Skinhead subculture has a long and complex history. The subculture drew influence from the earlier Mod style and originally used music by Jamaican musicians in the 1960s as its soundtrack. Those involved in the subculture had a sense of working class pride, and these attributes were often recognized in both white and black youth growing up across England.
Members of the subculture are often motivated by social alienation and class pride; part of the original skinhead style was, in part, a rejection of the conservative, severe culture of the 1950s. The skinhead style was seen as an aggressive way of presenting yourself by the media, with short hair, rolled up jeans and footwear often referred to as “bovver boots.”
In the 1980s, the original skinhead subculture was split into far-right and far-left factions by political affiliations. Although many skinheads consider themselves apolitical, people outside the group are most familiar with the strongly nationalist leanings of the far-right faction.
The distinctive skinhead look went on to be adopted by neo-Nazis and various other racist groups; as a result, many original skinheads felt it was time to abandon their style due to the association. Still, some true skinheads refused to give up their style and this caused a further divide within the subculture for those with different political stances.
As an outsider, I decided to photograph the young men and woman within the current scene in order to try and learn what it means to be a skinhead in the present day.
Editor’s Note: The first image in this project, “Skinhead Girl,” was awarded 2nd place, single image, by the jury of the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017—don’t miss the work from all 44 of the outstanding, international talents! You can follow Harvey’s work on his personal website. Since his win in the Portrait Awards, Harvey’s project has been published by the British Journal of Photography and Vogue Italia.
If you enjoyed this article, you might like one of these previous features: Sixteen, Craig Easton’s series that gives voices to the youth of Britain; Harrodsburg—Up Close with the Super Rich, Dougie Wallace’s hard-hitting visualization of the world’s climbing income inequality; and a recent interview with Magnum nominee and street photographer Matt Stuart.