Thursday, August 31, 2017

that time i was accidentally a skinhead (throwback thursday)

One night, (after watching the movie Tank Girl) I was inspired to cut my hair. At first, I was trying to use scissors to give myself the most bizarre hair do of all time. When that didn't work, I used my father's hair clippers. What I ended up with was this.

Not my best move.

The next day at school, I found out it was crazy hair day and picture day. People were like, "Did you do that on purpose? That is so hardcore!" and because I was advanced in sarcasm I'd say, "Sure, why not".

It was about a year later, in Chicago (when my hair was all one length) that I met my first female skinhead. I didn't know that is what she was. I just liked her style and informed her that I was growing out the same hair she had. She was, less than impressed. She informed me that she was a skinhead and that it was called a chelsea cut.

London Skinhead Girls in the 1980's
Photo Courtesy: cvltnation.com


I must admit that I was both embarrassed and a little grossed out that I was appreciating someone from a group that is connected to so much hate. What I later learned was that was not always the case.

During the 1950s and 1960s the popular culture was mod. We know this style by the numerous characterizations of it in movies. However, there were subcultures to this movement. 

The mods we know of were called peacock mods or smooth mods. This group was known for their wealth, their fashion, and their music. There was another group at the time known as hard mods. They were from the working class and didn't have money to spend. Their fashion was utilitarian as were their haircuts which were shaved close to the head for  practicality at work. By the late 1960s skinhead was the common term for this group. 

They were known to hang out in dance halls and listen to rocksteady, ska, and reggae. In the beginning the group was not racist or political. In fact, they embraced the culture of rude boys out of Jamaica which can be seen by the skinheads musical interest. It wasn't until the 1970s that everything changed and skinheads began politicizing. From there it was a slippery slope into a blending of white only, far-right, and neo-nazi ideals.

In a way, I am both proud and embarrassed by my accidental foray into being a skinhead. I too was like those hard mods; financially broke and following the beat of a different drummer. But I wonder how many people thought I was a racist asshole? I wonder how many people looked at me and thought I was all about white power? 

*To be clear, I am not a skinhead and I hope for a day when no one sees race as a separator or a reason to hate.

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