Gang wars! Rock ‘n’ roll! Fine knits! The two-fisted, two decade reign of Sharp!
Originally published in 2004, Top Fellas: The Story of Melbourne’s Sharpie Cult, was sold out in a few months. Luckily for our reading pleasure, there has been two re-prints, one in 2010 and another one in 2013, being this last one the copy I’ve got.
The book was written by Tadhg Taylor, who was a skinhead in his teenage years in the mid/late eighties in Melbourne. Very often the topic of sharpies would arise and he and his friends started to take a real interest in this Australian youth subculture, an interest that increased rapidly. Years went by and they grew out of the skinhead thing but their interest in sharpies remained the same until Tadhg decided to set it down on paper.
Top Fellas is a real step into the world of sharpies. It is full of recollections of ex-sharpies who kindly shared their stories with Tadhg and it has more than fifty photos to illustrate them. The book is divided into 5 chapters: Chapter 1: 1964-1970, Chapter 2: 1970-1972, Chapter 3: 1972-1976, Chapter 4: 1976-1980 and Chapter 5: The eighties.
As you might guess, my favourite two chapters are the first and the second because they show the roots of the Melbourne sharps. Melbourne could be defined as the homeland of the sharp movement which began sometime in 1964 with the so called “64 Rocker”, the opposite to the ’56 rockers’, inspired by the neat streamlined look of mod.
What I like the most about Top Fellas is the way Tadhg has given a full acount of this subculture throughout the years, not detracting from anyone who was a part of it and its different periods and guises. The language he uses is colloquial and makes the book fun and very entertaining to read. Once you start reading it, Top Fellas is a difficult book to put down.
The first-hand recollections of the former sharps are brilliant: “The point was to always look sharp, that’s why people started calling us sharpies, but we never called ourselves that, you were just one of the fellas or not one of the fellas”, says Dennis, one of those original sharpies.
But what made you a “Top Fella”? To be a Top Fella you had to be good at fighting, a good dancer, confident with the “brushes” and really smart. You had to be known, connected and respected – a sharpies’ sharpie.
Tadhg has done a great job and put a lot of effort in writing this book. With it, he has re-introduced the interest in the sharpie subculture not only in Australia but also all over the rest of the world. A good read and a perfect Christmas gift if you have an interest in youth subcultures, rock ‘n’ roll and smart clothes.
More pictures from Top Fellas:
And a very cool video of Melbourne Sharpies from 1974!: