What really happened in the seventies (Part I)

¡Hola! Hello! Hallo! Ciao! Salut! Kaixo! Etc, etc etc. It’s been a long time, uh?

My excuse this time: too many parties! And as you already know, after a great party you need some time to recover as well (at least I do). The last one was in Italy, in the lovely Lavarone for the All Saints Mod Holiday, which has to be one of my favourite parties and I strongly recommend it. Perfect weekender: fantastic people, music, food, drinks. Roll on 2013 edition!

Mods and skinheads having fun at the All Saints Mod Holiday 2013 in Lavarone

So, what do we have prepared for today on The Ballroom Blitz Blog? Well, I believe that in this tiny world everything is about trends and skinheads are no exception. Lately, I have seen that more and more people are trying to get the proper look and I think this is absolutely fantastic. More into the 60’s or more into the 70’s, to each his own, but the important thing is to get it right and not mixing years in a way that just looks awful.

Talking about getting it right, this time I would like to share with you an article from the Skinhead Times Issue 12. It’s called ‘What really happened in the 70’s’ and it tries to explain what the difference between someone from our cult and an average kid is or more or less that. Because there is a real difference and skinheads shouldn’t look like someone out of a 70’s costume party. As the article is quite large, I have divided it in two. Let’s start with the first part…

“With all this talk of a Seventies revival, and the media and fashion industry  trying to force flares and 70s compilations down the throats of the young and impressionable, I thought to myself this isn’t how I remember the decade in which I spent my teenage years. Of course no one can deny that the likes of platform shoes caused a lot of pain to the swollen ankles of the 70s fashion victim, but my memories are of skinheads, reggae, bootboys, football hooligans, glam rock, punk rock, 2 Tone and the dawning of a new era.

At the age of 34 (old bastard) I can look back and see that most of my life has been associated with the skinhead cult. As far as I am concerned it is the smartest and most credible cult that has existed, despite what the media says to the contrary.

Everyone is aware of how the cult developed from the 60’s mod culture, and in my part of the world things were no different. I hail from a small seaside resort on the East Coast of Scotland called Montrose which lies roughly halfway between Dundee and Aberdeen. Skinheads probably caught on and peaked a bit later up here, but I would argue that the first wave of skinheads lasted longer too.

“The photo shows a Glasgow skinhead in the early 70’s slashing a plain clothed police officer with a cut throat razor. The policeman is drawing his baton to defend himself. The attack happened in Glasgow’s city centre.”

I first became interested in the cult in 1970 when, at the age of 12, I moved to Dundee with my family. Dundee at this time had a well established gang culture and skinheads were prominent in a lot of gangs. My loyalties however lay with my old mates back in Montrose and most of my weekends and school holidays were spent with them and initially with the Hillside Boys in particular.

When I first got into the cult, I wore Tuf boots, rolled up jeans, braces and button down collared shirts, with short (but not skinhead) hair. DMs were out of the question at the time because I couldn’t get them to fit. When I did get my first pair they were size 5 oxblood six eyelet Air Wair with a thinner sole and different tread pattern – we called them Junior Martens or Junior Docs. This was late 1970 and it was a year later that I got the look I really wanted. A number four crop, 11 hole highly polished ox-blood Astronauts, Wrangler jeans cut short and worn at the top of my boots with a one inch external turn-up, half inch braces, Ben Sherman shirts, and a Harrington or crombie.

The classic look in Montrose at the time was eight hole oxblood Air Wair with red or yellow laces, Wrangler jeans with turn-ups, buttown down Ben Shermans, Wrangler jackets and harringtons. For a night out you might have worn Frank Wright brogues or loafers, Levi’s sta-prest (white, ice blue and off-white were popular, darker colours for school,and a bit later came tonic and Prince of Wales check), Ben Shermans of course and black or navy blue blazers. Suits were worn if you could afford them, and usually only by the older blokes. If they were made to measure, it would be a four button jacket with no less than six buttons on the sleeves. A silk handkerchief, red and for a spell tartan, went in the breast pocket, usually with a single peak and a tie tack or hanky pin to hold it in place. Hankies were also worn with blazers and crombies, which had tonic as well as red linings at the time.

“What’ll the guys at LEVI’S dream up next?”

Cardigans and sleeveless pullovers were worn at the time, but probably most popular were what we called college jerseys. They were one colour jumpers with contrasting stripes and the collar. Later versions had two stripes on the sleeve, between the elbow and shoulder.

The basic style would stay the same, but from time to time there were minor changes like wearing footballclub or Scotland badges, and initialed badges in the shape of a shield on your blazer breast pocket. Ties were not worn often, but if they were they would be in football colours or broad stripes and for a time tartan. Tartan trim on denim jackets and jeans, and tartan scarves were popular for a while. You could also get tartan Harringtons and Prince of Wales ones and even crombie style jackets in Prince of Wales, but they were never widely worn. I do remember a couple of blokes who did wear them with POW sta-prest, white Ben Shermans and black brogues, but I always thought they looked odd. Still, there was a lot of scope for individualism and just I because I didn’t like it, others didn’t have to agree with me.

