How to Be a Skinhead

Two Parts:Adopting the BeliefsGetting the Look

Skinheads are members of a subculture that emerged in working-class London during the 1960s and spread throughout the world. Though unfortunately many people have come to equate the word "skinhead" with the word "racist," the movement began from an interest in working-class values and the sharp styles of Jamaican rude boys and British mods; in fact, many original skinheads were black. Over time, skinhead style and politics have splintered into several sub-groups based around different ideals that can be overwhelming for the beginner to negotiate. If you want to understand the differences between the types of skinheads and to adopt their way of life, then see Step 1 to get started.

Part 1
Adopting the Beliefs

  1. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 1
    Know the difference between the different political sects. Skinhead politics come in several forms, from neo-Nazism to political apathy. Many skinhead groups are focused on music or worker's rights and have nothing at all to do with racism. Before you decide to become a skinhead, you have to understand the different political sects of this group of people:
    • Anti-racist (SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice, or SHARPs) are aggressively opposed to neo-Nazism and racism, though they don't always take a stance on other political issues. The label SHARP is sometimes used to describe all anti-racist skinheads, even if they aren't members of a SHARP organization.
    • Apolitical, centrist or anti-political skinheads keep their political views out of the skinhead subculture. They often have a sense of working-class pride, but not so much in a political sense. Most traditional skinheads, or "trojans," fit this category.
    • Left-wing skinheads are anti-racist and anti-fascist, taking a militant pro-working-class and socialist stance. The most well-known organization in this category is Red and Anarchist Skinheads (RASH).
    • Right-wing skinheads are conservative and patriotic, but not necessarily extreme or fascist. This type of skinhead seems to be common in the United States.
    • White Power or neo-Nazi skinheads are racist, extremely nationalist and highly political. Despite the common moniker, many neo-Nazi skinheads have no connection to the original skinhead culture in terms of style or interests. SHARPs and traditional skinheads often refer to them as boneheads or hammerskins (which is a specific organization as well as a general term). Racist skinheads are found largely in prisons, as part of the Aryan Brotherhood or other white supremacy gangs.
  2. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 2
    Understand the different styles of skinheads. Before you go and call yourself a skinhead, it's important to have an understanding of the different styles of skinheads, which relate to the working class, music, and culture, not just politics. Once you choose your skinhead style and political affiliation, you can begin to get the look of the sect you desire. You can read more information about the skinhead look in the second section. Here are the main types of skinheads, based on their style and interests:
    • Traditional skinheads. These skinheads, also known as trads or Trojan skinheads, do not believe politics or racial bias to be central to their subculture, and focus their beliefs on music and culture instead. They affiliate themselves with the original skinhead movement, which was focused on pro-worker's rights as well as the skinhead beliefs about music in the 1960s. They also are known to wear a silk handkerchief in the breast pocket of their overcoats or suit jackets, pocket flashes, patches that state their beliefs, or button badges.
    • Oi! skins and punk-skinheads. These skinheads are into Oi! and punk music. They are known for having more tattoos, shorter hair, high boots, tight clothes, and flight jackets. The original Oi! bands were strongly based on pro-worker beliefs, though today, the political beliefs of Oi! skinheads takes on a broader spectrum.
    • Hardcore skins. This skinhead group originates in the United States. They are part of the hardcore punk music scene that includes bands such as Sheer Terror, Murphy's Law, and Warzone. Their look is more casual, with baggier pants, windbreakers, and hoodies.
  3. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 3
    Decide on your beliefs. You can ally yourself with some political aspect of being a skinhead, or you can abstain entirely. Whatever you choose, pick the best match for your beliefs and convictions. Find a group of skinheads in your community, and make sure that your beliefs line up with theirs. Do not get influenced to believe anything that does not feel authentic or meaningful to you.
    • Once you know which type of skinhead you want to be, you have to do your research. If your type of skinhead centers around a belief in music, whether it's ska, reggae, or hardcore punk, then you have to go to concerts, listen to albums, and do everything you can to be knowledgeable on the subject so you don't look like a poser.
    • Skinheads have been known to reject hard drugs, so if this lines up with the affiliation you've chosen, you should abstain as well.
    • Skinheads are known to make a good, honest living without pretense. See if you can measure up.
  4. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 4
    Be prepared to defend your beliefs. When people see you dressed as a skinhead, some of them will automatically assume that you're a neo-Nazi or white supremacist. Whether or not this is the case, be prepared to talk calmly and rationally with them about your beliefs when they ask. When people see that you are a skinhead, they may make many assumptions about you that are far from the truth.
    • Be ready to deal with the repercussions of your looks, and have a solid plan for explaining who you are why you believe the things you believe. If you are a skinhead who is not racist, it may take some effort to convince people, who have certain misconceptions against skinheads, that your movement is not racist in nature.

