Skinheads, Mods and youth subculture

In my medium feed at the weekend was a link to a post titled “British skinheads in the 1980s were young, pissed, and stylish as hell“. I scanned through the pictures, read the accompanying text, and see just a very small slither of a culture and a style that I and my friends wouldn’t have been associated with in 1972, and would have rejected. Yeah some of us were involved it fights at Football matches, it was of it’s time.

As I sit here today, my clothes are still inspired and styled by those days, I’m even comfortable with a #1 haircut. While Richard Allens books Skinhead, Suedehead, Boot Boys, Skinhead Escapes, Smoothies, Terrace Terrors, Boot Boys and the final Mod Rule chronicled a generation, it’s unlikely that any single person experienced more that a few of the fictionalised events as youth culture was moving too fast.

Where I grew up in Hemel Hempstead we were almost exclusively white, and with London our nearest big city which had been hugely multicultural, for hundreds of years, racism just wasn’t a thing. So the toxic, hatred filled skinhead imagery of the 1970’s – 80’s just doesn’t ring true for me.

There are a few interesting videos online, two of the best by Don Letts. Letts was the DJ at the Roxy Club and before that, Chaguaramas, and we were there on New Years Eve 40-years ago at the Clash gig, we walked out, our time had passed. Letts films, especially the story of Skinhead, and it’s predecessor, the Fred Perry Sponsored, Subculture of British Music and Street Style take a serious look at the genre. I’d love the chance to talk to Don one day.

New York Values – Archie Bunker

Archie and his generation had grown tired of the 1960’s liberal experiment and they blamed it for tearing apart “their” America. It was where the disenchantment about the welfare system came from and how welfare had become permanently associated with the African American, and exploded out of control.

It’s quite likely Donald Trump got many of his values, and was influenced heavily by Archie Bunker. If Trump wasn’t, many of his supporters absolutely were. It was a simpler time in the 1970’s.

New York was full of men and women descended from German, Irish, Italian, Polish, Greek and Jewish immigrants who were civil servants, union members and similar. They were “middle class” only in so much as they were neither working class, nor formerly slaves.

Archie Bunker soon became the countries favorite TV character whe he appeared on TV in 1970. He is by todays standards, a man from another era. Watching episodes of All in the Family now, it’s easy to see that even back then the liberal media laughing at Archie, making fun of his customs and behavior. Archie was at heart though a democrat. Satire only really works, if it’s based on real life.

Archie and his generation had grown tired of the 1960’s liberal experiment and they blamed it for tearing apart “their” America. It was where the disenchantment about the welfare system came from and how welfare had become permanently associated with the African American, and exploded out of control.

The problem was, welfare never did anything to address the problems of ghetto life, racism, and endemic poverty. The white middle and working class saw the increasing lack of personal control of what happened to them.

You can trace many of the values held by Trump and his supporters back to this time, and Archie Bunker is their poster boy. Peter Hamill wrote in his April 1969 feature in the New York Magazine “The Revolt of the White Middle Class” .

The working-class white man is actually in revolt against taxes, joyless work, the double standards and short memories of professional politicians, hypocrisy and what he considers the debasement of the American dream.

If the stereotyped black man is becoming the working-class white man’s enemy, the eventual enemy might be the democratic process itself. Any politician who leaves that white man out of the political equation, does so at very large risk. The next round of race riots might not be between people and property, but between people and people. And that could be the end of us.

And that is, as much as anything, how we arrived where we are today. As an Englishman, I never really understood the use of term “middle class” in America, it seemed so at odds with the British middle class. Hamill put that in context, but Bunker represents the values, and thinking that has developed in the rancorous mob we see today, and that includes whatever Trump and Cruz think are “values”.