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Skinheads at a concert
Skinheads at a concert

Skinhead [ ˈskɪnˌhɛd ] ( English skin “skin” and head “head”) is a collective term for all members of the skinhead scene, a very heterogeneous subculture . Together they have especially the short to shaved heads and a clothing to their characteristics mostly boots safety shoes (often in the scene resemble boat called English for boots , not - as is often assumed - combat boots ), and bomber , Harrington - or donkey jackets . In public and in the mass media , the term skinhead is often used synonymously with neo-Nazi , even in relation to neo-Nazis who do not appear in the habitus of skinheads. In view of the politically very heterogeneous scene, however, this equation is wrong.


The term "skinhead" comes from English and literally means "skin head" and, at the beginning of the 1970s, when long hairstyles were fashionable, a short hairstyle in which the scalp shines through. The hairstyle was a # 5 or # 6 crop at the time, which corresponds to a length of 5 or 6 tenths of an inch, i.e. about 1.2 to 1.6 cm. The beginning year of the skinhead movement is often given as 1969, but even in previous years there were young people who dressed like the skinheads of the day. It was founded by white working-class children in East London , a working-class neighborhood who grew up with the children of black immigrants from Jamaica and other parts of the West Indies . They got to know each other through a shared interest in “black” music - such as early reggae (also known as skinhead reggae), ska and northern soul  . From black “ rude boys ” and white “ mods ”, the skinhead movement initially emerged as “hard mods”. It set itself apart early on from the fashion-conscious mods, who also came from the working class and the lower middle class, as well as from the hippies aggressively. The early skinheads initially wore smart suits like the mods from which the movement began to separate. These suits disappeared after the delimitation was completed and were replaced by the coarse, workwear-oriented outfit known today. Since then, skinheads have cultivated and celebrated an aesthetic of the proletarian . In the past, aggressiveness was more widespread in the skinhead scene than it is today. In the early years, black and white skins were attacked by Pakistani immigrants, who were known for not defending themselves in fights. Skins were (and are) partly part of the hooligan scene, which “fights for their club” at soccer games. In their early days, the skins were generally anti-bourgeois, but otherwise had little interest in politics.

In the early 1970s, the black skins turned more and more to the evolving political reggae scene and generally more isolated from white British culture. The trigger for this was also with the “Reggae War” in relevant discos for titles such as “Young, gifted and black”, with which the white skins could not identify and therefore boycotted the songs . Some skinheads let their hair grow a little longer (defined by the possibility of manipulation with a comb) and called themselves “ suedeheads ” (“suede heads”) to distinguish themselves.

After the first wave of punk subsided in Great Britain in 1977, a style of music called " Oi! " Established itself , which led to a revival of skinhead culture there. In contrast to the earlier skinheads, the hair was now worn much shorter and specific fashions from punk culture were adopted. This is how a very short Mohawk cut became popular. In Great Britain, the Union Jack was not only popular with right-wing skins. The Oi! Wave, popularized by bands from the pub rock scene (especially Cock Sparrer ) and former punk bands such as Cockney Rejects and The Business , also led to a ska revival, to which old singers like Judge Dread and Laurel Aitken were joined especially groups like Madness and Bad Manners contributed.

In the early 1980s, the previously politically very mixed English skinhead scene began to split into left-wing extremists, right-wing extremists as well as neo-Nazis and traditionalists, and the extreme right began to take over an ever larger part of the scene. This development was mainly driven by the British National Front and British National Party (BNP). Soon the media pounced on the phenomenon as well, and not long after that, neo-Nazis who had previously had nothing to do with skinhead culture began to adopt the skinhead look.