Part 2
Getting the Look

  1. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 5
    Cut or shave your hair. Traditionally, dating back to the 1960s, skinheads have been identified by their short or closely-shaved hair. However, not all skinheads do this. Crew cuts and pompadours are common among certain groups. If you do cut your hair, using a 2 or 3 grade clipper-guard is typical. Today, many skinheads clip their hair without guards, and some of them even cut it with a razor. Additionally, most male skinheads do not have mustaches, beards, or any other distinguishing facial hair.
    • Some skinheads have also been known to have sideburns that are neatly trimmed.
    • Female skinheads had shorter cuts in the 1960s and then, during the 1980s, began to sport feather cuts, which are shorter around the head, with more fringe around the front, back, and sides of the head, leading to a more feathery look. Some female skinheads even wear their heads almost completely shaved, with just fringe and bangs left in the front.
    • Some believe that originally, when skinheads shaved their heads in the 1960s, it was to rebel against the hippie culture, in which long hair was prevalent at the time.
  2. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 6
    Wear the right pants or skirts. Straight-leg, dark wash jeans with cuffs rolled up (to show boots) are common among several groups of male skinheads. Lee or Wrangler jeans have been popular among this group. Flat-fronted slacks and bleachers (jeans splattered with bleach to resemble camouflage), as well as BDU combat trousers or cut-off shorts, are favored among punk and Oi! skinheads. Skinhead girls often wear the same pants as boys, with the addition of camouflage or plaid miniskirts, regular skirts, and fishnet stockings.
  3. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 7
    Wear knit shirts. Working-class longshoremen in the United Kingdom were among the first skinheads, and as such warm knit sweaters became a skinhead fashion staple. Long-sleeved, V-neck sweaters or vests are usually worn over button-down shirts or a contrasting T-shirt. Button-front cardigans are favored by women skinheads. When the skinhead movement originated, many skinheads, who did not have the means for many expensive clothes, would spend their money on nice jackets and elegant wear and would go out to dance halls.
  4. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 8
    Consider adding suspenders or braces. Some skinhead groups favor wearing suspenders or braces over shirts. These can come in various colors or patterns, and are usually in 1/2- to 1-inch widths. If your braces are wider, that may make you look like a White Power skinhead, or like you just don't know what you're doing.
  5. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 9
    Wear a coat or a hoodie. Flight jackets, in black or green, are popular skinhead outerwear. A sheepskin coat, or dark or plaid overcoat, is also appropriate. Donkey jackets, with or without PVC shoulders, harken back to British dockworkers and are also favored in skinhead fashion. Additionally, dark pullover or zip-up hoodies are commonly worn by several different groups.
  6. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 10
    Wear skinhead footwear. Again, because the first skinheads were dockworkers, army surplus or generic work boots remain common staples of skinhead fashion. Dr. Martens (aka Docs, Doc Martens or DMs) boots and shoes are iconic choices for both men and women. Several skinheads also wear Adidas Sambas. Loafers, monkey boots and vintage bowling shoes are also popular. For the most part, men and women skinheads wear the same types of shoes.
  7. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 11
    Add shoelaces. Boots and other shoes are generally straight-laced, which looser laces on Sambas. Generally speaking, black is the safest choice of lace color, as white laces on black boots are most often associated with hammerskins (white power skinheads). The color codes vary by region and aren't always relevant anymore, but the general assumption is still to equate white laces with white power.
  8. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 12
    Wear socks. Black and white socks are basic choices, while some groups prefer red socks. Argyles and black-and-white checkerboard socks are also popular in some circles. Overall, though, socks should match the laces on the shoes and the outfit as a whole.
  9. Image titled Be a Skinhead Step 13
    Cover your head. In order to cover shaven heads from the cold, some skinheads wear traditionally warm hats. Trilby hats, pork pie hats and flat caps (aka scally cap, benny or driver cap) are traditional choices. Less common but still visible are bowler hats (aka derby hats), mostly among those skinheads influenced by the film A Clockwork Orange.


  • Seek out your local skinheads. You might be able to find them at ska, hardcore or punk music shows.
  • If you're shaving your head or cutting your hair extra short, be sure to catch the hairs on the back of your neck.
  • Some skinheads have lots of tattoos, with sleeves being a popular look. Wait at least 6 months after adopting a skinhead style to seriously consider permanent and highly-visible ink.
  • If you don't want to get caught in the center of the mosh pits that usually erupt at a punk or hardcore show, stick to the perimeter of the room. Otherwise, be aware that a lot of the people present are wearing steel-toed or otherwise heavy work boots and try not to get underfoot.


  • Though there are out gays in the skinhead scene, there is still a lot of homophobia to be found.
  • Know that wearing skinhead attire might not be acceptable at your school or place of work. Check the guidelines first.

Article Info

Categories: Urban Styles