From Mod to Skinhead: Jan speaks

Hi, everybody! Welcome to another post.

Last year I uploaded a picture on The Ballroom Blitz FB page of four very stylish ladies. Usually, we come across photos of lovely skinhead girls but quite young (13-14-year-old girls) but this was different because they looked a bit older.

Jan, one of the girls found her photo there, commented on it and so did two of the other girls who appeared in the pic. Knowing that founding original skinhead girls willing to share their experiences is a bit of a mission impossible sometimes, I got in contact with her. She doesn’t live in England anymore but remembers everything pretty well and gladly shared some pictures and stories. Hope you like them!

To start, if the title of the article is ‘From Mod to Skinhead’, I think it is fair to post a picture of Mods, isn’t it? ;) From left to right appear: Jan’s sister called Chris aged 15, two girls they met on holiday, Jan herself aged 14, and her 16-year-old sister called Barb. They were all mods back then, very young ones with their suits and kitten heel shoes, very trendy at the time!


Second picture is of the transition from Mod to Skinhead. Jan is the girl with the longer hair, next to her is her boyfriend back then Bobby. The other couple is Roger with his girlfriend; Jan can’t remember her name but remembers her face well. She is still in touch with Bobby and a little bit with Roger.


Next picture was taken at the Top Rank and you can see the transition already. From left to right they are: Pam, Trevor, she can’t remember the guy at back, Brian (the boy with the drink, it’s his picture), John and she can’t remember the girl at the end. Jan is still in touch with Brian and John.


While she was sending me the pictures, she also shared a lot of her memories; for example, music. She comes from South England, Hampshire, but she worked in London and her case is very interesting because she wasn’t that much into Reggae apart from the well-known tunes such as Red Red Wine, Swan Lake and Israelites. She gave those records to a younger cousin of hers as she was far more interested in Soul music and she still is to this day.

She says the music they played around the time was definitely mainly Soul. It was played at all the clubs and it is what she would buy everytime she got paid. She used to go straight to the record department and often went through their huge music catalogue and order an import. She still has the records today, all her singles and LPs.

As a curiosity, she says that you either liked The Temptations or Four Tops, it was almost like you could not like them both. Her husband is a Four Tops fan but she loves The Temptations. Some of the other main artists of the day were Aretha Franklin, Dion Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Al Green, Tyrone Davies, Otis Reading, Gino Washington, Stevie Wonder, Stylistics, Impressions and Smokey Robinson, to name just a few. All the artists were black American, apart from Dusty. For her, racism did not come into the picture; if anything, the blacker the better, as this is where the soulful voices came from.

Her favourite group: The Temptations

Next photos show already the proper skinhead style. When I asked her if they called themselves skinheads, she said they did class themselves as such but that it was to do with the style of clothing, haircut and music taste, not to be known as belonging to a culture that was racist, went around in gangs intimidating others and acting tough. She says it’s a shame that this happened to the second wave of skinheads because it could not have been more different, and that this is why some skinheads from the early days would rather not be grouped together in the same basket as the second wave.

In this photo appears: Cristina in the front row with short dark hair next to the girl with the cardigan, Jan with her hair pulled back and then plaited and tucked under leaving strands of hair to the sides, a very popular hairstyle in the late 60’s and early 70’s in her area, and next to her Carole with a similar hairstyle. The guy standing behind Carole with his hands in pocket is Graham (who has also got in contact via The Ballroom Blitz FB Page), the guy with the girl standing behind Cristina is Roger, the girl with short blond hair is Janice and the memory has gone for any other names. They are all in their late 50’s or just turned 60 so they were all 18 or 19 in the picture.


Next one is my favourite and the one Jan first commented on. They are her friends and her at the Top Rank in Reading in 1969 or 1970. From left to right: Carole, Joanne, Janet and Cristina, from Mytchett near Farnborough, Hampshire.

When we talked about shoes, she pointed out that the shoes in those days did not have to be a certain make, just a certain style. I will update the post very soon and will let you know more about it. Very interesting!


Last photo is of Cristina and Jan, taken in a booth. Jan would have been 19 and Cris 18. I notice both of them are wearing girls’ shirts as buttons are on the left… I wonder which make would they have been?

Here, I asked her about make-up and eyebrows because I knew they used to wear them thin but never imagined SO thin! She told me they even used to pluck them out and then pencil them back in; crazy really but good at the time. And the makeup… They wore loads of it! False eyelashes top and bottom, she used to put them on in a couple of minutes. I wish I could do that, it takes me ages!


