It’s always interesting to read the first-hand recollections of original skinheads. It’s like taking a time machine and go back to a period most of us try to “preserve” 40+ years after.
This time, Gerry speaks about his days as a skinhead: Football, music, clothes… Those things we all like. Let’s read what he has shared with us:
“The skinhead fashion was a natural transgression from the mods era arriving in the East End of London 1968-69. My first ever recollection of seeing skinheads was in London in the summer of 1969 on a visit to Wembley to see my local team North Shields in the amateur cup as a skinny 15 year old!
A couple of months later I went to my first ever away game to see Newcastle at West Ham witnessing skinheads en masse. The North Bank was heaving with kids in Dr. Martens, Jungle greens, Sta Prest, braces, Ben Shermans, cardigans and the obligatory “razor partings”! …. And a steady procession of them being ejected from the North Bank.
Football was instrumental in the skinhead culture and it rapidly spread throughout the land. I remember Chelsea coming up to Sunderland in 1969 lead by the legends Danny “Eccles” and “Chiefy” Greenaway (who hardly fitted the skinhead role!). We came over from Newcastle and tagged on with them as they casually strolled into the Fulwell End unopposed. Later that year Chelsea came up to Newcastle which was the subject of a brilliant Man Alive documentary at the time focussing on Chelsea skinheads and Danny “Eccles” Harkins in particular. A legendary Leazes End skinhead at Newcastle at the time, Colin Proud, appears on the clip (Colin sadly died a few years ago as did Micky Greenaway of Chelsea… Mr Zigger Zagger!). The first Skinhead I ever saw at Newcastle was Johnny Dodds, “Doddsy”, self proclaimed “King of the Leazes End”!
Around about this time Newcastle had a small band of about 20-30 skinheads: the original Leazes End Boot Boys. These numbers rapidly swelled as the fashion swept through the UK.
I remember buying my dark blue full length Burberry mac from a second hand shop for the pricely sum of 2 shillings! (10 pence!) Amazingly Dr. Martens/Air Ware were not available in the frozen tundras of the Northern out post of Newcastle and we had to go to London to buy them or get Monkey Boots from the local Army and Navy Stores. There was a lack of very really good clothes shops in Newcastle then (apart from Marcus Price where I bought my first ever Levi’s, Ben Sherman and Italian leather jacket in 1968). Someone with a business sense would have made a killing as 6 months later when they did become available, they were selling out straight away!
The skinhead fashion was not just boots and braces but they were meticulous in their dress code. Mohair suits by Dormueil, Weejun loafers, Loakes Royals, Crombies, Prince of Wales check, Doogtooth, Ben Shermans, Brutus, Jaytex shirts, Fred Perry, Slazenger cardigans… never took to the red socks thing!!). The Harrington jacket was essential and Danny Eccles is seen sporting a nice green number on the clip!
The music scene embraced the reggae culture after the mods’ soul/ R&B preference. There was a healthy soul scene for years previous, the forerunners of Northern soul at the Torch, Twisted Wheel, Va Va’s and later Wigan Casino and that fashion “black hole” period of flares and vests! The Marquee club in London and the Club A GO GO in Newcastle attracted “mod bands” popular at the time: Geno Washington, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, Alan Bown set (an LP which captured the mod scene in 1966 was “London swings: live at the Marquee Club… A classic!). Georgie Fame and the Blueflames, John Mayall, Chris Farlowe, Cream were popular R&B bands.
Mowtown/Soul was always popular with the skinhead movement but gave way to Reggae for a while. The Oxford Galleries at Newcastle used to play reggae: The Pioneers, The Upsetters and the legendary Harry J Allstars, still played at Chelsea!
Alas, amazingly the skinhead fashion scene was very brief for must of us, only lasting a year. Our friends down South led the way in growing their hair, Suedeheads and then Smooths rapidly gave way to bright patterned shirts, flares and the beginning of a fashion disaster period! The sight of football fans scrapping in platform shoes, tank tops, flares, etc, was surreal! There were pockets of skinheads in rural UK which had the fashion lingering on but, in the main, by 1970 it was gone for us.
Thanks to Gerry for sharing all his pictures and stories with The Ballroom Blitz! For more articles on original skinheads/suedeheads/smooths, please check out:
I hope you have liked this article. Will be back soon with more nice posts.
And as always in parting, a nice little tune: One of the most popular tunes back in the day! Take care! x