A Working Class Catwalk

First, they hijacked the Skinhead then they came for “terrace dressers”. Two subcultures with origins in mixed-race and the working class. Much like the Mods – working-class lad or lass dresses up. Black and white unity if you like. A subculture, a movement, a trend highjacked by the right-wing.

It’s 1983 and I’m walking through the Barrowlands in Glasgow on the London Road side of the market. Myself and a friend are dressed in post -Two-Tone attire with wedge haircuts and baggy jeans.

I’ve heard it said and I agree, “Where’s the next scene?’ Nobody sees it coming, ah it’s over there.” – (Casuals DVD)

A fellow Celtic supporter walks towards us, “Cannae get moving for Aberdeen casuals lads eh?” We have no idea what he’s talking about. Then I see them – hundreds of young lads walking past us dressed in sportswear and like us, they’re heading towards Celtic Park.

Soccer Casuals

I didn’t know what I thought in regard to how they looked, it seemed almost mystical. It reminded me of rugby attire or perhaps skiing holidaymakers taking the wrong route. Although they looked like boy-next-door, you could see it had an edge which became apparent when they started having verbal’s with Celtic fans. The wedge haircuts were perhaps the give away to something sinister. History tells us the original concept to this look was anti-suss; not intended to be stylish, it was more a disguise, replacing the bovver boy hooligan. This was a welcome change from stiff-arm boneheads. To cut a long story short, within months I was absorbed. Engrossed on the clothes, the confrontation and everything that came with it. We would start to see this new found style at Celtic after a wee while, but it was more an individual look rather than a collective response until the 1984/85 season when Celtic first had its crew of this new counter culture. We wanted to know more about this new phenomenon. With the clothes evolving every few weeks we wanted to be clued-up before being a step ahead.

But where was the music attached to this? We are always looking to London and the rest of England for its origins, initially we’re led to believe it was born in Aberdeen, but how could it be? Aberdeen is remote and hardly trendsetting.

As we touched on above, Casuals (terrace scene) has NO right-wing origins. The new found gammon heads would have you believe it’s mutually inclusive for a modern-day hooligan to be a one dimensional patriotic geezer. The non-creative are loving the poppy porn festival which seems to get bigger every year, and is now continuing beyond the remembrance week. This militaristic fetish seems to celebrate war instead of the sombre tribute that it is supposed to be.

The stiff-arm patriots will jump around to bands like The Specials; sing along to their lyrics as well as The Farm, The Housemartins, The Clash, Paul Weller and The Beautiful South; ignoring or unprepared to check what their message is.

Born out of football terraces with no musicians attached to its origins, you had to look for a tune that fitted.

Paul Heaton

Opposing Fascism

Before Waxy Lemon et al. you had the NF and BNP on a recruitment drive with football firms around the country. So we end up with the obligatory stiff-arm salutes trying to hijack another subculture by the end of the 80s and into the 90s. So where does this start and finish? Fascism is anti-working class; it attempts to control and split it. Fascism is not compatible with original 80s football lads and lassies. We were rebelling against Thatcher’s Britain.

I am a member of Football Lads and Lasses Against Fascism (FLAF) and believe that we as football fans have a duty to reject the hateful message of the ultra-right. They are the tools of the ruling class and always blame the wrong people when the going gets tough. We can all support our own teams and even countries – although I’m not a patriot myself – but we also need to protect our own communities and those less fortunate than ourselves. As The Who said: we won’t get fooled again!”– (P. Thornton; FLAF article – 27 August 2019)

Due to popular belief this counter culture started in the North West, particularly Liverpool, a working-class city going through major hardship at the time. When Liverpool regularly played in Europe during the late 70s and into the 80s, their fans brought back with them these obscure sportswear labels. “A crocodile? What’s this all about?”

With a bit of robbing on the way, it was working-class lads on the take looking for their own one-upmanship.

The trainers the Liverpool lads came across were also obscure and were easy pickings given the fact they were normally on display outside shops. The Scouse lads and their Manchester counterparts then went on their own personal excursions in search of the sportswear such as trainers and tracksuits; not seen in the UK. When the lads kicked this off it started being worn at the football. Was this supposed to be stylish or was it anti-suss?

The London Casual was born out of modern soul boys and dub music spreading to the football terraces. This scene was populated with Afro-Caribbean chaps leading the way. There was a link from mod to skins to soul boys. The first London “casuals” were kids who had been clubbing (Arsenal and Ladbroke grove had battles at the Lyceum and Arsenal and Under-fives down the Hackney Road) The NF never got a foothold at Spurs or Arsenal. Chelsea had a top younger casual lot that were racially mixed and other firms who were right-wing but everyone was “Chelsea first” and many prominent lads were black or mixed-race.

Weird situations looking back but I think for most of the younger kids doing a Nazi salute meant fuck off to the wider public rather than a salute to Adolf – it was a bit like when Punk adopted Nazi symbols as anti-establishment and as a way to shock … all the London clubs had main lads of different races and colours while still having racists in the firms .. you can’t put normal rules of society onto hooligans” – (T. Farley; HWS – 6 Jan 2021) https://holywellst.com/2019/03/02/terry-farley/

Peter Hooton

“By the time London has its own version of this, it’s Arsenal that leads the way, there certainly wasn’t much right-wing within their unit especially with the number of black lads within their ranks and leading them.” – (P. Hooton; TAL Fanzine – 7 Sep 2020)

“Casual style in London grew out of the late seventies soul boy scene this was inherently racially mixed – the idiots who wanted to be racists became boneheads. Our fanzine Boys Own was very left-wing (mainly because of comrade Steve Mayes, who also went to Chelsea with me) and we deliberately set out to stir shit up”. – (T. Farley; Skiddle article – 3 March 2016)

Bev — Aquascutum Girl

Bev Thompson

The Skinheads still wore shirts, drainpipe jeans and Doc Martens – a style stolen from the original Rude Boys in Jamaica. But now their divisive views seemed out-dated. Leicester was the multi-cultural capital of the U.K. Our football firm’s head-boy was a Black Guy – (B. Thompson; HWS 4th Jan 2022) https://holywellst.com/2022/01/05/beverley-thompson-chats-with-holywell-street/

It can be argued that casuals as a concept finished around 1989. The anti-suss part had been sussed and it went mainstream. After that, you had trendy hooligans, although you may ask “what’s the difference?” We are aware of the campaign to reclaim Fred Perry and to rescue it from symbols used by undesirable’s – maybe would should reclaim Lacoste.

For a United Working Class


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