Smooths playing it cool: Bryan speaks

Hello, everyone! Hope life is treating you all very fine!

Before moving on to the post, I would like to remind you that you can also follow The Ballroom Blitz on Facebook. The page is growing steadily and we’re almost 400 people with similar interests. But it’s not about quantity but quality and it’s really nice to have such a great community and to get to know original skinheads, not original skinheads but original style followers and, of course, other vintage lovers. Thanks for the nice feedback, too.

Now, going back to the real topic. As I have said before, I have managed to get in contact with a few original skinheads, suedeheads and smooths via The Ballroom Blitz Facebook PageBryan was an original suedehead/smoothie from the time and he gladly agreed to share some of his photos, thoughts and reflections with The Ballroom Blitz readers. He was too young to catch the skinhead wave of fashion but he was really influenced by all these really cool skinheads and their girls who looked so amazing to him as a young lad. In 1971, at the age of 13, he got into the next style: suedeheads.

“I lived in West London and was lucky enough to be surrounded by Reggae music and black culture – I bought as many 7″ singles as I could with my pocket money and Saturday job wages! I shopped in Shepherds Bush Market and Harlesden for the latest Trojan and Pama releases – the Trojan charts were my bible and tried to listen to every new release each week. I would spend hours in the record shops (my favourite being Muzik City and Websters in Shepherds Bush)”, he says.

Regarding clothes, Bryan adds: “I managed to persuade my parents to buy me a Ben Sherman shirt for school and some Frank Wright black tasselled loafers… And never looked back! My sta-press and tonic trousers came next – after my prized possession of Dr. Martens boots! We got into lots of scraps and mischief – nothing horrific and fairly harmless really. My main passion was music and clothes.”

“I ‘caught the fashion’ of the suedehead at that time and really loved the style – my Crombie overcoat was red lined and had the red silk hankie with a gold pocket stud to keep it in place. My older brother was one of the original Mods from the very early 1960s and I inherited the most amazing sheepskin coat about 1971 – it got ripped in fights, stolen once and recovered after a chase and scrap! I slept out on a beach in it and lived in it day in and out – it still always looked good. I was known for my sheepskin coat! It must have been very expensive as my brother spent all his money on fashionable clothes and buying that coat in 1963 must have cost him a fortune.”

“This photo was taken around late 1972 before the feather cut. The Brutus shirt was one of my favourites and was worn with thin white braces and bleached Levi jeans – they had a tiny half inch turn up – this was just before a QPR football match! There was a fashion for us to wear the cuffs turned back twice. The kitchen was pure 1970s style! That wallpaper was wood effect and had just been completed by my father’s decoration skills :)”

A wider shot:

“My hair went from a short crewcut in 1970 to short ‘suede’ style in 1971 and then we grew our hair so in the 1972 photos, you see much longer hair and by 1973 we became Smooths and Sorts :) with quite long hair – I got this feather cut and then short crop to the top with longer sides – some of the photos show this and small details like the tiny strings of love beads we wore around 1973.  My constant was my crombie overcoat (by this time showing its age and my sheepskin – which looked better and was now ten years old!)”

Circa 1973 – feather cut and Brutus shirt (long sleeved) and rolled high

 “This photo dates from late 1973 (?) – and you can see the Crombie overcoat is showing its age. There is a pink Ben Sherman shirt and the hankie and hold pocket stud. This must have been one of the last outings for this overcoat – it had a dull matt red lining. I have just found an almost exact vintage Crombie overcoat for my young son, Alex, who loves to wear it. There is a date in the coat of 1971 so Alex and I can date it exactly.”

Bryan wearing red socks and Topper shoes in black and brown contrasting shades

“My youngest son Alex in his VINTAGE 1971 dated Crombie overcoat!  What a vintage find.  Alex is already collecting vintage reggae records and is searching for more skinhead gear!  This was taken earlier this year :)”

QPR at home. Is that a disco ball?

Bryan is not so sure about the dates of the next pictures but probably early 1974

“We had taken over an old garage/lock-up to use as our meeting place. We had some great parties in there. That’s me on the far right of this photo – tartan scarf and cardigan worn with rolled up army surplus jungle greens and DM boots. Some of the other lads are wearing Southsea denims and Harrington jackets – the black lad is Norman Jay (now the world famous DJ – and still my best friend :)  The lad at the back is wearing some navy blue overalls which became popular around this time with football supporters – as well as white overalls influenced by the film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ – the flag was a wall decoration and not to be confused with the right wing idiots who came to hijack our style in the 1980s. How I hate those racists! Grrr”

“Here’s one of the lads in the same location… Norman Jay again and a Chopper bicycle in the background! The flag has ‘RANGERS’ marked on it from our football terraces ‘Q P R’ – these photos were taken in Acton, West London.”

“By 1974, I was a soul boy and off to Wigan Casino (once!) and then in 1975 still with my passion for reggae, I saw the Sex Pistols! Wasn’t so keen on the music but loved the style… and that’s another story!”

“This is early 1974 – cropped hair and longer feather cut sides – Brutus check and Levi’s jacket with the tiny strings of love beads worn for a very short time as I remember…”

Nowadays, Bryan is in his 50’s and he is a real vintage fashion lover. He likes the Edwardian 1900-1914 period and then the 1930s as well. He gets to a few of the scooter events in the UK as he has a Vespa and often speaks on radio and television about fashion and music, apart from writing a few articles.

I would like to thank Bryan enormously for this contribution to The Ballroom Blitz. It has been fantastic to get to know all those details and I really appreciate it. Big up!

“We often say that the interest in vintage fashion is causing everyone to re-write history and it can’t happen. With you all working hard to get the style right it will be great.”

And as always in parting, a nice little tune… Reggae!


8 thoughts on “Smooths playing it cool: Bryan speaks

  1. Bradley – look forward to seeing them all :) Great to see it all collected in one place – a few of the lads in the photos are still in touch. The other cool fella with the afro in the group photos is a another ex-Smooth, Ernie Baptiste, still great friends after all our adventures together as suedes/smooths . . . .

  2. Great piece this . I love the pics as your look is very similar , though not exactly the same as ours way up in Scotland . Some regional variances but not as different as some would have us believe. Details like shirt cuffs turned back twice , I still do that to this day . I also remember the love beads , a short lived fad . Great to see those pics .

    • Great to capture some of the REAL social history of the period, Dite. The details and small ‘fads’ – make all the difference. So much social history is being re-written to suit the needs of certain people ‘cashing in’ for their own purposes now and it’s important to document what really went on :) Gabriela and the gang are doing great work and deserve all the support they can get. Thanks for your comments and loved your article by the way!

  3. Pingback: Happy days up North: Gerry speaks | The Ballroom Blitz

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