Regarding more experiences, Jan and Carole went to the Rolling Stones Concert in Hyde Park in 5th July 1969 we have already talked about before and they got told to get down from the tree! Brian Jones had literally just died and they released butterflies in Remembrance. It was sad but a great day, she says.

She didn’t know that nowadays there are a lot of young (and not so young) people interested in the skinhead thing either, so when I told her my age, it came as a surprise because she thought I was in my 50’s lol. She couldn’t believe what an interest we have on the subject but she is very pleased to hear we are interested in the early days as they really were so good and it is such a shame that the name skinhead became so tainted.

Of course, I couldn’t miss this great opportunity to ask her what she thought about my style and to ask her for a couple of tips as she was a very smart skinhead girl. As I have mentioned before, she came from South England but worked in London, so she guesses she got the style from those two places; maybe different areas dressed slightly different. I sent her some pictures and I am glad to know that I was quite spot on, particularly in the ones with suits and silk pocket hankies, or with shirts, skirts, light coloured tights, etc, and the hair, with the arched fringe and longer sides. Some things I wear and love were not worn back then in her area though.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Jan for all her valuable information. I found it fantastic and I appreciate it a lot! THANKS!

And as always in parting… A nice little tune! Everybody knows that I am Reggae crazy but this one is beautiful!

P.S.: I recommend to listen to the tunes Jan uploaded on The Ballroom Blitz on Facebook. Most of them are the ones that they would have heard around the clubs so they probably never made the Top 10 but she thinks they are great and they bring back good memories. Oh and she has never heard about punk and oi, there you go… ;)


9 thoughts on “From Mod to Skinhead: Jan speaks

  1. really interesting and great to see and hear the recollections of an orignal.jan is how i remember my peers,only a few years older than me.i so wanted to be like that when i was 12.(1969)i lived in the north of england,in chester,and there were loads of scooters around,all lambrettas.i think the main difference with the north and south was music.we had a rare soul thing happening.soul that had a certain beat but had failed to chart or had hardly any push from the original had started in the Twisted Wheel in manchester and grew to clubs like The Torch,cheshire cat,catacombes,even down to youth clubs in lancashire and of course going big at wigan casino where i went myself from the time i was old enough to get clothes,and the look,suedehead was with us!.reggae was there but so was this soul groove ,yes the usual suspects,johnnie johnson for example,but also very rare singles too.the south thought the north west very backward then and were laughed at as silly northerners doing there stupid back flips to old motownish records.thats why dave godin called it northern soul.he had a shop in london selling soul records.he was amazed at people from the north west of england asking for this type of stuff.he started keeping these type of records to one side for them and calling it soul for northerners(nothern soul).my time 71 to 74 in a skinhead vein.was also a fantastic time to be a teen.tonic suits,crombies,harringtons,from suedehead to bootboys.and there were a lot of us that werent the moronic bovver boys of the popular myth.yes we could and did have trouble,with greasers and other skin suedes etc.most tho were decent working class kids who were clothes obsessed and lambretta mad too.never saw a vespa…thank god!the biggest group of scooters in chester were called Could Nine.they were a huge gang from mostly the lache and blacon council estates in chester,they all had chromed helmets and you could see them a mile off.had afew run ins with them,mostly me doing the running!!…have to say i wasnt impressed with thelate 70s/ 80s skin…stripped of all the cool elan of jan,s era.what a pity such a lot of peple now think thats what skinhead is about.

    • Hi, Steve!
      Thanks a lot for all the information you have shared with us, I think I have already seen you on the Facebook page, right?
      I would like to stand out what you say about the kids who used to get into trouble and the fact that not all skinheads/suedeheads did. That’s exactly what I have heard from the originals, some did fight and were violent, others only if they messed with them and others were quite “good”.. As any teenager I guess! The myth of the tough skinhead is only applied to some cases.
      It’s a shame that when people think about skinheads, they focus on the late 70’s or 80’s stuff but we’re trying to change that :) At least my mates and I don’t even want to know about that period lol. We listen to reggae and soul and really try our best to keep it the original way.
      I’m also glad to have the point of view of someone from the North! All the originals who have shared their experiences here before have been from London or near London, so it’s quite interesting to read something different about the Northern Soul, the scooters, etc. If you have any pictures, that would be just amazing!
      Once again, thanks for your comment. All the best,

