We forgot to mention Nicky Crane in the article Gay Nazis but he caused the Nazis considerable embarrassment which is worth recounting. Crane was for some time a Nazi poster boy and very prominent in the Nazi movement in the 1980s. He was a member of the fascist British Movement Leader Guard and had something of a fearsome reputation on the cobbles. He was mates with Ian Stuart Donaldson of Skrewdriver etc. and did the security for their gigs. Crane was featured on the cover of one of the Oi! albums, looking very butch, much to the embarrassment of Gary Bushell who was promoting the music and was desperate to convince people that Oi! wasn’t involved with organised fascism. This was despite the fact that Gary Hitchcock of Combat 18 was the manager of the Oi band the 4 Skins. The 4 Skins played in Southall, a predominantly Asian area (and much recommended for cheap and delicious restaurants), which resulted in a mini-riot and the boozer being torched.
Incidentally, Chris ‘Chubby’ Henderson of the band Combat 84 also came out of this scene. Henderson has written a book called Who Wants It? which is an extremely selective account of his days as a hooligan with the Chelsea Headhunters and massively glosses over his far right connections with Combat 18 and the Headhunters fascist leanings. There is a direct connection between Oi! and the Blood & Honour movement which should be documented…
Anyway … Nicky Crane outed himself in the early 90s which caused a quandary amongst his fascist contemporaries: Nicky is a hero and alright, but he is gay? Experience clashes with prejudice and it’s meltdown time! There was mass embarrassment for the rampant homophobes of the Nazi movement who had previously held him up as an Aryan role model and street-fighter to be emulated. Oh dear! We can only assume he was instantly marginalised from the likes of Combat 18, BM and Skrewdriver. There was a rumour that Crane had done some hardcore gay porn but how true this is we do not know. There was also some connection with Genesis P. Orridge/ Temple of Psychic Youth, possibly an appearance in a video, but we have never seen any visual evidence for either of these. Crane was working the doors of London gay clubs and eventually contracted and died of AIDS. It is unclear if Donaldson attended the funeral.
There is some interesting research to be done on the appropriation of the skinhead image in the 1990s gay scene. This has largely died out now but there are still 1 or 2 gay skins knocking about at various Pride parades. The skinhead look is obviously butch – the tight jeans, shiny boots, and muscles are obviously attractive. There is also the possibility that given the ‘effeminate’ image imposed on gay guys, the skinhead look reverses this and provides an aggressive counter-image. It is a powerful look: skinheads have earned a reputation for violence, justified or not, and it has consequently become a much feared image, particularly in the media. Wearing skinhead clothes and walking into a pub causes a few heads to turn. Perhaps gay skinheads stopped wearing the gear because they did not want to be misconstrued as Nazis, and Nazis stopped wearing it because they did not want to be construed as gay. Who knows? Given that the 1990s were a period of heavy irony perhaps the appropriation of the skinhead look by the gay community was simply a massive ironic gesture.
Skinhead was a genuinely working class movement and the skinhead phenomenon was not appropriated by the middle classes, unlike punk and other youth cults. It started as a reaction to the awful hippies in the 60s and focussed around ska, football and ‘aggro.’ Beer not drugs, football not festivals and tight 3 minute reggae not extended guitar solos. It was also a prescribed look from the boots up and like all youth movements very fastidious about detail and unlike youth movements of the time, very attentive to branding: Levi’s, Ben Sherman’s, Fred Perry’s, DMs. If you turned up in Tesco jeans you would be laughed out of the disco. There are still skinheads who keep the tradition going by toning down the DMs and half-mast Levis and acknowledging that skins were originally ‘hard mods’ and apart from the boots, wore similar clothes, i.e., Sherman’s, Perry’s, tonic suits etc. However, mods were always more bespoke whereas skinhead was very label conscious.
Skinheads & Film
There have been several films featuring skinhead characters but few of them have got these details right. Romper Stomper is appalling as they are so scruffy and live like tramps. They look like tabloid versions of skinheads and their jeans are ragged, boots scuffed and Crombies tattered. Made In Britain again does not get the details right but gives over the charismatic and contradictory nature of skinheads. The scene where Tim Roth half naked runs through the Blackwall tunnel is very butch indeed! Meantime sees Gary Oldman as a mainly incoherent bully but his clothes are fairly accurate if a bit scruffy. American History X suffers from the same crap clothing as Romper Stomper and is not worth a look. This Is England got very close. The clothes are pretty exact and only the use of language lets them down: they say ‘man’ which skinheads would construe as hippy talk! Hopefully the TV series will continue to observe the sartorial demands of traditional skinhead.
The media connection with far right politics was the undoing for skinheads although there were always left wing skins and skins who just don’t care as it got in the way drinking, dancing and having a good time. Some skinheads were Nazis, some Nazis were skinheads, but most skinheads, like everyone else, quickly got bored with meetings and marches. After all there are other things to do when Saturday comes …
Just so’s you know!
PS: Romper Stomper was based in Australia and the skinheads were either inaccurately depicted or if they were like genuine Aussie skins (I’ve never met any) then they need some serious sartorial guidance. Skinhead, like any other youth cult, has a strict set of codes that define the individual as a part of the movement. These codes are clothing, language, music, social conduct (i.e., skateboarding, lurking in graveyards), politics to an extent, and mutual interests (i.e., football, violence). There are often particular stimulants involved that enhance the desired behaviour patterns of the individual: speed to make you more alive; alcohol to make you bolder; marijuana to inhibit interesting conversation etc. If these codes are not observed then the individual is seen as a poor imitation, or in contemporary parlance, a ‘plastic’ and subject to mistrust. To say you are a skinhead and walk around in corduroy flares and a basin haircut is going to generate scorn.
PPS: This was originally posted on Indymedia and ‘Forklift’ put more info in the comments section which is well worth a look.