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Scorcha!  Paul 'Smiler' Anderson and Mark Baxter's book of Skinhead and Suedehead street style


Paul 'Smiler' Anderson and Mark Baxter's book of Skinhead and Suedehead street style

by Lee Paul,
first published: August, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

"The skin-suede era was the most rigorously smart and pedantically correct in the history of working class street style." Robert Elms

Scorcha! Skins, Suedes and Style from the Streets 1967-1973
By Paul 'Smiler' Anderson and Mark Baxter
Foreword by Suggs

Scorcha book coverPublished on September 9th by Omnibus Press, Scorcha! Skins, Suedes and Style from the Streets 1967-1973 by Paul 'Smiler' Anderson and Mark Baxter, delves into the roots, rise and fall of the Suedeheads, their close companions the Skinheads, and their streetstyle. Anderson and Baxter do their delving with total authority. 

Visually, Scorcha is stunning, packed with brilliant and often candid photography. Adverts and ephemera from the era inhabit the sidebars like trinkets cherished for intrinsic value. The foreword by Suggs is beautiful and incisively terse, and probably worth the price of admission alone. Suggs’ authenticity and understated perspicacity is surely part of the reason Madness struck a chord with so many. You don’t achieve huge commercial success without taking the working classes along. And the working classes in those days were renowned for their attenuated bullshit detectors. 

“John Peel God rest his soul, said he didn’t hear reggae till 1975. Because people like Eric Clapton, String Driven Thing and co. said it was simplistic, repetitive shit (Until Clapton did that shit version of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’). But the proper working class have always gone under the radar Singing and dancing to black music from the word go.” Suggs

At first glance, just flicking through the pages, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether there was a conversation, a rumour, a connection, a night out missed by the authors. It’s as if they eavesdropped on every mid-60s moment of conversation and every anecdote.

Something that went on to shock the nation in the late 60s was years and years in making it out of the underground club scene.  

Revisiting those record labels on the 45s depicted in Scorcha is to hear all of the amazing music all over again.

If your best memory of skinheads and suedeheads is those old New English Library novels from Richard Allen, you’re in for a huge wake up call. Scorcha is the definitive visual history of the Suedehead way of life. Levis, Ben Sherman, Crombie. Reggae, rocksteady, soul: the looks and sounds of Suedeheads were all instantly recognisable in the sixties and early seventies and went on to have a long lasting impact on British street style and culture.

It opens with a lovely anecdote from Paul Anderson:

“It was probably around 1970 or 1971, I would have only been 5 or 6 years old and I was playing in the park just outside my parents’ back gate. There was a whole group of us, of all ages. An older boy, Paul Harris, who was probably about 10 or 11, bent down and said to me, “Ask your Mum for some braces.”
“Why?” I responded.
“Because Skinheads wear braces,” he replied.

So, off I ran to see my mum, who was busy in the kitchen.

“Mum, can I have some braces please?”
“What an earth for?” she questioned.
“Because,” I said knowingly, “Skinheads wear braces.”
Her face looked puzzled. “What’s a Skinhead?”
“Er… hold on, I’ll just ask…”

For the past 40 years, there’s been only one true Modfather in all that time I guess, although Ian Page from Secret Affair gave it a good go for a while. He’s probably still singing (This is the) Time for Action, to chicken dinner diners in a supper club near you. Easy joke. But those now ancient second generation mods, skins and rude boys will probably be the sharp looking ones in the Fred Perry’s in the McCarthy & Stone sheltered shared common rooms. Ian Page was pretty hard done by as leaders of youth movements go. Remember the Glory boys who followed Secret Affair everywhere and had MOD tattoo’d on the inside of their lip? Saying “Come on, let me see it.” Had a whole different connotation then. One of them did let me see it at a Secret Affair show in Coventry’s Tiffany ballroom. November ‘79. But if you wanna see how a mod can grow old gracefully then surely, it’s Paul Weller who remembers the original mod scene vividly well, "I thought it was a great cultural movement, the music, the look, they’re things that have shaped who I am." 

It’s sort of what used to happen I think. Kids, music, clothes and art always moved together.  Now, I don’t know.

Scorcha is an incredible piece of work, a comprehensively researched and wildly entertaining document of a place and time, with labour of love stamped loudly on every page. Totally Great!

Essential Info
Scorcha! Skins, Suedes and Style from the Streets 1967-1973
By Paul 'Smiler' Anderson and Mark Baxter
Foreword by Suggs
Available 9th September
Pre Order from Omnibus Press, here

Lee Paul

I like to look at things while listening to things I am not looking at. But doesn't everyone.
about Lee Paul »»



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