  2. Interesting feature if you are into the more mundane aspects of the skinhead cult e.g. clothes and haircuts.
    I’ve been following your blog for some time now and felt that it was time to intervene on behalf of those of us that carried the skinhead banner through the 80s into the 90s, and for some further beyond.
    Without 80s skinheads there would be no skinheads today (good or bad). The revival you are part of today Gabriela, emerged during the mid 80s on the back of “sussed” firms such as the Camden Stylists, the Glasgow Spy Kids and the Dublin crowd who in their turn wouldn’t have been skinheads without the re-emergence of skinheads around 1978 thanks (in part) to punk and bands like Sham 69, Menace and wait for it… Skrewdriver!

    To roll the class of ’78 and beyond into “muggy bonehead” territory is to misunderstand the dynamics that gave birth to the late seventies incarnation. those being in no particular order; spotty teenagers, a country on the brink of collapse and pent up anger needing to be vented. The generation of ’78 couldn’t, even if they had wanted to, recreate what had preceded them. Each generation in its turn picked up the mantle and adapted it to express the concerns of its time and in the process created, added, built something new on what came before. If many aspects of the late 70’s and 80’s depicted darker more sinister forms of creativity, one must not disregard some of the more positive examples whether they be bands like The Burial and Skindeep that took the raw energy of Oi! and crafted it into sensitive music which harked back to Soul, Ska and Reggae to the 2 tone revival that guaranteed a generation of JA artists would not fall into oblivion.
    From that period (the 80s) also came the boom of “Skinzines”, of which I might add your blog is a proud descendant! These fanzines were capital in spreading the gospel of skinhead to the four corners of our planet, which in its turn paved the way for the current generation of skinheads who now gather most of their information from the internet.
    So it seems to me that all generations are interconnected for better or for worse, thus making it difficult in my point of view to dismiss an entire portion of our/your culture.
    Finally I enjoyed your summary of 2012 and couldn’t agree more with many of the points you raised, I believe the current crop of skinheads run the very real risk of turning skinhead into a totally post-modern revivalist cult. As I mention above previous generations built (not always wisely I admit) and added contributing to define their era by their actions, today I fear that outside of creating picture perfect replicas of previous postures, achieved in great part by purchasing vintage gear online at overinflated prices, there isn’t much going on. With each passing year the average age of of the skinhead approaches the 30s mark, making the cult ripe for ridicule, the same as we saw Rockers and Teds back when we were skins!

    keep up the good work,



    • Hi, Mick.
      First of all, thanks a lot for your comment. Your point of view is very interesting and I agree with the things you say. Actually, I do know late 70’s and early 80’s skinheads from the cities you mention and they were/are very smart, I think we talk about the same people!
      I used to collect fanzines, some people still keep it that way and/or don’t like blogs. I think there is not any problem doing it online as you have a wider audience and it is positive if you use your common sense and share nice/good/rare stuff. I can’t please everybody but I do try my best, that’s all I can say :)
      About the summary, some people got angry with me because of it. I didn’t write it aimed at anyone in particular because it’s not something only one person does but a lot. If they got hurt, it’s because they feel identied with it, and well, I can’t do anything there.
      Finally, I’m glad you’re following the blog. Hope you like it too :D
      Kind regards,

  3. Gabriela, it’s difficult to speak your mind out without offending people, but in society we need to discuss our collective behaviour as it impacts the shape of things to come, you were brave in voicing your opinion, there’s nothing worse than cultivating indifference!!



  4. Pingback: From Mod to Skinhead: Jan speaks | The Ballroom Blitz | The Mod Generation

  5. Great articles!
    I grew up in Edinburgh, and when I was 16 and fully into the skinhead culture (1973) I went to the barbers for my monthly crop with my then girlfriend.Much to my surprise she jumped into the chair before me and demanded that the barber gave her a “Chelsea” She lied that she was 17 (she was 15) but the barber wouldn’t cut her then shoulder length hair into a “Skinhead” We left with her hair still intact but she was determined and after getting a bus to the other side of town to a barber we knew cut Chelsea’s she got her wish complete with side and back feathers. Her mother laughed but her father went beserk blaming me for leading his daughter astray. Happy memories re-kindled by your excellent research.

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

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