Doc Marten boots, tight bleachers, braces and a shaved head – most skins are instantly recognisable. As such a distinctive subculture, we thought we'd take a look back at the history of skinhead fetish, from extreme masculinisation to appropriation and beyond.
How skinheads became a gay fetish
Starting in London in the 1960s the original skinhead culture grew out of the mod scene, championed working-class values and rallied against the mainstream ideals of the time. Embracing reggae rude boy style, early skinheads adopted Jamaican music and fashion, epitomised by the 1969 skinhead anthem Skinhead Moonstomp by Symarip.
By the 80s and 90s though, skinheads were more associated with right-wing, even fascist ideology, as well as racism and homophobia. Swayed by hardline politics, some skinheads fought against the merging of British and Jamaican cultures, often literally, becoming known as 'bovver boys'. Although violence and bigotry were characteristic of the skinhead culture at the time, some say media panic and the failure of the more measured side of the movement were much to blame for not challenging this stereotype.
The term 'skinhead' can still carry these connotations to a certain degree, which is why it's gay fetish status can seem surprising to some. But skinhead gear has had a gay fetish following for decades, for guys within the skin scene and those who simply love the look. While there are gay men who identify as skinheads and who are into the music, style and anti-establishment values of the scene, with no sexual sideline, there are others who fetishize skinheads without any interest in the subculture itself.
The fetish appeal of skinheads can be seen as an appropriation of an identity that's traditionally seen as masculine in the extreme. Although it's largely a media-constructed image, to many, a stereotypical skinhead is hard, violent, physically fit and part of a male-only community; a radical, if threatening, version of masculinity. At skinhead gigs, the crowd often ends up shirtless and in close contact. Many fetish men into the skinhead scene say it's this macho, homosocial persona they're attracted to.
The skinhead fetish scene
For many men, the skinhead look is a massive turn on. Even if a guy doesn't identify as a skinhead or wear typical skinhead gear on a day to day basis, he can gear up for a skin fetish night, just like any other fetish.
There are skin fetish nights around, both in their own right and as a part of other fetish events. Most nights don't have a hair policy, meaning you don't have to have a skinhead yourself, although you may be able become one if there's a working barber in attendance. Be aware of banned logos and symbols; any skin fetish night worth going to won't tolerate fascist, extreme right or political emblems.
Ask other skinheads in the Recon community about the best skin nights near you, or for their take on skinhead fetish if you want to know more.
And don't forget to let us know about any other fetishes you'd like us to feature by sending your ideas and/or articles to: firstname.lastname@example.org.