60s Skinhead fashion

The Skinhead look from the late sixties and early 70s is almost a forgotten fashion. Although, most people associate Skinheads with the late 70s and early 80s, there was a strong Skinhead movement in Britain between 1968 and 1972, with 1969 to 1971 being the time when Skinheads were primarily in the news.

Most people think of the 60s as the era of  the Mods, then Flower Power and Hippies. The Hippy era though was mainly a middle class rebellion against middle class values.  Many working class young people found they could not identify with it. They never had the middle class lifestyle to rebel against. Whereas Mod embraced the consumer society, the Hippy movement, although later much commercialised, itself rejected it. These working class youngsters had nowhere to go.

The Skinhead fashion for men evolved from the Mod fashion earlier in the sixties. The original Skinhead fashion was smart style derived from the American Ivy league fashion, although unlike Mod fashion, which was an ever changing scene, the 60s Skinhead became a uniform.

The late 60s and early 70s Skinhead took elements of Mod and was a clear evolution from it. The look was smart. Short hair was a brave statement in the late sixties, when most young people wanted to grow their hair long. The original Skinhead was not completely shaven, but had a short, smart haircut.  The inspiration may have been a combination of the college boy haircut favoured by the Mods and military style haircuts.  A new hero was emerging on our TV screens in 1968 and 1969, the American astronaut. Their short, smart haircuts were the complete opposite to the Hippie style.

By 1968, the Skinhead look comprised short hair, a button-down shirt, or sometimes a Fred Perry instead, Sta Prest trousers or Levi 501s, brogues or boots with an army-style shine on them (often not Dr Marten's for the 1968 look).  Sometimes a suit was worn, often a classic Mod style tonic suit with narrow trousers and lapels, the complete opposite of the flared jeans preferred by the hippies. Ties were narrow, usually striped. Sometimes a cardigan replaced the suit jacket.

The button down shirt was often a Ben Sherman. Skinheads wore gingham check, sometimes other check patterns, or plain Oxford cotton. Ben Sherman struggled to keep up with demand and alternatives from Brutus and Jaytex were also available in similar styles. Fred Perry shirts were also worn by Skinheads in the 60s.

Skinheads wore Crombie overcoats, favoured by gangsters such as the Krays, but smart and expensive. Alternatives were fly fronted gabardine Macs or sheepskin coats. The look was grown up and smart. Very definitely not hippy.

Skinhead was not Mod, since it was much more of a rigid dress code. The Mod look was ever changing with the mood of the Mod fashion of the time. The later 1979 Mod revival, turned the Mod fashion into more of a uniform, but in the 60s being Mod meant you needed to change your look frequently to stay in fashion. Skinheads had no such problem.

Skinheads had a taste for West Indian Reggae music. In the late sixties and early seventies Reggae was underground. It received very little airtime on mainstream radio. One reason for the apparently contradictory liking for ethnic minority music is that Reggae was the music of an oppressed generation. The Skinheads identified with this. Most of all though, they loved the beat.

An early Skinhead band was Slade. They changed their look to glam because of problems getting gigs as Skinheads.

George Melly, in 'Revolt into Style' had no time for the Skinheads, which he also called agro boys. To him they were working class boys wearing a look that passively accepted their limited future. They took on  dead end jobs without protest. Like Mods and Teds before them, Skinheads were involved in violence. Football hooliganism was often put down to Skinheads in the early 70s. In spite of their liking for Reggae music, Skinheads were involved in racist violence, as well as petty crime and acts of vandalism.

From 1970 to 1971, Skinheads conformed more to the traditional image we have of them.  They wore Dr Marten's boots, and trousers or jeans an inch or so shorter than normal length.  They were also making their presence felt in the media.  Acts of violence and aggravation were common, as well as vandalism.

The 1968 to 1969 Skinhead look did not last much into the 70s. Skinheads started to grow their hair longer. The media invented new terms such as suedehead, for a slightly longer Skinhead look. Then they grew their hair long and wore flares and penny collars, like everyone else. Like Mod, the Skinhead look had a revival at the end of the 70s and into the early 80s.

More about Skinheads

There is an article about Skinheads on Wikipedia.

Your comments on Skinheads

"It was interesting reading about a fashion that me and my schoolmates were into in 1970/71.

In 1970 we wore the doc martins with Levi 's + half inch turn up, Ben shermans and Harringtons or Crombie overcoats.

If we were going out to a dance we would wear stay press 2 tone trousers with Brogues and white socks and always clip on braces. Hair was a grade 3 crewcut but not bald like you see skinheads today. We loved Reggae music and had special dances we stomped to, some of our mates were West indian black guys, we all just mixed up together.

By 1971 we had let our hair grow a bit but it was still quite short compared to everyone else, we also wore more of our Brogues and Loafers with coloured socks and less of the boots and braces.

By 1972 the braces were gone and so were the boots and our hair was growing much longer, they called us smoothies or suadheads. The girls still had the feather cut but they wanted us to look less menacing and so we evolved into our own smart take on things. Oxford bags trousers, round collar shirts, smart jackets and longish hair.

I remember buying a smart 3/4 length leather coat around 1973, I think by that time skinheads had all evolved into their own individual fashions and the days of the strict uniform type appearance were gone.

Back in 70/71 we certainly did all look the same and if you were on the street and another group of skins came along they would call out 'SKINHEAD' in a type of football hooligan voice.

I remember masses of us at football matches and the police had a hard time trying to keep us under control, it was a bit like an army - a time I will never forget.

There must be thousands of ex skins from the late 60's early 70's all now in their 50's, perhaps we should have some kind of reunion back at Brighton or Southend." skinhead Martin

"late 60s I wore two tone tonic suit, levi 501s, sta press, ben shermans. my hair was short with longer bits at the bottom.... Love blue beat and ska and reggae, we had certain dances we would do in lines e.g the moon stomp was great, you had to go out with the boys from your area , otherwise there would be a fight if you where with a lad from another town, had certain words you would use, sort was a girl .

On bank holidays we would go to brighton and there would be loads of skinheads on scooters was fun... The best was the clubs with the reggae musci

I wore braces to at times, and a tin pin in your crombie was important...

Those where the days yep should have photos ect on a web site for skniheads of the late 60s" Rose

"hi im trying to get back into my old skinhead dress ways and as a 40 year old guy its quite a hard image to follow. i feel that i can only dress in this way at certain times not all the time because of my profession." m. jones

"best days of my life ,the fashion, the music and the camerarderie 500 skins marching through southport on easter weekend stunning !!! " ste.h

"Hi - hope no-one minds me plugging my book, but if you're interested in not just the skinhead culture but street culture/terrace culture/social history - all things late 60s through the 70s 'Booted and suited' might be of interest:" Booted and Suited Chris Brown

"Some fashion memories of '69-'71:

Gingham check Ben Shermans, Brutus, Jaytex and Fred Perry shirts. Levi jeans shrunk to fit by wearing them sitting in a bath. Round crew neck Brutus jerseys. Harrington jackets in black and in Prince of Wales check. Levi StaPrest trousers in Stone, Black, Bottle Green or Navy. Clip-on braces. Crombie style overcoats worn with a red silk hankerchief in the breast pocket secured by a gold tie tack. Brogues, Smoothes, Loafers and heavy and light Solatio Shoes with the woven instep. All double soled and heeled with metal 'quarter tips' on the heels. Doc Martens. 'Docker' olive green jeans. Happy days!" Les

"In reply to Skinhead Martin, there have got to lots of us (what are now called 'Trad Skins') out there, I became a Skin after going through the Mod era of early/mid 60's. I'm wearing the gear, Ben's, Fred's, Cherry Red Doc's, Brouges, Loafers, Crombie?Red hanky, 501's, Tonic's (Trousers & suits), I managed to get a pair of 70's Levi's Sta-Press of the net. Coming from a mining community in South Wales, I remember my first run-in with the Windsor Hells Angels, (we come out of it alright thou!), why couldn't our trend as long as their's? Still dig my gear, strolling along prom and me Reggae/Ska music, why doe's everybody assume we're all Racists?? I have coloured friends, perhaps somebody should take the bull by the horns and organise a reunion?? John Skin69" John Skin

"I agree with John Skin about the 'Look'. Funny we had problems with the Windsor Chapter. They thought they could ride into Guildford and beat up a few Skins(about'69). Unfortunately they came unstuck that night (Sunday-the local Reggae/Soul Club was on) about 300 Skins were in attendance. Never saw them again!" Colin Brown

"Just came across this site, oh what fun we had, I remember all the clothes, and the boys in there suits looked so smart, there we all were in the Lacarno or Top rank Bristol thinking that we were the bees knees. One night I was off to the Lacarno when the bus that I was on got stopped by some passing Hells Angels, I was on the top floor on my own, I thought this is it Im dead I dived on the floor and thank god they didnt see me, they wound the driver up and then got off phew! The music was fab loads of reggae and tamla motown. does any body remember the fairs they always seemed to be in town. Does anybody remember the cafe Never on a Sunday none locally as the never." julie

"Hi Julie, the book I mentioned above 'Booted & suited' features many interviews with some of the 'Never' boys, take a look at the link, the front cover features a pic of the lads in Fairfax Street - you might recognise some of them." Chris Brown

"In reply to Colin Brown from Guilford, Hah! you an your mates musta given that Windsor Angel mob a right shoe'in, Was from 70 to 73 they came to Porthcawl and started, every Bank holiday, some of em went thro shop windows, we tipped a mini-van over and shotguns an meat-cleavers fell outa it!! Scary, but we got to the angels before they could use em, they stopped coming when everybody started growing their hair and the Ole Bill stopped em entering the town. I still wear and love my gear, got shaved head now, (Father Time caught up with me!), couldn't walk round with just a bit on the sides or the Dreaded Comb-over! Keep enjoying the threads and proper reggae/ska music! Keep the Time Alive NOT just a memory!" John Skin

"Well said Martin...There should be some kind of yearly convention for Ex Skins organised...The Original 60's/70's (But also open to the 80's lot)...

With the old Reggae hits thumping out that beat that we all still love to this day...Dekker-Untouchables-Prince Buster-Holt-Kingstonians etc etc... Just bought that Ska Mania CD & some good old stuff on there... Knees up Mother Brown on the Terraces...Still own a 'Posh' Harrington & Brogues to this day..." Gary

"Just looked at a site, skinheads a way of life and there is a 40th Anniversary birthday bash, The West Coast Bar, 3-5 King Street, Margate, CT9 1DD on July 31st-August 2nd 2009. tickets 10plus postage, or it says 15 at the door. Work permitting, I'm gonna try and get there from South Wales, be nice to meet a crowd with the same outlook on life, music and clothing. Happy Days, hope you all get there and have a great time" John Skin

"Nice to read some old stories from the time. I remember going out and getting my longish Mod style hair shaved off in 1969 (I was only 13) and My Ma decided to lock me in my bedroom until it grew back again. She\s still trying to do it now, and I'm in my fifties!! Great fashions at the time, I remember having hob nail boots and a donkey jacket (very fashionable) Also made to measure suits from Burtons. We went from Skinheads to Suedeheads then smoothies and then brollyboys and I still like to dress the same way now (when allowed by the wife!!" Jim Mac

"oh, man do i remember first crop in 1968, al copone, guns of navarone, train to skaville, long shot kick the bucket, started with monkey boots, fly front mac, old mans vest and braces. Then graduated through to 1973 as a real smooth. The wailers 'catch a fire' was all the rage by then. High points- scotch week at butlins, Millwall away and the sorts halterneck dresses.Now old and grey but still have the memories." Geoff

"hi! I very much enjoyed reading the text and your comments, but I am left with a question: who are the BROLLYBOYS?? I guess from the context that an evolution of the Smoots, but that evolved aesthetic sense and musically? thank you very much." alvaro

"just came across this site - glad Im not the only one with gr8 memories of the late 60's early 70s as a skinhead & suedehead. DMs, levis, very narrow braces, 2tones, levi sta-prest, ben shermans,jaytex, crombie, solatios, royals and squires. Still wear Ben Shermans most of the time,[but a slightly larger size!] -but cant find a red or blue stewart tartan short sleeved anywhere. Levi 501s still a must. Time has also taken it's toll and I now shave my head!! More acceptable now for some reason!!!! Football @ Chelsea on a Saturday afternoon - or away somewhere upt north. Still love old style reggae and soul stuff. Keep the faith" rob55soulboy

"Alvaro - Brolly boys were just another name dreamed up by the red tops describing us smoothies - this would have been 1971, crombies, rupert bear check strides, loafers, brogues, barrathea blazers with badges on the patch pocket - get down Eastville market and buy a brolly for a couple of quid, file down the end in metal work classes or as a mate of mine did, cut it off and insert a thin stilletto blade in it - all for show mind. Within six months it was all over, bumble bee sweaters, mad cap shoes and collar length hair - happy days. Get and read Booted and Suited you'll love it!" Chris Brown

"Great site. I was a Skinhead, Suedehead, Boot Boy and Smoothie from 1967 to 1976 when it died out. Those days were the greatest times to be young. I still wear Ben Sherman, Doc's and my Barracuta Harrington and of course a Crombie overcoat topped off with either a Trilby or Beret.

All the gear mentioned above i wore. For me it was the best gear ever and the most exciting era of all. I loved the buzz of our war with the Greasers and the adrenalin you would get whenever we met up with them.

Football was another great event for Skins and i remember when we first emerged we were called Bovver Boys by the press. Yep great days. KEEP THE FAITH." Paul Matthews

"Great news for Rob 55 Soulboy,Brutus are remaking the now legendary Trimfit button down in red tartan, bought one couple of weeks ago great shirt, try Atom Retro or Jump The Gun." Les Roy

"Brutus Trimfit - hmmmm, the clue's in the name, might have fitted me well back then when I was 15 but nearly 40 years on and might just be a tad snug! Booted and Suited " Chris Brown

"thx les roy 4 the heads up on Jump the Gun - [one of my tagged sites] Chris Brown is right though - only up to size "L" - no good to me now????!!!!!" rob55soulboy

"Tonic suits with 15in centre vents, 1000 dex for 20 from finchley high rd. BD career club shirts from Richmond. Down the Trade till 11.00- on the train to Tiles Oxford St and the subway- or straight up to Bromley South Peyton Place or the penthouse and listened to Neville the Enchanter with the middles blanked out on his records- listened to Right track Billy Butler-Marching off to War William Bell-Deon Jackson- Love makes the world go round and the greatest of all Shanty Town Insrumental -Soul Bros & Roland Alphonse would kill for that track.Out of the club covered in stains from the sweaty walls on to a train up to Liverpool St station then up the Lane on a heinious come down staring at everyone. Leave te lane back on the train to Watford Jun and off to the pictures whatever sort you can get." E.

"Hi, been trying to get some shoes I loved years ago. I called them Plain caps, they were heavy leather sole shoes with a highly polished plain top. I use to wear them with sta prest levi`s. does anyone know there correct name as I feel I may have to order from USA." steve

I think plain caps is the correct term. They were also known as GIs. The brogues were called wing tips. Retrowow

"So many questons, and loads of answers, the plain Gibsons you can get in the USA, Florsheim Imperial, Aldens and Allen Edmunds make them, called Leeds. You can buy loakes 711 plain oxfords about 95-110 , identical 'last' to the Royal Brogue but without the brogue. I still wear all the clothes, but mainly the smart stuff, as I am well into my fifty's." johnG

"I am pleased to say,there is a proper 'Revival' of Skinheads going on. All over the Country there are Reggae Nights-were you can hear the Sounds from the 60s and 70s being spun (if you look out for Flyers for 'Sound and Pressure', you will get the Sounds played on an old JAMAICAN sound system. Brilliant. The Fashion is there again, Two-Tone Tonik Mohair Suits, the Shoes-the Works. What also is great about this 'Revival' is you meet People from all over the country. The 60s Skins mix happily with the 70s/80s ones. Something that would not have happened in the 60s." Colin Brown

"does anyone remember who made the classic loafers. these shoes are no longer available but i would like to find the designs?" viago

"I would never say skinhead fashion was dead.... im 24yrs old, it seems most of my life I have been dressing like this and never realised. Or it could just be that my Dad was one of the original skinheads :-)" Tom

"im only 30 but have listened to all sorts of reggae{especially trojan stuff}for 17 years. i wear fred perrys and ben sherman and have a skinhead but dont wear doc martens or any other stuff. i guess you old timers think im a wannabe but i like the style and love the music!" ross

"Ross, go for it my old (young in your case) mate, send me your email address and I will return with a copy of my 'work in progress' that depicts all the clothes/shoes from the era. Still a bit of work to do, but had fun doing it . I started it because I got fed up with reading laods of facist nonsence about skinheads, bleached jeans, shaved heads, and DM's up to the knees. The fashion was and still is extrememly well balanced and shows real quality if worn correctly. £350 was my last investment into footware, shell Cordovan plain Gibsons from the USA. johngodwin@btinternet.com" johnG

"does anyone remember rayseam trousers - very smart in prince of wales check - with a nice blazer and royals...." Mike Godfrey

"I was a skin back in the day ,and still am .now in my 50s i still wear my docs,brogues,loafers,crombie,twotone suits,levis ,braces,harrington cravats and tootle scarves , ride a lambretta ,attend rallies and skinhead events ,there is more out there than you think come on all you skinheads OI OI ." Tim Lewis

"Raised in the 1960's skins environment but was only 12 at the time. Regular visitor to the Barber shop! Looking for any clubs social nights get togethers?" Phil

"im 39 and have been a skinhead since 83. For that time in the states, skinhead was a more bald punk look. It wasnt until i started to delve further into what skinhead was. By 84 i was a proper skinhead, the only one in my area who wasnt listening to oi exclusively. Well here it is 2010 and im still a skinhead. Its a lifestyle choice that i choose to live, much to the chargrin of my ex wife and kids and the public in general. im not booted and suited as much anymore, mostly bens, brutus (ya, they`re back in business! ), freds, levis, an adidas samba trainers but the heart is still there Hell, im still riding the same lambretta i rode when i was 16! Good times and alot of good memories. Skinhead forever, forever skinhead." chris

"I remeber going to Gt Yarmouth 69 in the back of my dads car and Skinheads were every where. I thought I was going to dress like that. My old man said if you come in with a pair of those boots they will go on the fire. I was 11. I started High school that year and took a job in a car wash. First thing I bought was a pair of Doc Martins boots, Cherry red. I never looked back. I joined a local Gang on a sprawling council estate in Luton and still see my old mates. I only wear Royal Brogues and a real velvet collar Crombie. £460 Ouch. My misses says once a Skinhead always a Skinhead.Keep the faith" The Bunnyman

"for anyone wanting to relive those glory days why not try visiting a scooter rally or two, great people, great tunes, great vibe, oh, and loads of ale of course. scootering magazine is a good source of up and coming events. it also gives dates of various dos and nights out, trojan explosion, ska,r eggae revival etc. bound to be something to suit the discerning skin of old wanting to get out there and stomp and skank around. 'keep the faith' " LEE(AGEING BUT STILL PROUD SKINHEAD)

" I born in 1956 and was a mod from the age of eight. By 1970/71 I'd begun to be influenced by the 'townie' look, which was a cross between mod and skinhead. I don't know how geographically specific this term was, but most of the descriptions of suede-head fashions above (Ben Sherman/gingham shirts, clip-on braces, tonic suites, crombies, brogues, lofas, D.M. shoes -rather than boots-, Levi jeans or sta-prest, pocket hankies etc) are what we in the West Midlands would have termed the 'townie' look. I was delighted by the so called Mod revival of 1979, the essence of which was exactly how I dressed eight years previous. I was also delighted because it asserted the anti-racist credentials of the movement. Most of the post-mod cults around 1970 were so heavily into reggae music that racism was frowned upon. Mod was, in many ways, politically progressive. We were into the US Civil rights movement and CND. Like Curtis Mayfield, we were keen to 'move on up' in the world; we wanted change and we were upwardly mobile. There were hard core skins, but they were definitely on the fringe of the scene. I recall black and white kids grooving on down together on many occasions and in many venues; indeed, the best dancers and stylists (the 'faces') were often Black kids. Anyway, just a few thoughts from an old timer..." Chris Lewis-Jones

"1969 - I wonder where all the boys are now from the front cover of Symarip's Skinhead Moonstomp album - I used to stare at that cover for ages, being a 14 year old girl at the time. We dressed just like the boys, 3 button tyedye 'grandad' vests, braces, Levis ( 5 quid a pair in those days ) and Doctor Martens boots - big socks inside to take up the slack ! Castle ballroom in Richmond - there were some some real fights outside there at night !

I progressed to a gunmetal and rust tonic suit and sometimes levi sta prest, with checked ben sherman shirts or brutus shirts and fringe and buckle loafers in 1971, wore Brut aftershave ( all the girls wore Brut so we smelled just like the boys, but we didn't shave, honest ! )I don't suppose the boys did either - haha !

I was a tiny little girl, who thought I was hard like all the lads did, I must have looked so funny, but I loved it. Now I'm 55 with 2 grown up sons. There has NEVER been a fashion since, that compares with those days. Everyone thinks the skinheads started in the 80's. They didn't. 1969 was THE year.

Love ya boys !!! Bet you're all grandads now - with or without those vests we used to wear !!!!" christina mccarthy

"Hi Christina, I think those shops in Richmond (Ivy?) most have been having you over - bought my first Levis for 3, Sta-prest were 3 and 10 shillings - bargain! Best days of our lives without a doubt. Think I heard those lads from the Symarip album were from Blackpool of all places." Chris Brown

Booted and Suited - by Chris Brown

"Can anyone out there tell mw where I can buy clothing in the skin style late 60s early 70s?? Am attending a reunion and would like to look the part, especially the white tights with a line of holes down the sides. also tonic suits both men and womans. " Bev

"Bev, this is not a part time 'once in a reunion' kinda thing. A suit if you can get one thats authentic is well into the £100+. I have just paid over 70 for some mohair/wool fabric which I will have made into a tonik suit and it will cost me about £250.00.

I wish you the very best on your reunion (its an island, right?) most of the tights, with the holes down the sides, you mention would have been ripped off long ago I imagine, and I don't mean copied in a sweat shop in bangladesh. regads " johng

"Hi Chris - I KNEW I'd been taken for a ride with those Levi's ! Yes it was the Ivy shop - at 14 I was pretty impressionable and believed most things, including prices; those were the days, A ! 'Just a bit' older and wiser and NOW......I'm going to get your book ! Christina PS Thanks for the Blackpool info on the Symarip front cover! A 41 year old mystery solved at last." christina mccarthy

Booted and Suited - by Chris Brown

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