The 1980s skinhead


So, This Is England is over again. Tuesday to Thursday last week, Channel 4 was the host to the second installment since the film, in the form of the television series set two and a half years after the previous series in ’86. This Is England ’88 follows the devastating events we watched last September 2010 and unravels the equally as heartbreaking plot between Lol and Woody (played by Joseph Gilgun who is now well known for hilarious character Rudy in Misfits).

Director Shane Meadows has been praised for his work on the film and television series, but it’s not just the directing that’s caught the eye of many – it’s the fantastic fashion choices shown from the very start.

A shaved head, a Fred Perry shirt, a pair of Dr. Marten boots and some braces. This was all the rage during the 60s and right through the 80s in England, the ‘mods‘ or ‘skinheads‘ were amongst the subcultures who took to the streets in their gang-like ways, in their highly fashionable clothing yet were labelled ‘working class’ and had violent associations.

This Is England (film) 


Both the men and women had almost identical fashion sense – two of the women shown in the above photo wearing Fred Perry polo shirts, and one wearing a checkered Ben Sherman shirt, all accessorised with braces. The men in the second photo are shown wearing very similar clothes and the same brands – Ben Sherman and Fred Perry upper-halves again, straight rolled up jeans which were most likely Levis, worn with braces and of course the ultimate skinhead fashion statement – the Dr. Marten boots.

Skinheads were greatly influenced by West Indian and Jamacian rude boys in terms of fashion and music back then, but some were and are still today dressed in this particular way to demonstrate their passion towards politics and/or race but despite this most skinheads are apolitical. Some wore their braces up and some work them down, but traditionally, if you wore your braces down, this meant that you were openly looking to fight somebody. There have been many myths about the colour of the braces and the colour of the shoelaces symbolising particular meanings such as white meaning white power and red meaning that you have shed blood for your movement. Different areas were supposedly using this colour scheme yet there is not accurate information explaining this and traditionally the colour of the braces and shoelaces were associated with the individuals football team.

This Is England ’86


These ‘mods’ and ‘skinheads’ are notably expressing a ‘punk’ look which by the time of the This Is England era in the 80s, it was far more commercial and expanded beyond Britain and over to continental Europe and America. Five years on from the film, This Is England ’86 hit channel 4 in 2010 and if you were paying attention to the styling, you would have noticed the subtle change in skinhead fashion.

This was clearly a time to experiment with peroxide due to half of the cast having changed their hair colour since the film and where are all the full shaven heads? But lets get back to the clothes…

Yes! They are still rocking their shiny Dr. Martens and the amount of denim worn seems to be slowly increasing and the polo shirts with the checkered shirts still very current at this time. The jeans aren’t rolled up like usual or in Woody’s (left in above photo) case, he is still holding on to the the look from ’83. A brand that was very popular at this time was Baracuta an English brand which were and are most famous for and being home to the original harrington jackets (see shaun in the above photo, third left).

This Is England ’88


Again, no huge changes in the fashion sense of things but the use of denim and leather is more noticeable in this series which creates the rock/punk look much more with the help of band t-shirts, studded collar necklaces, and leather jackets. There’s also, dare I say it, a slight preppy look to some of the characters – obvious more in the second photo (far left) – a blazer and head scarf? She kind of looks out of place compared to the rest…

Throughout the film and television series the brands Fred Perry, Baracuta, Ben Sherman and Dr. Marten were wildly popular and through the minimal transformations shown in this blog post, all three have remained skinheads favourite choice of brands.

But just how popular are they today? These brands are very current today and have been seen on many celebrities – whether they are trying to recreate the skinhead look or are opting for a entirely different look completely it seems these 80s brands are just as popular as ever.

The late singer Amy Winehouse wearing a Fred Perry polo shirt and braces. She also collaborated with Fred Perry on two collections.


Singer Olly Murs wearing his trademark Baracuta jacket.


Singer Hayley Williams wearing a Ben Sherman polo shirt.


(Left to right – model Daisy Lowe, model Agyness Deyn, Actress Emma Roberts)


Only subtle changes from the film set in ’83 up until the second series in ’88 … who knows what we’ll see in ’90. Oh yes! It has been confirmed that Shane Meadows will be doing This Is England ’90 but I’m personally hoping for ’92, ’94 and the rest too.

Catch up with the series on 4od here  enjoy!

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