This carefully crafted look, which has made its mark on countless graphic design, illustration and fashion styles since it emerged in the 1960s, has until now been left rather under the radar exhibition-wise.
However, a new show at south London’s London College of Communication looks set to change that, with a brilliantly comprehensive survey of the visual manifestations of skinhead style, proving there’s much more to the movement than bovver boots and grade ones.
The show aims to uncover the movement’s graphic design, illustration, photography, media and publishing and fashion, delineating its links to music, football, politics and class.
The show has been curated by designer, artist and punk historian Toby Mott (who was also behind 2010’s Punk on Paper show), who worked with creative director Russell Bestley, Reader in Graphic Design and Course Leader of MA Graphic Design at LCC.
Bestley says, ‘The Skinhead movement…retains a strongly close-knit and largely underground identity, away from the cultural mainstream. This exhibition looks at the graphic language and visual communication of Skinhead identity, from its roots in the late 1960s to today’.
The show looks to track the influence of skinhead culture on visual communications from its 1960s origins in mods and skinheads, through to what the show organisers describe as ‘contemporary global skinhead identities’. Which we assume to mean the shaven headed gents still flying the flag for the skinhead subculture.
Along the way, the exhibition will also explore themes including 1960s Ska, Rocksteady and Bluebeat; 1970s Suedeheads and Bootboys; 1970s and 1980s Punk, Hardcore, Oi!, Skunx and Street Punk and Gender and Sexuality.
A fascinating range of skinhead zines will be on show, highlighting the distinctive graphic style of the movement.
‘Skinhead graphics tend to be overtly hard-hitting and direct – the use of high contrast black and white photography and line art is mirrored by bold typographic treatments and the adoption of strongly upright and condensed sans serif or heavy uppercase gothic typefaces.’ Bestley explains.
‘As with punk fanzines, Letraset dry transfer lettering is commonplace within later skinhead fanzines, with access to a wide range of suitable or appropriate typefaces limited and thus generally standardised through convention rather than design.’
Where Have All the Bootboys Gone? runs from 23 October 2 November at Upper Street Gallery, London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, London, SE1