Anyone over a certain age will remember just how grim and depressing many urban areas in the UK were in the 1980s. Soulless, hopeless and joyless. The youth was still told there was no future for them by the generation before them. A mantra being told to kids since the mid-70s. It was not until the ‘Thatcher’s kids’ of the late 80s gave hope to those from working-class backgrounds that they could have some future. Arguably, it went too far the other way, but there was a definite mood change from the youth of the late 70s to the youth of the late 80s. This is also reflected in the football terraces.
A LIVERPOOL STORY
My debut novel ‘Threads: Jack the Ripper’ focuses on a story that originates in Liverpool. The birthplace of many stories, Liverpool again lends itself to history. This time as the home of the ‘football casual’. This term is not one scousers themselves (or many north of Watford) ever used to identify themselves. This subculture took football violence and gave it its look. Dressers, Neds, Perrys, Scallys and more were often used to describe these groups. The phrase ‘casual’ seems to be a London-centric phrase.
EURO RETAIL THERAPY
In the late 70s, Liverpool F.C. were the most successful British football club. Their success meant they frequently played against the best of the best in Europe. These trips allowed opportunistic scousers to sample the best European sportswear shops in cities such as Rome, Zurich and Paris. Many opted for the light-fingered method of payment. The trappings they returned home with sparked a one-upmanship fashion culture not seen since the days of the Mods. The rivalry between teams up and down the country also played a big part in the one-upmanship. Who looked the best was equal to who fought the best.
NORTH vs south
Liverpool and Manchester focused on the Adidas trainer obsession, which didn’t hit the masses down south. The southerners were initially more attracted to the bright and vibrant tennis wear worn by the likes of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. By the late 80s, this morphed into many exclusive designer labels, unknown to most people in the mainstream. This led to brands such as Stone Island and C.P. Company becoming synonymous with the scene. Then more accessible brands like Burberry and Aquascutum became part of the ‘uniform’ by the mid-90s, arguably when the whole thing became a parody of itself and died.
The fashion evolved from rare Adidas trainers, cagoules and David Bowie wedge-style haircuts to high-end super expensive luxury brands that met a certain aesthetic. By the mid-90s it was not uncommon for casuals to have spent tens of thousands of pounds on their wardrobe. Many have stories of such expensive garments getting blood stains or ripped to shreds during the heat of battles.
The attraction of being involved with such a culture is on numerous levels. The old allure of being in a gang is usually the first thing that pulls people in. A group you feel the desire to be part of. If you came from a poor or modest background, the idea of buying expensive sportswear and designer labels gave itself an aspirational element. Hooligan is actually a Victorian word. In his 1899 book, Hooligan Nights, Clarence Rook wrote that the term came from Patrick Hoolihan, an Irish bouncer and thief who lived in South London.
Peacocking has also always been something young men have found as an attractive pastime throughout history. This was clearly represented in the dandy era of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. the Teddy boys of the 1950s, the mods of the 1960s and even in recent history with hip-hop culture.
Lastly was the fighting element. If your firm looked the best and won the battles off the pitch, the bragging rights would often sustain you for months. This sense of unity and camaraderie remains an intoxicant to young men.
In my FREE novella, ‘The London: Origins‘, the lead character Jimmy Walsh steps into this world and experiences first-hand what made the football violence culture of the 80s so attractive to so many young men.
THE LONDONER: ORIGINS
When the bell tolls on a promising boxing career, what does an uneducated 18-year-old in 1980s London do to survive?
Just that, survive.
‘The Londoner’ by Jay Hartley is a gripping Dublin gangland series, following the life of London-raised drug dealer Jimmy Walsh.
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