1981 Skinhead tattoo…by Dsquared2

Great big boots, great long laces

Jeans held up on scarlet braces

Get out of our way or get took for a fight

We just got violence in our minds

The Last resort: Violence in ou minds, from “A way of life – skinhead anthems”

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The next collection – we know it from having carefully dissected it here S/S 2017 – borrows a lot from the skinhead sub-culture. From the black boots with white laces to the bomber jacket, from the bleached denim to the braces, it’s all there. We also know that many of these items are back in fashion at other designers; we have for instance published a very telling Givenchy photograph in the above post.

One particular element of the Dsquared2 collection stands out for its originality though: the skinhead-tattoo “body” t-shirt.

You have to realise that back in the early 80’s, you did not find a tattoo parlor at every corner, and your average Joe and Mary would never even think of getting inked. Sailors and soldiers would had tattoos, as well as working-class beer-drinking males. The latter however would usually be inked only on the arms. Even the most extravagant punks were not into bodily decorations at all. 

Skinheads however tended to caricature many characteristics of the working class, and if the first wave (1968-1970) did not seem to display much interest for them, the second wave starting around early 1978 would quickly show its extreme nihilism and aggressivity in sporting tattoos on arms, knuckles, backs, chests, neck, face, skull, inside of lower lip etc…The recent D2 show made sure that a couple of models wore facial inscriptions in that fashion.

Skins, 1980’s
Dsquared2 s/s 2017 show
 

The themes ranged from dragons to St George slaying same, British flags, local football club emblems, crosses, spiderwebs, band names, writings like “Mum” or “Skins”….However two specific motifs could be seen adorning many a skin’s skin: the swallow tattoo, and the crucified skin.

We have already discussed the swallow here Swallow tattoo. It is unclear why skinheads adopted it en masse, but to this day you can cross ageing guys on the London public transports, with a faded swallow on the neck. Not the shadow of a doubt that these were 1980’s cropped heads.


The second one is the crucified skinhead. Usually seen on the arm or on the chest, drawn in a stylised way by the same artist who drew the cover of the seminal album by “Oi” band “The last resort” in 1981, named “A way of life, skinhead anthems”. Why crucified? This very band, with another couple including the 4-skins, were to be ostracised following the infamous Southall riots that same year. The skinhead overnight became public enemy number one, in the media and society at large, even prompting Margaret Thatcher to claim that all skinheads should be crucified. The martyred shaved head, sta-prest wearing figure represents this outcast status.


These two tattoos are obviously the inspiration for the body type nylon t-shirt below, featuring a Christ rather than a skin, two swallows, and surmounted by a gothic inscription, a very common font for skinhead mottos, eventhough I would date its popularity to slightly later, around 1983-1984, when the OI movement gave way to a new breed, no longer just working class and heavy drinking, but unfortunately heavily politicised – and not in a good way – too.

1980’s skins with crucified skin and swallows tattoos

So if you want the thrill of Petticoat lane in 1981, but in the comfort of your gay bar, make sure to get this iconic piece!


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