From time to time, we receive emails from customers who aren’t familiar with the Skinhead subculture and who are confused to see a Skinheads section on an anti-racist website, so we thought an introduction to the skinhead movement could be helpful.
The majority of skinheads are not racists. The original skinhead subculture started in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s and had heavy British mod and Jamaican rude boy influences, including a love for ska and soul music. Skinheads were not associated with an organized racist political movement until the late 1970s when a skinhead revival in the UK included a sizable neo-nazi faction. Because of this, the mainstream media began to label the whole skinhead identity as neo-fascist, which is not true. This is why racist skinheads are not considered real skinheads and should be called Boneheads.
Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) are anti-racist skinheads who oppose white power skinheads, neo-fascists, and other political racists, particularly if they identify themselves as skinheads. SHARPs aim to reclaim the multicultural identity of the original skinheads, hijacked in their views by white power skinheads, who they sometimes deride as “boneheads”. Many people may confuse SHARP members with racists since their appearance is superficially similar. Beyond the common opposition to racism, SHARP professes no political ideology or affiliation, stressing the importance of the black Jamaican influence in the original late-1960s skinhead movement. The second SHARP logo is based on the logo of Trojan Records, which originally mainly released black Jamaican ska, rocksteady, and reggae artists. Local SHARP groups have spread around the world in many countries.
Redskins – On the far left of the skinhead subculture, Redskins and anarchist skinheads take a militant anti-fascist and pro-working class stance. Some groups with significant numbers of leftist skinhead members are Red Action, which started in 1981, and Anti-Fascist Action, which started in 1985. Internationally, the most notable left-wing skinhead organization is Red and Anarchist Skinheads, which formed in the New York City area in 1993 and then spread to other countries.
Red and Anarchist Skinheads (RASH) is a left-wing anti-racist, anti-fascist skinhead group, formed in the United States in 1993. The RASH values direct action and self-defense against neo-Nazis. The movement has its origins in the multi-ethnic roots of the skinhead cultural identity. It has multiple chapters on all continents.
RASH and SHARP define themselves heavily on fashion, music, and violent opposition to white supremacist organizations. Their style of dress typically incorporates Dr. Martens boots, jeans, suspenders, bomber and Harrington jackets, short hair, and clothing produced by Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, and Lonsdale. Musically, they are typically associated with punk, hardcore, oi, ska, reggae, and two-tone music genres.
We do not support Boneheads (neo-nazis skinheads) and we strongly stand against racism in the skinhead scene or elsewhere. The t-shirts in our “Skinheads” section are targetting the anti-racist skinheads audience and are properly identified as such.
The cooperative has been very supportive of anti-racist and anti-fascist causes and has been donating money to activists fighting against boneheads and neo-nazis. This should be enough to repel any of these individuals from buying shirts here.
True Skinheads Are Not the Racist Thugs of Media Fame (New York Times)
The majority of skinheads are not racists. The skinhead movement itself was started in the mid-1960’s by working-class youths in England. Instead of opting for the flamboyant, fancy-dress escapism of the Mod and Teddy Boy youth cults before them, the skinheads embraced working-class fashion: cropped hair, meant-to-last shoes and boots, white T-shirts and worn Levis.
They also borrowed from their working-class West Indian neighbors, adopting trilby hats and crombie jackets, peg-legged striped suits and love for ska, the Jamaican music that mixed Latin beats and American jazz melodies and was the forerunner of modern reggae. The original skinheads loved to dance to these ska beats, often frequented all-black nightclubs and had, by the end of the decade, several Jamaican “skinhead reggae” records and bands they loyally supported.
Racism appeared on the skinhead scene in the 1970’s because of the poor economic climate in England. Many neo-Nazi groups began recruiting the skinheads, most of whom were in low-paying jobs or on the dole. Playing on the traditional nationalistic ideas of the working class, the fascist groups did their best to turn the skinheads against their immigrant neighbors. Unfortunately, many confused souls left the skinhead movement and joined the National Front and other neo-Nazi groups in England.
The skinhead movement never ended, although for a time in the 70’s it was nearly nonexistent. This was mainly due to the bad rap skinheads received for their perceived violent ways. The violence often arose when true skinheads were threatened by the racist groups. There was a huge skinhead revival in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s with the advent of punk rock and oi, as well as with the Two Tone ska revival.
It was this second wave of skinheads that saw the beginning of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, or Sharp, which has chapters in every state in the United States as well as in nearly all Western European countries. It is dedicated to upholding the traditions of the skinhead movement, as well as battling racism.
Real skinheads are not the neo-Nazi fools one so often hears, sees and reads about in the media. Many skinheads, especially in New York City, are of Asian or African-American descent. They choose to be skinheads because they believe in the values of the working class, they believe all races should come together and they like to groove to the ska beat.
Please refer to neo-nazi skinheads as boneheads or fascists or just plain ignorant slobs, but not as skinheads alone. They are not true skinheads, for they do not connect to the roots.