skinhead clothing

The following is from an original who goes by Royton skin and obviously he’s from Royton. It’s a long read but very thorough with great descriptions…

1969 and 1970 were the years of the skinhead. Lads and Lasses all over the country were drawn to this latest fashion. A development of the Mods ‘cult’, it quickly became associated with violence, particularly at football grounds, and this brought to it also types of youth who would not have been Mods. Although the general public image of Boots ‘n’ Braces did exist, it was much, much more than that.

Being a development of Mod it’s look evolved through the 3 years of it’s life and the attention to style and detail would have impressed any scooter riding youth from 5 years earlier. At the outset virtually any pair of boots would do, any colour, hobnails, army or pit boots, but steel toecaps were banned at football matches and so the now famous Dr Martens became the standard.

It was actually not very common to see braces worn visibly after the initial rush to become a skinhead. This was because you soon got fed up of having them ‘twanged’ and also, well it didn’t really look too stylish did it? More commonly they were covered by a sleeveless jumper or Denim jacket. I have read accounts of the skinhead cult which make out it was some working class reaction to hippies, so traditional working class clothes were adopted, regardless of their lack of style.

This certainly wasn’t the case in Royton as we were all conscious of looking smart, but regional variations did occur. For instance Reggae is normally accepted as THE skinhead music but locally Soul was No.1, with the Mod taste in rare, exclusive sounds of the mid 60s at the forefront. Shaw’s Motown Club was a regular haunt throughout the period playing exactly this sound (a forerunner of Northern Soul). Button down shirts, plain or pale candy striped were popular, ideally Ben Shermans, with Levis or Wranglers. The jeans were meant to be wide so often worn a size too big, hence the need for braces to get them to hang right (see, it did all make sense!). Also worn right through the skinhead era were white or light coloured ‘Sta-prest’ trousers and brogues.

The skinhead scene was a little late taking off in Royton. Whilst a few of us wore the style early on, it was normally individuals or small groups. The initials ‘HCHBB’ (High Crompton and Heyside Boot Boys) sprayed on walls in some parts of town appeared late 1969 or early 1970 but I never knew who they were. During the summer of 1970 a few of us used to get together in Tandlehill Park, of all places, to hang about, chase girls around the woods and this was probably one of the original starting points of the ‘Royton Skins’, as it involved people from different parts of Royton. By this time the fashion was checked shirts (Ben Shermans, Brutus or Jaytex), highly polished Doc Martens worn with denims and this became the look of the Royton Skins. From around this time until mid 1972 you could not pass ‘The Shed’ at Shaw Road End any night without seeing at least a few skinheads hanging around there and altogether, including lads and girls there were probably about 40 who counted themselves part of the ‘gang’.

Hair for lads was normally a ‘number 3’, sometimes, but not often, shorter. In fact, as long hair was the norm in mainstream fashion, it was not even necessary to have a ‘crop’ to be regarded as a skinhead, any shortish , tidy style that was short at the front was acceptable. The girls hair ranged from long (often tied in a bun, sometimes with a little at the sides left to hang long in front of the ears) through collar length, combed or gripped back off the forehead as worn by Julie Hilton. The popular ‘skinhead’ style was however the feather cut, short on top and front, longer (‘feathered’) at the sides and back. The most extreme version of this style I ever saw was on a Royton girl, Carole Race, whose hair was feathered at the back and sides but on top was a number 2 or 3! .

There used to be a photo on the wall of Royton Youth Club of the Morris Dancing Team, all the girls lined up in their outfits and pom poms, most sporting skinhead haircuts! Clothes were similar to the lads with lower ‘Monkey Boots’ instead of Doc. Martens. and tailored jackets, not denim. To go out the girls would wear either a short skirt with light tights and jacket or a skirt suit, possibly in two tone material, with chunky brogue type shoes. The first girls I ever ‘got off’ with were all of this appearance (though how I ever managed this remains a mystery, being a mass of spots and clueless adolescence!) - most of them were really nice too!

There was a little trouble between the Skinheads and local greasers at first, as the Royton Skins tried to establish themselves, chairs being chucked across Royton Youth club etc., but this never blew up into anything massive or long lasting. Most of the skins were aged 15 or 16 (the girls 14 or 15) whereas the greasers could be up to 18 and anyway, these were lads you had grown up or gone to school with. Take the Riley family for example, Gary (18) and Wayne ‘Chire’ (14) were skinheads, brother Billy (16) and his mates were greasers! You were not going to get a lot of aggro in that situation! Eventually Royton Youth Club was unofficially split down the middle, one side for the skins, the other for the grease!

A development of the Skinhead cult, the Suedehead was the same style as a skinhead cut, but a little longer, hair being half to one inch long. This look started to emerge in 1971. Initially the clothes were the same, but leaning more to the smarter skinhead styles of brogues, parallel trousers in Prince of Wales check and ‘toniks’, which were two tone material. The denim jacket was replaced by the Harrington jacket . Red socks were worn and the ultimate Suedehead item of clothing, the Crombie overcoat. All of these were worn by lads and girls, girls adopting two tone skirt suits to go out ‘dressed up’. Blazers (‘baratheas’) became popular with the lads, usually black with a Lancashire Red Rose badge adorning the pocket in which there would be a ‘silk’ hankie, usually the colour of your football team. Later in 1971 the check shirts started to be replaced by plain, dark coloured Ben Shermans in black, red or dark blue and Fred Perry tennis shirts.

The shift was a gradual one and throughout 1971 examples of all the above could be seen worn with skinhead styles, but by our day out in Blackpool on Easter Monday 1972 my brogues, parallels, Fred Perry and V neck pullover would have looked more at home in the Mod ranks of 1964 than the football terrace of 1969.

Due to the relatively young age of most Royton Skins we nearly all became suedeheads, being by this time mostly 16 and 17, but really the distinctions were quite blurred and the general public regarded us as all the same - “Yobbos!”

Although there are different definition of ‘Smoothie’, in Royton it was a term used for a smart dresser who had all the most up to date clothes in the skinhead style, but whose hair was longer. The hair would most likely be collar length but shorter on top with a short fringe. Classic exponents of the smoothie look were Sean O'Neil and Terry Cocking.

The term ‘Smoothie’ to describe a particular post skinhead look was very short lived, only a few months as teenage fashion morphed into glam-rock and a number of other looks in 1972. Interestingly though, the term 'Boot boy’ and Boot boy culture lasted right through the mid 70s as football hooliganism became entrenched as a Saturday afternoon ritual.

Again different definitions, but quite simply a bootboy was someone who wore boots!

At the start of the skinhead craze they were lads who liked the image but didn’t want the ‘crop’, at the end they were youths who had either been skins and had now grown their hair or youngsters who wore whatever the current fashion was and behaved much as the skinheads had done. Sometimes bootboys adopted some, but not all, of the skinhead wardrobe. Using the above definition it can be seen that skinheads and smoothies could be boot boys, but not all bootboys were smoothies or skins!

Royton skin…