The No Bower
Your starter for ten. They’re mild mannered. Very fussy about what they wear. Obsessed with early Jamaican reggae records. What well-known British sub-culture are they? Andrea Baxter investigates. Full marks if you said skinheads. Though more usually seen as Sun-reading. racist. violent and immensely stupid. those who hold true to the original spirit of the cult which grew out of the mods in the late 60s are getting pretty fed up with the tabloid image. They're too busy looking for those elusive button-down Ben Sherman shirts or spare parts for their Lambretta to get into fights at football grounds and when most of their favourite tracks are by West Indian artists, racial prejudice. they say. just isn‘t an issue.
‘It I saw somone walking down the street with the wrong type of collar, I’d know right away he was a take.’
Andy (iaillie and Mark (‘arapieL who have previously been involved with Superfly and now I.oog. have just launched Tighten Up at the (‘otton (‘lub in Glasgow on Sunday nights to play the sort ofbluebeat. ska and soul whose popularity should extend far beyond the skins. According to them. the skinhead cult was a reaction by working-class kids to the peace and love of the flower power decade. They developed an elaborate style code and got into the reggae sounds at that time only listened to by West Indians who had come over to live in Britain: ‘At one time. shipping the records over to skinheads in Britain was the only thing keeping some of these record companies going.‘ says (iaillie.
Skinheads prefer the earlier. dance beat reggae to the more commercial dub popularised by Bob Marley. Trojan. an offshoot of Island Records. is the most highly esteemed stable of tracks like ‘Skinhead Moonstomp' by Symarip or Desmond Dekker‘s ‘The lsraelites‘. 'l‘wo-tone is popular too. and a perennial favourite to do that ‘trying to keep your feet warm while waiting for a bus on a cold night‘ dance. Glasgow‘s skinhead scene used to revolve around the One-Up Bar in the East End. but with the rise of Madchester and techno its adherents are getting fewer.
L Gaillie. (.‘arapiet and their mates in their
l.ambretta Scooter (‘lub don‘t consider the yobbo element to be real skinheads at all. ‘They're not skinheads. I just see them as bald guys with big boots on.‘ says (iaillie. ‘Politics aside. they can‘t even get the look right.’ And that‘s really
important. right? ‘lf 1 saw someone walking down the street with the wrong type of collar or
whatever. l‘d know right away he was a fake. l‘d know what he was trying to do and if he missed it. he’d just look a total fool. It's very strict.’
They argue that the association between skins and fascists that grew up in the 70s was a case of racists getting into the skinhead uniform. and not the other way about — and polls show that most of them tend to vote Labour. with only a small minority supporting the British National Party or their ilk. (iaillie even attempts to deny that skinhead style is meant to look threatening. ‘No, no. it‘s very smart . . mind you. people call you
Baldy. but only behind your back.‘
The rigid style requirements are dizzyingly complicated - Doc Martens boots. of course. which some claim can be used to signal political affiliation depending on the colour of the laces: Fred Perrys or Ben Sherman shirts, which must have a button-down collar. a button at the back with a pleat and a loop for hanging it up (well. you can‘t allow it to get creased. can you'.’). and a left breast pocket; Wranglers or Levis or Sta—Prest trousers; or suits. with three or four buttons only. a narrow lapel and either a middle back vent or two side vents — oh. and a bare minimum of three buttons on the sleeve . . . you can see how easy it is to make a mistake. But. let's face it. this enslavement to fashion is a pretty shallow way to live your life. isn‘t it? ‘Well. yes. l suppose so, but it gives you something to do, it keeps you off the streets . . .’
Tighten Up is at the Cotton Club on Sundays. lO.30pm—3.30am. £2.
74 The List 20 December 1991 — 16 January 1992