In the late 1950s, the post-war economic boom brought about increased disposable income among young people, leading to a rise in consumerism and the pursuit of new fashion trends. Influenced by American soul groups, British R&B bands, film actors, and Carnaby Street clothing merchants, a group of young individuals emerged as Mods. Mods were known for their distinctive style and a strong devotion to fashion, music, and scooters.

Working-class Mods opted for practical clothing suited to their everyday lives and employment circumstances. They often wore work boots or army boots, straight-leg jeans or Sta-Prest trousers, button-down shirts, and braces. When they had the means, they would invest in suits and other sharp outfits to wear at dancehalls, where they immersed themselves in the soul, ska, and rocksteady music that defined their subculture.

Around 1966, a division began to form within the Mod subculture. The peacock Mods, also known as smooth Mods, were less violent and always dressed in the latest expensive clothes. On the other hand, the hard Mods, also known as gang Mods, Lemonheads, or Peanuts, sported shorter haircuts and projected a more working-class image. Eventually, the hard Mods became commonly referred to as skinheads around 1968. The decision to adopt short hair may have been practical, as long hair could be a hindrance in industrial jobs and street fights. It could also have been a form of defiance against the middle-class hippie culture prevalent at the time.

While retaining many Mod influences, early skinheads developed a strong interest in Jamaican rude boy styles and culture, particularly the music genres of ska, rocksteady, and early reggae. These musical genres played a significant role in shaping the skinhead subculture before the tempo slowed down and the lyrics shifted towards topics like black nationalism and the Rastafari movement.

By 1969, skinhead culture had gained such popularity that even the rock band Slade temporarily adopted the look as a marketing strategy. The subculture’s visibility increased further due to a series of violent and sexually explicit novels by Richard Allen, notably “Skinhead” and “Skinhead Escapes.” It’s worth noting that large-scale British migration to Perth, Western Australia, led to the formation of Australian skinhead/sharpies gangs, which developed their own unique style in the late 1960s.

However, by the early 1970s, the skinhead subculture began to fade from the mainstream. Some original skins transitioned into new categories, such as Suedeheads, who were known for their ability to style their hair with a comb, smoothies, often sporting shoulder-length hairstyles, and Bootboys, who had hair lengths similar to Mods and were associated with gangs and football hooliganism. Some fashion trends from the Mod era made a comeback during this time, with brogues, loafers, suits, and the slacks-and-sweater look regaining popularity.

In conclusion, the Mod subculture of the late 1950s paved the way for the emergence of the skinhead subculture in the 1960s. What started as a fashion and music-focused movement transformed into a distinct subculture with its own style, values, and musical preferences. While skinhead culture waned in popularity by the early 1970s, it left a lasting impact on fashion and youth culture, with certain elements making periodic comebacks in subsequent years.