Garry Bushell established with his articles on the Oi! Scene and the compilations Oi! The Album and Strength Thru Oi! the musical background, which was mostly apolitical, but then after the first riots between left and right Skins, especially at concerts by Sham 69 and Angelic Upstarts, partly also understood as anti-fascist. At the beginning of the 1980s , more and more so-called naziskins were formed in Germany and the USA , as had been the case in England before : neo-Nazi youths whose appearance linked to the skinhead movement. The right skinheads adopted the style of music coined by Ian Stuart's band Skrewdriver , which soon traded under the term Rock against Communism ("RAC") and combined stronger metal elements with punk music. In Germany the style right-wing rock was baptized. In the USA , the apolitical and left-wing skinhead culture was combined with hardcore punk , pioneers here were Agnostic Front and Iron Cross from New York City and Minor Threat from Washington, DC The right-wing US skinhead scene took over the British RAC.

Some skinheads use the term bonehead (English for “fool”, “wooden head”) for racist skins . The play on words is probably explained by their hairstyle. Right-wing extremist / neo-Nazi skinheads wear their hair extremely short, even by skinhead standards. Usually they are wet shaved (completely bald) or the hair is only a few millimeters long. In this hairstyle is not only the skin under the hair look, but also the bones (English bones recognize) the skull. The term is mostly used by opponents of the Naziskins. In response to the increasing number of Nazi skins in 1988 was New York City , the anti-racist " SHARP " movement ( " S kin H eads A gainst R Acial P rejudice") launched.

In Europe, right-wing extremist skinheads and neo-Nazis soon shaped the public image of skins. This opinion was also promoted by the mass media , which reported acts of racist violence rather than demonstrations by skinheads against racism . Some right-wing extremist musicians, such as Frank Rennicke , who initially completely rejected the skinhead scene , and Ian Stuart , however, use the name Oi! rejected, while other bands such as Endstufe , Landser , Oithanasie and Kraft durch Froide either use the term or even have it in their name.

Skingirls with feather cut

Today's skinhead movement can be roughly broken down into traditional skins (some of them are also called Trojan skins, named after the Trojan Records label ), “SHARP” skins , radical left “ Redskins” and RASH skins , as well as “ Oi! “Split up skins and right-wing Nazi skins. Skinheads who display their anti-racist attitude can usually be recognized by their political buttons or badges (e.g. SHARP). The scene is heavily male-dominated, but there are also some female skinheads, the so-called “Skingirls”, “Byrds” or “Renees”, who work on the characteristic “Chelsea cut” or Feather cut , a special short hairstyle with the sides left long in front of the ears, easy to recognize.

Parts of the Oi! -Skin scenes have traditionally had great overlaps with the punk scene ; many Oi! skins are ex-punks. The idea of ​​uniting Oi! Skinheads and punks has been represented for several years under the catchphrase “United”. On the other hand, some skins - regardless of their political attitude - are skeptical to hostile towards the punks.

Alcohol is very important in the scene and is consumed often and in large quantities at concerts and other meetings. Other drugs are rejected by many.


As in many other youth countercultures, the right clothing has a high priority among skinheads. On the one hand it serves to differentiate oneself from society, on the other hand it is intended to demonstrate belonging to the scene and to gain recognition in the group.

  • Dr. Martens (" Doc Martens ") are work shoes, both with and without a steel toe, as low shoes (three-hole) or boots (eight-hole). Mostly worn in black or wine red. They have a non-slip air-cushioned sole, an air-cushioned rubber sole. Knee-high docs, as worn by punks, weren't common in the past.
  • Ranger boots or combat boots are leather combat boots with a pronounced profile sole.
  • Commando boots are operational shoes made of textiles with partial leather e.g. B. Hi-Tec Magnum or similar, around since the 1990s.
  • Brogues , loafers with a lace pattern and loafers in general .
  • In the GDR , skins wore "35, -" work boots, in Australia they also wore "Blundstone Boots"


