. Graham doesn’t like ‘hairie’ girls either – we went to a theatre last week and there were lots of hippie type girls there dressed in maxis and beads and things, and Graham thought they looked awful – messy and dirty”.
Did she never feel she was tired of the skinhead uniform and wanted to wear more fashionable, feminine clothes?
“Well, yes, sometimes. Skinhead girls always wear checks and plain dresses, although now a lot of them are wearing midi skirts with sweaters – the colours are red and black. I like mohair dresses and suits but sometimes I would like to wear different clothes. In Summer I saw a midi peasant dress with frills and I really liked it – I knew I couldn’t buy it though, because my boyfriend wouldn’t like it and all my friends would’ve laughed at me – but, it doesn’t really bother me at all that much – I like the way I dress…”
Next I asked Lee the big question – what did she think of greasers?
Well, there aren’t many around Stepney, but I don’t like them. They look so filthy and dirty – I couldn’t go out with a greaser bloke… Besides they think so much of their motor bikes – any bloke I go out with has to think of me first. I wouldn’t want to be a greaser girl!”
“I once took a greaser girl out”, Graham added. “She was too noisy and she swore all the time, she showed me up. She wasn’t used to going out to decent places. Let’s face it, skinhead girls are bound to enjoy themselves more than greasers beause they can go out to better places – a greaser would be thrown out of a really decent pub or dance hall”.
“Those Hell Angels girls must be really awful…”, Lee added. “They must have no feelings – some of the initiation ceremonies are terrible, I’ve heard. I think the whole thing is disgusting. Skinhead girls don’t have a bad reputation like that – they’re more individual…”
Did they feel that the skinhead violence bit was overplayed?
“Well”, Lee hesitated, “skinhead blokes do like to fight… Greasers can be just as violent as skinheads too, though you don’t hear too much about that now. Last year I was beaten up by greasers. There were about six of them and they attacked me and my mate, she managed to run away, but I was left with loads of bruises and two lovely black eyes!”
“If any of my mates beat a girl up, I’d have a go at them”, Graham said. “I’d draw the line at hitting a girl. We never get into fights without a reason. I know a gang of us might set on a bloke, but never without a reason… Take you for instance”, he said, looking at Mike, our daring photographer. “If me and my mates saw you walking along a road we’d probably whistle at you because you’ve got long hair – if you turned around and gave us a dirty look, we’d probably have you – you’d be asking for it – but if you took it as a joke, we’d leave you alone…”.
*If you turned around and gave us a dirty look, we’d have you*
“The blokes do get in fights a lot”, Lee said. “Graham goes to football matches and gets in fights because his mates do. If you look and dress like a skinhead, you’ve got to live up to the reputation, it seems. You can’t do anything to stop the boys fighting – naturally the girls don’t like it much, but we can’t show them up – it’s none of our business what they do, anyway”.
“Some of the girls are pretty tough too”, Graham added. “They fight amongst themselves and some of them can be worse than the blokes. I can remember once a mate of mine was larking around and he pulled a girl’s wig off – she pulled a razor on him!”.
“Not many of the girls are like that!”, Lee insisted, “but a lot of the blokes go out just looking for trouble when they’ve had a few drinks…”
“Yes”, Graham admitted, “we often get in fights even when we’re outnumbered, just because we’re all looking for a fight. We sometimes pick on fellas too big for us. If a bouncer at a club won’t let us in, we’ll wait for him after. Sometimes we’ll be beaten up – that’s how it goes. We don’t carry a lot of weapons like greasers – we’ve just got our boots usually and maybe a steel comb. Like this”, he said, producing a comb from his pocket. “I haven’t filed this down because it’d get me in trouble if I was nicked. The police are always stopping us and searching us. We’ll just be coming out of the late night movie and they’ll stop up for no reason and question us: ‘Where’ve you been, where are you going…’ I’m not frightened of them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get nicked!”
*If a bouncer at a club won’t let us in, we’ll wait for him after*
What did Lee’s parents think of her going around with the skinheads, I wondered?
“Oh, they don’t mind me going out with skinhead blokes as long as they’re respectable. They do get frightened by all the things they read about skinheads, but there’s not much they can do. I’m sure they wouldn’t like it if I went out with a bloke with long hair and satin trousers and that kind of thing. I don’t think they’d approve of that at all”.
Finally I asked Lee what she thought the future had in store for her:
“I’ll probably stay on at school for one more year for more ‘O’ levels and then I’d like to be a secretary or a teacher. As far as blokes are concerned, I’ll admit I’d like to get married one day. I’m in no rush though. I do like to go steady with just one bloke now, but I know most skinhead girls don’t – they mostly like to go around with different blokes.
The bloke I marry probably won’t be a skinhead, though I can’t say what type he’ll be… By then, though, I think the skinhead thing will be all over. Skinheads are just like the old style mods after all, and times change. There’ll be something different in fashion when I’m ready to get married. I’ll have outgrown that kind of thing.
Still I must admit I think I’ll always go for blokes like skinheads in some ways. I like tough boys. Skinhead blokes are mostly bigheads – there’s no denying that. They think something of themselves and so you think they’re someone too. I like a boy who can tell me what to do. I’ll always respect a boy if I can’t get him under my thumb – I like them to have me under their thumb – well, that’s really what every girl wants, isn’t it?”
Graham just smiled and said nothing…