Prince of Wales crombie by Gabicci. Not my cup of tea either I must say…

By late ’71 a lot of skins were growing their hair and skinheads mixed with suedes (not that many people made any distinction). Others started to have long hair and feathercuts, but still wore what was considered to be skinhead gear. 1972 brought A Clockwork Orange to the cinemas and on to the streets. I never adopted the look myself, but some people adopted it and wore black DMS, white sta-prest, white Ben Shermans, black braces, black crombie, bowler hat, eyelash, black umbrella and a local short-lived fad of a white carnation in your lapel just to spiv it up a bit.

Some older mates were into scooters and Lambrettas in particular. They were full-framed scooters with a few mirrors, chrome crash bars, front and rear carriers, back rests on the seats, six foot fibre glass aerials with small flags and maybe a few other accessories to personalise them. Fly screens usually had Montrose or the rider’s name on them.

Other modes of transport included Ford Anglias and Mini Coopers, again with aerials and also fur-trimmed dashboards and chequered roofs. Being too young to drive, it was the bus for me or trying not to look to chuffled when I got a lift on the back of a mate’s scooter.

Life was about having a good laugh, chasing women, having a drink and looking for aggro. There was no politics, no racism and no drugs. Drugs were for hippies anyway. Aggro was usually with people from neighbouring towns like Arbroath and Brechin. Although not very popular today, Montrose was a seaside resort that used to boast the finest beaches in Scotland. It attracted a lot of tourists and with them came the chance for aggro.”

To be continued tomorrow…

And as always in parting, a nice little tune:

“You made me feel like a fish out of the sea but I know that you will be sorry”


7 thoughts on “What really happened in the seventies (Part I)

  1. Great little blog mate, brought a lot of memories flooding back reading this, the 70’s style photographs and stuff……You think your an old bastard at 34?……Try being 56! Yeah an old Glesga Skinhead here.. Got my first Doc’s when I was 13 in 69’….I can still remember the look on the barbers face when my three mates and myself told him we wanted the lot shaved off…..He thought we were kidding! You have to remember that at this time long hair was the thing for the younger generation, even the old codgers wouldn’t have their hair cut short as drastic as a skin….at that point, in Glasgow at least most of the elder generation hadn’t a clue about skinheads.

    These days everybody and their uncle has a shaved napper, back then it was only the skins. Levi’s were the order of the day, but I preferred Wranglers myself because you could get them a nice light shade of blue easier which i liked and when you turned the bottoms up it was a much cleaner turn up, than if you had to turn up a pair of new Levi’s which were a much stiffer denim and with that thick seam it was a job getting them to sit just right….well for me it was anyway…So I preferred the Wranglers.

    That was our ‘uniform’ back then, the braces, the Ben Sherman shirts, the Doc’s (Airwair the earlier ones were called) and a Levi denim jacket……I remember when the Astronaut Doc’s first appeared we thought the shop assistants were trying to fob us off with some fake gear (lol).

    Anyway great Blog you have, keep it up!


    • Hi Kenny.
      So glad to read your comment and to know that you like the blog. I try to do my best and to share “the real deal”, so many good stuff that unfortunately has been forgotten but hopefully “revived” here sooner or later.
      If you want, you can join the blog on Facebook. Here I usually post on Sundays, although not this one because I am a bit sick. On Facebook I upload photos, tunes, stories, etc. Here is the link http://www.facebook.com/TheBallroomBlitz
      Take care and thanks for the kind words,

    • Hello Kenny , Re your comment on ‘ Astronauts ‘ I thought Astros were great but I recall some others , especially lads a couple of years older than me who thought only AirWair were the real deal. I also preferred Wranglers back then , partly for the reasons you mentioned . I used to visit Glasgow a lot for the football and took many influences from the terraces , especially in my Bootboy days.

  2. Hello Gabriela , I wrote this when I was 34 and I’m now 54 , how time flies . I was asked by George Marshall at ‘ Skinhead Times ‘ to put my thoughts to paper so I quickly wrote some notes down on a few pages from a note book and posted them off to George and you have blogged the end result . Looking back I could have done better but I stand by my efforts despite a couple of minor errors and I thank you and George in particular for publishing the piece . To those who may read this , I hope people enjoy it but please remember these are my memories and I talk of my experiences , this is how it was for me in my little part of the world . The article is quite long and I could have added more detail but it would have gone on forever . One final note , once Skinhead moved away from London regional variances influenced the style and when the Bootboy look came in it was less rigid and left lots of room for individualism.

    • Hello, Dite!
      Thanks for your comment, I think the article is fantastic and it was a pleasure to share it. When I posted it, people really liked it and said it contained a lot of good stuff, and I do agree, of course ;)
      I’m glad you “found” this blog, it’s always cool to contact original skinheads from the time. At the moment on the Facebook page of The Ballroom Blitz is happening something very similar with a photo I uploaded. Here is the link if you would like to follow http://www.facebook.com/TheBallroomBlitz
      Cheers! Thanks again!

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