MA-1 bomber jacket
  • In the 1970s, bomber jackets were MA-1 made of nylon, at that time also called scooter jackets , because they were only worn by scooter skins in England (always olive). From a military point of view, the MA-1 is only used by ground and service personnel as well as guard services. From the 1990s, CWU-45 made from the fire-resistant fiber Nomex.
  • Donkey jackets are ordinary English work jackets made of black wool felt and are still worn by street workers today and are synonymous with the working class. The typical leather cover on the shoulders is supposed to protect the jacket when carrying loads and against rain.
  • Harrington jackets are short cotton blousons with a collar that have a typical tartan lining. In England they were also made by Fred Perry and Lonsdale .
  • Crombie coat , a 3/4 length English coat with a typical velvet collar, as he u. a. was and still is made by men's outfitter Crombie on Jermyn Street, London.
  • Sheepskin, a coat made from sheepskin that is worn in winter.


  • Polo shirts have been part of skinhead clothing from the start. The shirts from English tennis professional Fred Perry , son of a cotton spinner and politician, are particularly popular because he was the first Wimbledon winner to come from the working class. His company symbol is the laurel wreath.
  • Button-down shirts are shirts with buttons on the collar that guarantee a perfect fit. A well-known brand of such shirts is Ben Sherman .


Blue jeans of various brands, preferably Levi's 501, Wrangler , Lee , but also “supermarket jeans ”. Often the jeans are rolled up or shortened a little. The “Sta-Perst” series from Levi's with crease was also very popular. Domestos and Clorix trousers are jeans that have been partially decolorized with a cleaning agent containing chlorine bleach; this technique is sometimes used in jackets. In addition to blue jeans, black and white are also worn.
Narrow braces in different colors.

Preferred clothing brands

Brand awareness is very common in the skin scene. While there were originally only a handful of brands, namely the established English manufacturers, more and more providers are finding themselves on the market and trying to establish themselves as a brand for skinhead clothing or recognizable as a brand for right-wing extremist skinhead clothing. There are now a large number of providers who sell their articles mostly through specialty stores and mail order companies.

British brands

An English brand for sportswear, especially for boxing, with a long tradition that goes back to the Earl of Lonsdale. The Lonsdale brand has existed since 1909 and is also popular with skinheads. The company supports anti-racist projects as well as the British anti-fascist association "Antifascist Action". Furthermore, a number of shops frequented by neo-Nazis were excluded from the delivery of "Lonsdale" articles, since Lonsdale gained the reputation of being a neo-Nazi brand in German-speaking countries because the name bore the words "NSDA “Contains. In contrast to "Consdaple" (see below), however, the "P" is missing in the lettering.
Alpha Industries
Manufacturer of jackets for the American armed forces since 1959. The "Alpha" bomber jackets are among the most popular jackets in the skinhead scene.
Ben Sherman
"Ben Sherman" is the product of the Canadian Ben Sherman, who owned a small factory in Brighton in the late 1950s. The brand was already worn a few decades ago by supporters of the skinhead movement in Great Britain - later also in neo-Nazi circles.
Fred Perry
An icon of the skinhead movement that the labor movement values ​​very much. Perry was the first Wimbledon winner to be said to be close to the proletariat. His shirts have been around in this form since 1952. Since the '69 skins of the time were not particularly interested in politics, especially not when it came to the radical left or right, and their ideals on pride in their origins in the working class and the Family limited, this brand was common among skins. When more and more right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis came onto the scene in the 1970s, they also adopted the “Perry” shirts and the entire clothing style. A laurel wreath, sometimes slightly modified, is used in all parts of the scene.

German brands

Brand that is worn by neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists, as it contains the words " NSDAP ". The clothing brand was founded by people from the neo-Nazi environment.
Doberman Germany
For right-wing extremists, the counterpart to the “Pit Bull Germany” brand, which distances itself from right-wing extremism. T-shirts, sweaters, patches etc. are made.
"Master Race" a brand of neo-Nazis for neo-Nazis, whose name (for "English master race ") describes the ideological aspect of the manufacturer or carrier. The other items with the “Masterrace” logo are also typical of the neo-Nazi range of goods: In addition to flags, the range also includes scarves, belt buckles and towels.
Pit Bull Germany
A brand from which u. a. Jackets, sweaters, shirts are there. "Pit Bull" clothing is popular with neo-Nazis, but the brand itself is against racism and made it clear several years ago that there are many foreign employees in their company (one of the managing directors is Turkish ).

