welcome to the Skinhead Nation Hated by many, understood by few, the skinhead cult is a very different animal to that portrayed in newspaper headlines. Skinhead Nation takes you on a journey through the back streets of Britain, America and Europe to hear the skinheads' own story.

skinheads rule okay!
Tougher Than Tough

Skinhead Violence And Football Hooliganism

Part One
The Big Apple Bites back
A day in the life of the skinheads of New York

Part Two
Among The Mugs

The media and skinheads - ignorance really is the mother of prejudice when it comes to journalists and our cult

Part Three
Bring Back The Skins

The origins and history of the skinhead cult from the late Sixties to early Seventies

Part Four
No Mean City

The story of the Spy Kids skinhead crew from Glasgow in the UK

Part Five
Here Comes Johnny Reggae

Skinhead fashion and style from the original skinhead clothing to today's skinhead cult

Part Six
Violence In Our Minds
The story of the Tilbury Trojan Skins, a skinhead gang from Essex, England

Part Seven
Ghost Town
The skinhead cult and the extreme right

Part Eight
Neither Red Or Racist

The story of the non-racist skinhead scene in Oslo, Norway

Part Nine
One Law For Them
The truth about Oi! music, the Southall riot and more

Part Ten
Tougher Than Tough

skinhead violence and aggro

Part Eleven
No One Likes Us
The story of the anti-racist and non-poltical skinheads of Berlin, Germany

Part Twelve
Us And Them
The divided nation that is the skinhead cult today

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The book version of Skinhead Nation is not currently available, but you can buy other skinhead and youth cult books online and by post from www.stpublishing.com in the UK.

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“1974, Manchester United against Manchester City at Old Trafford, Dennis Law accidentally scored the goal which more or less put United into the Second Division.” Doing the talking is Nidge Miller, founding member of Blitz and one time member of Man. Utd’s infamous Red Army. In his hands is a perfectly kept scrapbook of neatly folded newspaper cuttings and the double page spread he’s looking at shows scenes of crowd trouble and pitch invasions, with the headline, THE FINAL HEARTBREAK. “I wouldn’t say I was responsible really. I just jumped onto the pitch and 10,000 people followed me! And that put a stop to the game basically!”

Nobody who grew up in the Seventies hasn’t heard of the Red Army. It invaded the towns and cities that United were playing in, and went on the rampage before, during and after the match. Some of the fans were on the pitch more often than Georgie Best. This continued for most of 1974 and 1975 as football hooliganism reached new heights, resulting in the introduction of crowd segregation. But for a time it seemed that the government ran the country six days of the week, and Saturday belonged to the Red Army. The press called the Red Army animals, and a new terrace chant was born at Old Trafford - “WE HATE HUMANS!”

“To try and give you an idea of the number of skinheads then, just a small town like New Mills with a population of 10,000, you’d see a crowd of 50 skinheads and bootboys going down to see Manchester United, and now you’d be lucky to find 50 in the whole of the city of Manchester. In the Stretford End itself, there were literally thousands of bootboys.”

The late Sixties and early Seventies were the golden era for those involved in mass football violence in Britain. Skinheads had been the first youths to really take over the terraces and travel to away games. The lack of crowd segregation at the time meant that it was inevitable trouble would kick off every time emotions ran high, and the aggro soon became as big an attraction as the game itself. Moon Records’ supremo, Rob Hingley, was a Plymouth Argyle fan at the time. “On a Saturday you’d get dressed up, get the bus down to Plymouth to watch Argyle get mauled, try to get into the pubs, get thrown out, get beat up by the opposing teams’ skinheads. There was always more of them and they were always older than you. Don’t know how that happened, but it was always the case. Going down and getting bounced around on a Saturday afternoon at Plymouth - good times!”

“Around ‘70-’71, when you used to go down to Roker Park to see Sunderland play, three quarters of the crowd were skinheads,” remembers Gaz Stoker, and the like was to be found at both English and Scottish football grounds around the country. “It looked brilliant. It was the first fashion you got into and was something to belong to. Brilliant stuff.”

As skinhead progressed into suedehead and then into bootboy, football hooliganism remained a constant theme. “When I was about 14, I went to a Chelsea - West Ham match,” recalls Brian Kelson. “It was the first football match I’d been to on my own, me and three mates. Everybody seemed to have crombies on. The Shed was full of crombies. It kicked off, and it was just electrifying and that exciting, going off everywhere. The West Ham fans had got into The Shed, and then the police came up, and it was fighting with them. I remember sitting down at half time and there were four or five lads in front of us, pulling things out of their crombies, and they all had tools, knives and that. When I left school, I went back down there and it had all changed, but up the back were half a dozen lads in brogues, red tags and tonic jackets, so I got talking to them. I used to go down every week and meet them, and there seemed to be more of us every week.”

Hooliganism at football games continued throughout the Seventies, despite better crowd control and the threat of jail sentences which replaced the usual fine or the even more usual kick up the arse by a plod as you were booted out of the ground, free to go on your merry way.

The late Seventies and early Eighties saw it return in a big way however, first with the new breed of skinheads and then with the casuals, many of whom had been skinheads but no longer wanted to be associated with the police’s dated idea of what a hooligan was. 1980 doesn’t seem that long ago, but most people seem to have forgotten just how violent life was then.

Easter bank holiday weekend that year summed it up. As well as trouble between rival youth cults at seaside resorts around the British Isles, trouble at football games was rife because of the tradition of holding derby games on bank holidays to guarantee big crowds. At White Hart Lane, a Spurs fan threw a petrol bomb at rival Arsenal fans, and in Cardiff more than 50 arrests were made as 300 police officers tried to stop the running battles that followed Cardiff City’s 1-0 win over Swansea City.

As far as seaside towns were concerned, Southend drew the short straw. It is a traditional bank holiday haunt for Londoners, and over a thousand skinheads ended up there, looking for rockers and mods to do battle with. To make matters worse, Southend United were at home to Millwall. Brighton and Margate saw skinhead and mod violence and the two towns clocked up over 100 arrests between them. Other towns by the coast from Oban up in Scotland to Weston-Super-Mare on the South West Coast saw varying levels of violence, as did numerous football grounds.

“People say they don’t understand why they do all this,” says Brian Kelson when talking about football violence. “Well people saying that, and these are top people - politicians, whatever - saying that they can’t understand it, well that’s just ignorance. If you don’t understand something then you’re ignorant of it. You’re uneducated.”

“Violence is part and parcel of being young,” argues Paul Jameson. “Whether you’re a skinhead, a mod, a raver or whatever, it’s part and parcel of being young.”

“Violence is part of growing up, it’s part of every teenager growing up,” agrees Watford Jon. “You can’t escape it, it’s part of life.”

To some extent that’s true, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t grow up in the urban jungle, who don’t go out looking for a fight every Saturday night, who can’t understand what the hell is happening when gangs from opposite ends of the country are willing to travel hundreds of miles to fight each other in and around football grounds. To them, the violence is senseless, pointless, mindless.

Sociologists are always looking for ways to explain football hooliganism and other forms of youth violence. Most will conveniently blame social factors like poor housing, unemployment, lack of amenities for the trouble, but they are really missing the point. Violence, whether it’s Rambo doing the business with a sub-machine gun on the big screen, or football fans ambushing rival fans at a train station, is all about entertainment. Violence is exciting, dangerous, frightening, exhilarating, hilarious at times - in fact everything good entertainment should be. It’s not everybody’s idea of a good night out, but neither is the opera, dog racing or bingo. It’s horses for courses, and there’s no doubting that a lot of young males get a buzz, get an adrenaline rush, gets their kicks out of organised violence and the bravado and excitement that accompanies it - even if nothing happens. None of this is meant as an excuse, just some sort of explanation.

And like a drug, it can become addictive. What’s more, a crowd seems to take on a life of its own once things start to liven up, and the tendency is to get carried away by it all. As Irvine Welsh puts it in Marabou Stork Nightmares, swallow the fear and feel the buzz. “The place we used to get the most trouble was at the local team, Wolves,” reckons Brian. Wolves of course play at Molineaux and even to this day Harry J Allstars’ reggae classic Liquidator is played before the start of every home game. “I started going there, and it used to be the North Bank, and then the fans stopped going there and went to the South Bank, but the police there were just mad for it. I remember at half-time, below the South Bank where you got your Oxo and crisps and what have you, there always seemed to be trouble. It always seemed to be the police versus whoever was about. I remember standing up the North Bank and the ball went into the crowd and the fans wouldn’t give it back. So three or four police came into the crowd and someone shouting something at them. They looked over and grabbed me! They took me up the back, gave me a right good kicking on the floor, nicked my watch and threw me out on the street. At that age, 16-17, I didn’t think anything of it - it’s just a story to tell your mates.”

In 1969, the BBC’s Man Alive documentary series made a programme entitled, What’s The Truth About Hell’s Angels And Skinheads? The first half was devoted to a gang of Angels from Birmingham who came across as a pale imitation of their American forerunners. They were little more than ordinary greasers, looking to shock old grannies with their scruffy appearance and Nazi regalia. No wonder the skinheads hated them. One of the Angels, who called himself Hitler (scary!) boasted that one way to prove yourself as a Hell’s Angel was to “beat a skinhead up, that’s class. If it were legal, we’d go around hanging skinheads.” Our mate Hitler would have had problems hanging out the washing, let alone anything else, the dirty bastard.

The skinheads featured were from London. A few were filmed at Chelsea where 1,000 skins regularly attended home games. Others were from the East End, and they ridiculed the Hell’s Angels and talked about fighting the greasers and bashing pakis. Interestingly enough, all said it had nothing to do with the colour of their skin, and all said they had Jamaican friends and mixed with them no problem - in fact the Jamaicans hated pakis too. The documentary made it quite clear that both cults were expected to be short-lived, little more than current fashions that would last a few years longer at best.

At the time, when they filmed Chelsea skinheads away at Newcastle United, nobody would have thought that over 25 years later, another skinhead documentary would be made, this time with footage of skinheads at a football game, not in Britain, but in Berlin. Surprisingly, despite its size and importance as a city, Berlin does not boast a big name football team. The local derby game between Union Berlin and Berliner FC was played out in front of a crowd of around 5,000 and in a ground that wouldn’t have been out of place in the English Third Division. Berliner FC were the team of the old East German secret police, the Stasi, and so their popularity does not extend much beyond their own support. They are still a bigger club than Union Berlin though, and boast a hooligan firm, which includes fascist skinheads, of around 200, compared to Union’s mob of around 50, which includes non-political skins.

In so many ways it was like time travelling back to the pre-casual days of British terrace aggro. The Union hooligans met at a station a few stops away from the ground to gather their numbers - numbers that didn’t quite materialised as had hoped. What’s more, police officers were at the station, watching what train they were going to take and generally letting it be known that they had sussed the situation.

Alcohol usually fuels the appetite for aggro (although you might be surprised by the large number of hooligans who don’t drink, preferring a clear head should things get lively), but on this day it seemed to have the opposite effect. It looked as if Union would be heavily outnumbered if trouble started and so after a beer or two it was decided to go to the game, but only just before kick-off time. Another beer later, the decision was made to go to the game just after it had started so as to avoid the Berliner FC mob before the game. One more beer, and the decision was taken to not go to the game after all, watch it in a pub, and then turn up when nobody was expecting them.

In the end, they made it to the game just after kick-off, and found themselves heavily outnumbered all right - by the police. There must have been as many Old Bill at the game as both hooligan mobs put together, and the police had the distinct advantage of being armed. The chance of aggro after the game was non-existent, not within the immediate vicinity of the ground anyway. For anything serious to have happened, it would have had to be planned to take place well away from the ground itself.

That said, a small group of Berliner FC hooligans did scale the fence and run the full length of the pitch during the second half to confront the Union fans, catching the police totally by surprise. One of the Union skinheads also managed to walk all the way around the ground to pull down a big flag that said SCHEISS UNION (“Union Shit”), and after being grabbed by the police, he managed to talk his way free by saying he was actually French (which he was) and was only looking for his friends!

Those who wonder why people fight at football and then add, “it’s only a game” are also totally missing the point. Football just happens to be the perfect arena for violence. The passion is certainly there and the football club acts as a focus for local pride and as a magnet for youths willing to defend its honour. Most importantly though, it offers the opportunity to travel all over the country to fight like-minded mobs and gives you the opportunity to entertain them on your own patch.

Football hooliganism almost exists in a parallel life to the game itself. Violence has home and away and even Cup fixtures, getting a result is all important, losing face means anything from dropping a few points on a good day to being relegated or even put out of business on a bad one. There’s even some movement between mobs, a sort of free transfer market.

Banning football wouldn’t stop the violence. In fact banning pubs would do most to empty hospital casualty departments on a Saturday night, but nobody ever suggests that. Too much money involved. In fact, the only reason football hooliganism is seen as a problem is that it takes away from the family game reputation that generates millions for those who live off the backs of the people’s game.

If it wasn’t for football, the violence would just appear elsewhere. Humans, and particularly males, are aggressive animals, end of story. When Madness played in Edinburgh in 1993, the violence that erupted before they went on stage was the worst seen at a gig for many a year, and illustrated the potential for what would normally be considered football-related violence to transfer itself elsewhere. In fact, thanks to close circuit TV and police tactics, football grounds and other traditional flashpoints like train stations and underground stations are seeing less and less aggro, and it’s taking place away from the watchful eye of Big Brother.

Why the trouble started at the Madness gig doesn’t really matter, but it offers an insight as to why skinheads and similar gangs are so readily associated with violence. The fact is that the bond within a skinhead gang or a football mob is strong enough to make people want to stand rather than run. And with that comes power. And with power comes the desire to wield it, to prove who is the best.

At the Madness gig, the Capital City Service provided another awesome display of violence that has made Hibs casuals the most feared crew in Scottish football, and one of the most notorious mobs in Britain. The fact that those involved were mainly from their younger ranks made it all the more impressive. Their success depended not so much on numerical superiority - they had maybe 150 boys tops in a crowd of 8,000 - but because they were fighting for something far more important than a spilled beer. Every time the CCS chant went up, they became as one and charged into anyone who wanted to know.

On the receiving end were hooligans from other teams (Airdrie’s Section B were well represented and there were a few boys from Motherwell’s Saturday Service involved too), but they were outnumbered by the CCS and severely hampered by ordinary gig goers who kept getting in the way. Then of course you had quite a few blokes who just fancied a scrap, didn’t have a clue who they were fighting, and ended up lashing out at anyone and everyone, or taking kickings from casuals from different mobs.

Despite the large presence of skinheads at the gig, very few were involved in the trouble and the main reason for that was that most had gone with a few mates and not as crews. The strength and power comes from being together with others you know and trust, and those that joined in the trouble as individuals were either drunk, stupid or aggro junkies.

The gig violence also illustrated the comical and the dark side of violence. Wee Ian, who was one of the Glasgow Spy Kids, was at the bar when the trouble kicked-off, and he managed to weave his way through 200 or so fighting bodies without spilling a drop of the beer he was carrying. People were getting hit over the head with fire extinguishers and scaffolding poles, and he walked the full length of the action without a hair out of place. After the gig though, I heard that a pregnant girl had been kicked to the ground and had lost her baby as a result of the attack. Maybe violence isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be after all.

Violence has and probably always will be associated with both football and the skinhead cult. And deservedly so too given the cult’s history, but that doesn’t mean that all skinheads are violent and it doesn’t mean that only skinheads are violent. It also doesn’t mean that all violence involving skinheads was started by skinheads either, but still the myth remains that skinheads are trouble no matter what. As the saying goes, when skins do anything good it isn’t remembered, but when skins do anything bad, it’s never forgotten.

“It’s not just skinheads who fight,” says Phil, a black skinhead from New York who plays drums for The Templars and virtually every other Oi! band in the Big Apple. “Metalheads fight, hippies fight over pot, everyone fights. It’s just skinheads are always tagged.”

We live in a violent society and violence makes the news. For skinheads it’s almost the only time they make the news and so the media picture is of a cult constantly involved in violence. In reality, it’s only a small part of what the cult has to offer, and you can be a skinhead for years and never raise a hand in anger. “I wouldn’t say it was a particularly violent cult,” reckons Jacquel, “but people have portrayed it that way, yes. The male going to football, having a fight kind of thing. But for me, violence isn’t a part of it.”

“The look’s an extreme look”, says Big Iain. “With boots and a shaved head it’s hard to look nice and quiet. You look nasty whether you are or not. It’s a predominantly violent looking cult. The media seem intent on making skinheads the number one violent cult, and even now when skinheads are few and far between, they still portray the nasty villains as skinheads.”

The media of course has played its part in attracting people to the skinhead cult who see it as an outlet for the violence that they have within them. “Violence is part of life, not just the cult,” points out Gail, the Coventry FC skingirl in exile in County Durham. “There’s always going to be morons no matter what you’re involved in and so some skinheads are going to be violent, but it’s not part of the criteria for being a skinhead.”

Skinhead’s reputation for aggro is part of the attraction of the cult for a lot of youngsters. When you are a kid of 12 or 13, and people are getting out of your way just because you have a shaved head and a pair of boots on, it makes you feel good. You’ve also got a lot to live up to, especially when you’re with mates, and so skinheads tend not to back away from trouble as often as they probably should do. It’s all about face and not losing it. And while the look certainly discourages some people from crossing you, it also seems to attract some real nutters who want to have a go to prove how hard they are.

“One time I went to jail and it was all over the news - three Nazi skins arrested and guns found and all that,” says Chris of his days with the United White Skins in Maryland. “I got beat by the whole unit. I had stitches all over my face, and it was like they obviously wanted me to be attacked. Like they put me in a unit with 15 blacks and left my cell door unlocked.”

Skinheads tend to have the advantage of numbers because of the gang mentality that is part and parcel of the cult. Skinheads in general have an incredible belief in loyalty to their friends, and when a fight breaks out the chances are your mates will be straight in there with you. “There was 25 or 30 of us, and we’d been together for about ten years, and over those ten years you become so close that you really are your own little army,” says Symond of his days as a Wycombe skin. “We knew that when violent situations did arise you would be together. There’d be at least five or six of you that would fight to the death, and I know that sounds really extreme but because you were hated so much by everybody - by your parents, your school teachers, by the police, by everybody - it drew you so close together that you became as one.”

“If I have a problem with you, I will deal with it in a way I feel necessary,” says another Chris, this time a skinhead of Filipino decent from New York. “If I don’t like you and you say something that offends me, I’ll kick your head in. What skinheads have is unified power. If I knew a person, just one person, and that person got hit, all the skinheads would have to fight it out for him.”

Asian Chris appeared in the World Of Skinhead documentary, and one of the clips showed him squaring up to a bloke with a big mouth and then walking away. The clip was intended to illustrate the point that sometimes it takes a bigger man to walk away from trouble than it does to stand and fight, but the way it was cut together in the programme made it look like he talked a good fight, and then didn’t back it up with action.

What actually happened though was that we had been filming an interview when the bloke had walked past on his way home from the pub, and he started shouting abuse. Chris was willing to go ahead with him, but it was me that walked over and said forget it, let’s just get on with the filming. Chris walked away and the other bloke didn’t complain - until we had walked fifty yards and then he started shouting again about going home to get his gun to shoot us (we later heard he actually did come back half an hour later with a gun, but we’d luckily finished and gone home by then!).

If the fight had gone ahead, the mouth would have taken a kicking if for no other reason than he was on his own and Chris wasn’t. To me, we had travelled thousands of miles to make a documentary, not to start fights in the street. If anyone lost face that night, it was me - but since I don’t have to live in New York I couldn’t have cared less.

The following night, we were at a ska gig, having a good time, when a couple of drunken arseholes started to pick on a bloke who was with us, and who wasn’t a skinhead or a fighter either. After seeing what was happening, I just tapped Asian Chris on the shoulder without even looking at him, and stepped in to help out the bloke being bullied. I’d only met Asian Chris a few times, but such is the bond between skinheads that I instinctively knew he would turn around, see what was happening and back me up. In the event, Asian Chris came steaming past me and ended up wading in first. Only a few punches were thrown before the morons backed away. Nobody got badly hurt because they didn’t want to mess with skinheads, knowing that there were another 20 or so inside the gig and around 40 outside. That’s what Chris means by unified power. And Chris was straight in there when it mattered without giving it a second thought.

It’s dangerous to romanticise about violence. No matter how necessary, the end result is somebody gets hurt and the risk is that somebody is you. And the higher the stakes, the higher the risks. Every year, a handful of skinheads die in street fights that more often than not involve rival skinhead gangs. “There are instances where you have to defend yourself and stick up for your mates,” says Chicago skinhead Perry, “and sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but I think generally the movement would be a whole lot better off if people thought more with their brains and less with their boots.”
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