Skinhead, skinhead, Oi, Oi, Oi. Swastika on the forehead, covered in tats, big boover boots, neo-Nazi racist thug.
This is often the kneejerk reaction one has when they hear the word skinhead. It was not always this way. In fact, the first skinheads were born out of a love of reggae and ska introduced to them by the West Indian immigrants after the government had encouraged mass immigration to give life to a flagging labour market. The media took something of respect and turned it into the very thing it was against, the love switched to hate and one of the coolest styles has been made into nothing more than a racist caricature.
Skinheads and rude boys had a mutual love of the music, both had staunch anti-racist views of the world and were happy to mix and indulge in each other’s cultures. So, what could turn something that blossomed from love and acceptance to the hate you envisage today?
The media. It was only once the media had caught up with the culture in the 1980s that things started to sour. A perfect example is the Tilbury Trojan Skins, a name that highlights the influence of black Jamaican music, the name being taken from Trojan records which were founded to bring ska, reggae, rocksteady and dub music to the UK market.
It was no accident this working-class subculture was alive and strong in Tilbury Town, a dock town in Thurrock, a place described by The Guardian as ‘the country’s capital of misery’ in 2012 and it was a lot worse in the ’80s. Add this to the earlier influx of West Indian immigrants who arrived directly in Tilbury in the late ’40s on the MV Empire Windrush, then it’s no surprise skinheads roamed the marshland of Tilbury. Tensions were higher than previous decades, shortages of labour created by the war were no more and jobs became a little harder to come by. It was a time where the bond between the people needed to be at its strongest but the media attacked and turned the working classes against themselves.
The Sun was the main perpetrator when it set up a sensationalist report entitled ‘Aggro Britain’.
In this article, they made the Tilbury Skins out to be racist thugs and painted skinheads the world over as neo-Nazi thugs who lived for trouble and would stomp anyone in their way. The Sun fed the youngsters drink, twisted their words and misrepresented them and the culture. You can hear as much in the Trojan Skins’ own words if you listen to the BBC’s 1980 radio documentary about the article and how it was fabricated. It speaks with those interviewed by The Sun and the locals who knew these ‘racist thugs’. It can be found on Soundcloud or just follow the web address below.
The damage had already been done and the article had been printed all over the country and once this had happened, racist knuckleheads thought, ‘I’ll av’ some of that’, then went straight to the bathroom, got their razor, boneheaded themselves and went out and bashed some Paki’s.
Fuelled by the politics of the time and the National Front, this element grew, and became the dominant force within the culture and transformed it into the beast you see around the world today.
The white supremacists in the USA picked up on the press from the UK and become an organised gang who now run parts of the prison system. It’s a shame that no one that side of the Atlantic will ever get to understand the humble beginnings that are now forever tainted.
The media took something of respect and turned it into the very thing it was against, the love switched to hate and one of the coolest styles has been made into nothing more than a racist caricature.
It’s how the media works, if there is no story, they will invent one, even if there is a story that does not follow their narrative, they will twist it to fit, truth be damned.
It’s all about what will sell newspapers, what will get page hits. Keep your eyes out, they don’t even bother to hide their indiscretions, that’s how much contempt they have for you. The power the media maintain can make or break individuals and shape history. It’s us, as individuals, who have the responsibility to look between the lines and form an opinion of our own, instead of just being force-fed bullshit.
Their lies are easy to decipher if you just look.
Despite all the odds stacked against them, there are some who still represent what the original skinheads were about, SHARP, skinheads against racial prejudice.
The original culture is still being upheld by these individuals the world over. After the media had misrepresented all skinheads, SHARP was formed to go against the bigotry of the new generation of skinheads. Some say it started in California but this is hotly disputed and many skinheads will tell you it was always there but they were just called skinheads. The white power movement that invaded the culture are not skinheads, they are nothing but boneheads. And there is a world of difference between a skinhead and a bonehead. Many skinheads who identify themselves as SHARP are angry that the definition has to be made.
Respect to these anti-fascist skinheads, they get it from all sides. Other skinheads see them as traitors, it was not uncommon for them to be attacked by the right-wing factions of the culture and running battles were often fought.
The lefties just see them as the media has represented them. They fail to see past the boots and braces and attack on sight of the bald head and Dr Martens. So they become accused of being the very thing they hate, a bonehead.
In spite of all these hurdles, SHARP continues to represent and show what the culture is really about, the love of black music and the Jamaican rude boy style.