There are also a number of other brands that offer t-shirts, jackets and accessories for skinheads, such as "Hooligan Streetwear" or " Troublemaker ", whose manufacturers have protected the scene code " ACAB " (for "All Cops are Bastards").


It was often claimed in various media that you can tell the attitude of a skinhead (or punk) by his shoelaces. In fact, especially young skins and punks try to express something with strikingly colored shoelaces. The color of the shoelaces and also the braces often represented the affiliation to a certain football club. Nowadays, however, the color of the shoelaces is usually no longer relevant in many countries.

Among young Nazi skins, white shoelaces were often used to express “willingness to fight” or stand for “ white power ”. The assertion that Naziskins can be recognized by white shoelaces is an urban legend popularized by the major media , which bypasses the diversity of reality. Red shoelaces are especially popular with young punks and should emphasize a left attitude there. In the past, red shoelaces should have been worn often by supporters and members of the banned FAP and the Nationalist Front . Anyone who wore a red and a black shoelace was supposedly an anarchist . Supporters of the neo-Nazi “ Blood and Honor ” network were also said to have used red shoelaces as a reference to “Blood and Honor”. Because of this frequent rumor in the media, this “distinguishing feature” was actually introduced in parts of the scene, although it was ironically broken, especially in the non-political scene.

Alignments and associations of skinheads

Groups without a clear political assignment

Traditional skinheads
Above all, traditional skinheads want to preserve the so-called "Spirit of '69", the original spirit of the skinhead movement. They therefore distinguish themselves from political groups of all kinds. The length of the hair is also modeled on the skinheads of the 1960s, who did not shave their hair bald, but simply cut it so short (“crop”) that the scalp could be seen. Wet shaving and baldness are frowned upon. A smart appearance is just as important to them as a good concert followed by a nighter / allnighter (dance event). Their music is mainly skinhead reggae , but also ska , rocksteady and northern soul .
SHARP ("Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice" - skinheads against racial prejudice)
" SHARPs " are anti-racist skinheads. The idea of ​​a broad anti-racist movement within the scene was born in the USA in the late 1980s and reached Germany in the early 1990s. "SHARPs" try to be attractive to as large a part of the skinhead scene as possible and therefore hold back with political statements beyond the rejection of racism. "SHARP" also distinguishes itself from left-wing skinhead groups such as "RASH" (" neither red nor racist "). However, “SHARP” is suspect to many skins, as radical left skinheads also appear as “SHARPs”. The "SHARPs" mark is a modification of the logo of "Trojan Records", a well-known music label . In the 1990s the magazine Skintonic (later Skin Up ) was the speaking tube and the relevant scene postil for SHARP, traditional and Oi! Skins.
"Oi!" - skins
Like other subgroups in the skinhead scene, “Oi!” Skins are defined by alcohol consumption, “ Oi! "Concerts and football (" Parole fun "). Your proletarian self-image does not contain any class struggle thoughts; on the contrary: “Oi!” skins are often explicitly anti-political. Most traditional skins do not regard them as “real” skinheads, as they prefer Oi! Punk (instead of reggae, ska, rocksteady etc.) instead of the “smart” appearance of traditional skins (brogues, Sta Perst) often have a martial appearance (bald head, 14-hole boots) and, historically speaking, have their origins not in the traditional skinhead but in the punk scene of the 1970s.
GSM ("Gay Skinhead Movement")
You stand up against homophobia in the skinhead scene and for equal rights for homosexual skinheads. Since the 1990s, the image and clothing of the skinheads have also been widespread as fetish in the gay scene, where the cult of masculinity is perceived by many as erotic. At first it was a provocation for the gay scene - and probably interesting as such -; in the meantime, appropriate groups and events can be found in most large cities. The line between “real” skinheads and “gay skins” who are only looking for a sexual kick is controversially discussed again and again, but is probably to be understood as fluid. The spectrum of political attitudes in the scene is correspondingly broad. The clear assignment of colors and symbols is largely impossible, also due to an often observed ignorance of the tradition and history of the skinhead movement.

