So This Skinhead Stomps On My Perceptions…

Around the end of May I was headed over to see a new friend of mine, Analog Neil, so named for his not love of modern tech. His place was close to mine in a blue collar neighborhood of Edinburgh Scotland called Gilmerton. As is the fashion of most European places I have found it to be a crap shoot as to whether the street names are actually posted anywhere on or near the street and I needed to ask directions.

I hail down this biker/hippie looking type and he was pleasant as could be and got me sorted in the right direction. As he turned to go I wind up facing a giant SS tattoo on the side of this guy’s neck. With accompanying swastika. I was stunned. I merely turned and walked towards Neil’s place. I was having all the thoughts of my various privileges, being a femme identified bi cis-gendered woman, no way to tell of my Jewish heritage, can’t see my love of African American cultures, North American accent versus South American, etc.. I just kept wondering what would have been the difference between a pleasant interaction, being ignored, and an altercation?

This makes all the difference if you understand that the first time I saw Neil, I wanted to punch him in the face.

Neil is a Skinhead.

Stay with me folks, this is good.

So just after moving to Scotland and said Gilmerton area, I’m waiting at the bus stop to head into town. This guy comes strolling up, bold as you please, and quietly waits for the bus. By existing he angers me. The half boots, the laces, the color of the laces, the bomber jacket, red vest, shaved head…

Flash backs to my youth in Florida being chased by Neo-Nazi and white pride skins for being a “nigger loving Jew”, or a “witch”, or a ..pick an excuse. Many a time my fashion choices as a teen (gothpunkmetalheadtragedyitwasthe90’shush) hid the results of these fights and accompanying defense wounds. Later association with Colorblind skinheads and SHARPS were good to help me see there were other types of skinheads, but it was never my thing. There really wasn’t a culture or anything per se that I can recall. I learned enough to avoid being hurt, and tried to steer clear of them, or smack them down brutally in the pits of concerts when they reared their particular brand of ugly. 

So I was having NONE of this guy.

But, at some point in my head, I got the idea to give him a second look. I mean, we had different types of skinheads in south Florida, and what exactly did I know of Scottish or UK music cultures? Nada that’s what. I breathed, and started to actually see him. i was really drawn to his jacket, and this drew my eyes to this patch and these badges:

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I had two choices. Be silent, mind my own business, and just look stuff up later, or the option I chose. I walked up to him and asked if he would be willing to talk to me about his look? I was having trouble  with my background in the States and the obvious celebration of black music and culture represented. I believe I also said I would take fuck off as an answer. Luckily for me, he was very happy to explain.

It only takes about 30 minutes to get into town. In that time he gave me a short rundown of the original origins or the Skinhead movement, the Rude Boys, and the rest of the time was spent comparing favorite songs and albums. We actually shared a huge love of much of the same music. So we exchanged info and have been getting to know each other as humans since then.

Here are some links for a wikipedia page (far more thorough then I was expecting), a how to be a skinhead guide, and a rather interesting opinion piece on it’s evolution as a subculture.

These pics were taken at his place. I love the passionate dedication to the music. The alter/ bookcase, the badges, and of course sitting and chilling with him and his dog, discussing favorite vegetarian recipes, while he spins me a history of himself in vinyl. Friendships made of brave questions and melodies trapped in wax.

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Now I’m not saying I truly get everything about the man. I don’t identify with so much of his lifestyle be it his football club (Celtics), blue collar upbringing which seems to have more weight to it in the UK than the US, and a love of beer. You know how I despise beer. I don’t really understand what motivates a person to keep true to a movement that has been so bastardized and associated with hate as to not even be recognizable. His identity is based in both righteous disillusionment and love of an era of music. I have a lot of time for a person who is willing to be true to himself and work from a place of love (and for being willing to be a teaching moment to nosey Americans).

So this is a story about perceptions and why we should, if we can allow it of ourselves, always give a second look. Ask a question. The nice guy giving you directions may be a miserable person in other circumstances, and the guy who looks every inch the bad guy turns out to be a hell of a person with truly good taste in music!

I meant to write this story out a while back, but I waited until Ben Brown Jr. had time to make an accompanying Trojan Records podcast. In truth it was a bit of a disconnect when he put on a record called Skinhead Moonstomp and heard these lovely Caribbean rhythms flooding out of the speaker. People are amazing.

Please check out this accompanying podcast by the sexy Ben Brown Jr. from his series What You Are Not Listening To:

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Enjoy!

Coral

A most inquisitive Dragon.

Comments

  • Well now it is humbling to read about myself in such glowing terms. It was a pleasure responding to Coral’s curiosity about the real origins and identity of my subculture. I believe it is those origins,roots that keep me holding onto being a Skinhead, the debt of unbroken gratitude to Jamaica for not only the music but certainly aspects of the Skinhead style and attitude. As well as love for Soul music from America and our evolution from the UK Mod culture at the tail end of the 60s. There is a definite working class identity which is proudly held onto, this subculture could never be born out of wealth and have even an inch of the influence its had on the youth since the 60s. It is important to identify publicly as a Trojan Skinhead to change peoples negative preconceptions of violence and racism, a true Skinhead is not racist, that is the cross a bonehead bares and bares alone. This was an I formative read for me to see Coral’s take on all the events that lead to us becoming friends, a wonderfully intelligent, honest and articulate lady for sure.

    If anybody wants more of these boss Sounds kindly provided by the Selecter Ben Brown JR I have a link to my Spotify page it’s a Ska Skinhead Reggae playlist over 2500 tracks and counting. There’s also Northern Soul there too, 60s and Mod.

    http://open.spotify.com/user/bootsnbraces/playlist/1K42ybzTYVK4kJnfNleind

    Keep the Boss Sounds coming from I your Boss Skinhead and Reggae Selecter Analogue Neal. Spirit of 69 KTF

    Analogue NealJuly 7, 2015
    • See you in September!

      coralmallowJuly 7, 2015

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