Groups with clearly left-wing extremists

RASH and Redskins
" RASH " stands for "Red and Anarchist Skinheads" and unites all left-wing extremist "skins". A similar association is ASAP ("Anarchist Skins and Punx"). " The Redskins " were a left-wing extremist band that was very popular in the UK. You were a member of a Trotskyist party. The “Redskins” movement is based on the origin of the skinheads from the working class and the resulting dissatisfaction with capitalist class society , without, however, denying the fun nature of the “way of life”. Political theory ranges from Marxism-Leninism to anarchism . Left-wing extremist “skins” stand in particular opposition to what they call boneheads, the racist skinheads.

Groups with clearly right-wing extremists

Parts of the neo-Nazi scene also appear as skinheads
Blood and Honor
An association founded by the band “ Skrewdriver ” and other neo-Nazi bands with the slogan of the Hitler Youth (“Blood and Honor”). "Blood and Honor" represents an international network of bands, mail orders, shops, magazines and neo-Nazi skinhead groups that distribute (partly illegal) "music for the white race" and earn a lot of money with this "right-wing rock". Strong rivalries arose within the scene over the lucrative business with Nazi music. The association has been banned in Germany since 2000, but is sometimes still active under the name "Division 28". The number "28" is known in the skinhead scene (and beyond) as a numerical code (second and eighth letters of the Latin alphabet , i.e. BH ) for Blood and Honor.
Combat 18
Neo-Nazi terrorist organization that prepares and conducts the armed struggle for National Socialism . "Combat" is English and means "fight", the number "18" stands for the first and eighth letters of the Latin alphabet , ie AH. Kampf AH should stand for "Kampfgruppe Adolf Hitler" (because of the initials). "Combat 18" sprang from part of "Blood and Honor" and is organized in small militant groups (partly influenced by the theory of leaderless resistance ). Attacks on foreigners and those who think differently can be attributed to them. A murder of an anti-racist skinhead in Texas and an African-American skinhead in Las Vegas was even known.
Small but tightly organized group of Naziskins that are organized into "divisions" around the world. The "Hammerskins" have a maximum of 300 followers in Germany and have appeared in connection with the organization of right-wing rock concerts, among other things.
Right-wing extremist / neo-Nazi and other associations close to the party
Right-wing extremist skinheads, such as the band “Endstufe” and its supporters, the “Aktionfront Süd”, which the NPD supports in election campaigns, sometimes appear as security staff and thugs. There are also a number of non-party-affiliated associations such as the “Franconian Action Front” and the “ Skinheads Saxon Switzerland ” organization, which has now been classified as anti-constitutional .

See also: right-wing extremist symbols and signs , free comradeships , right-wing extremist networks , skinheads in Germany

Social science background

Sociological and psychological interpretations of essential parts of the skinhead movement (especially the neo-Nazis) are linked, on the one hand, to the investigations into the “ authoritarian character ” or “ authoritarian personality ” carried out in the 1930s by the Institute for Social Research ( Fromm , Horkheimer , Adorno among other things), on the other hand on newer social psychological and psychoanalytic concepts for group identities (including Vamik Volkan ).

The result of this research is, among other things, the knowledge that such structured personalities have a particular tendency to

  • to consolidate their sense of identity and self-worth through the feeling of belonging to a group ( ingroup ) with which they identify (race, people, nation, religion, subculture, sect, "gang" etc.)
  • to rate this ingroup particularly highly and to distinguish it from foreign groups ( outgroup ) who are not only experienced as "different", but generally as hostile or inferior (see also othering )

These evaluations are based not on fact, but on prejudice . They do not come from rational, but from psychological motives, and serve to strengthen the self-esteem and to regulate emotions . The projection of one's own weakness and powerlessness onto the other group as a means of overcoming negative emotional states and inner conflicts is of particular importance (see defense mechanism ). Negatively assessed characteristics of one's own person are - supported by belonging to the idealized ingroup - not perceived and recognized, but projected onto the "others" and fought there (see enemy image ). This is one of the roots of racial segregation and aggression. In addition, the group members lose - especially if they occur together with her own group - empathy ( empathy ) and compassion the devalued "others" or "foreigners" against. Therefore, under the described psychosocial conditions, acts of particular brutality and cruelty can occur.


Fanzines (selection)

  • Pressure Drop (founded 1975 in London ) is considered the world's first reggae fanzine
  • Skintonic (1987–1994) Oi! - / Ska fanzine from Berlin
  • Oi! -Reka (1991–1994) Oi! - / Ska fanzine from Berlin
  • Moloko Plus (1993 - present) Oi! - / punk fanzine from Essen
  • Skin Up (1995–1999) Merger of Skintonic and Oi! -Reka
  • Skinhead Times (English-language skinhead newspaper by George Marshall from Glasgow and London with worldwide distribution between 1994 and 1996)



  • Holger Bredel: Skinheads - Danger from the Right? Rhombos-Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-930894-50-5 (At the same time: Marburg, Univ., Diss., 2001: Skinheads in Germany. ).
  • Susanne El-Nawab: Skinheads - Aesthetics and Violence. Brandes and Apsel, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-86099-209-0 .
  • Klaus Farin , Eberhard Seidel-Pielen : Skinheads. Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-37393-3 ( Beck'sche series 1003).
  • Klaus Farin: The Skins: Myth and Reality. Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-86153-136-4
  • Klaus Farin (Ed.): Skinhead - a way of life. A youth movement presents itself. Tilsner, Bad Tölz 1999, ISBN 3-933773-05-9 .
  • Dick Hebdige: Subculture. The meaning of style. Methuen, London a. a. 1979, ISBN 0-416-70850-1 ( New Accents ), (English).
  • Nick Knight , Dick Hebdige et al .: Skinhead. Omnibus Press, London 1982, ISBN 978-0-7119-0052-3 (English)
  • Kent Lindahl: Exit. DTV, 2001, ISBN 3-423-36251-0 .
  • George Marshall: Spirit of '69. A skinhead bible. ST Publishing, Dunoon 1993, ISBN 0-9518497-8-6 .
  • Christian Menhorn: Skinheads. Portrait of a subculture. Nomos-Verlags-Gesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2001, ISBN 3-7890-7563-9 ( Extremism and Democracy 3).


Most fiction books deal with the right-wing extremist skinhead scene. With a few exceptions ( American Skin , Teenage kicks , "No llores ..."), the apolitical or left-wing scene hardly occurs. Most fiction novels are presented as books for young people in the form of problem and educational literature.

Films and documentaries

See also: List of films related to skinheads

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Klaus Wahl: Skinheads, neo-Nazis, followers: perpetrator studies and prevention. Pp. 42-44, p. 183.
  2. Klaus Farin , Eberhard Seidel-Pielen : Skinheads.
  3. a b Nick Knight: Skinheads . Omnibus Press, London 1982, ISBN 978-0-7119-0052-3 , pp. 26-37 .
  4. Alan Götz: Un mir sainen ale brider, oi, oi, ... in Alf Garnett # 8, approx. 2004.
  5. Klaus Farin: Skinhead - A Way of Life. Interview with role . European Publishing House , Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-434-49000-0 , p. 118-122 .
  6. Klaus Farin: Skinhead - A Way of Life. Quote from the fanzine Murgtalexpress . European Publishing House , Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-434-49000-0 , p. 122-123 .
  7. see also the documentary film Skinhead Attitude

Web links

Wiktionary: Skinhead  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations