Les Bottes Rouges

I’ve always been fascinated by oxblood boots. I’ve always wanted a pair. But I also don’t want to look in any way shape or form like Ronald McDonald, and I’m also quite certain that I’ve never before seen a pair of “true” skinhead oxbloods. I’m not even sure if such a thing exists (or could, but more on that later).

Much about colour will be discussed on this post, and as colour is a relatively subjective thing I should probably acknowledge the various differences in peoples’ computer screens and differences in the way colour in photos is rendered digitally. Okay. That’s out of the way. Moving on.

When it comes to red-tinged boots, there are generally three options — oxblood, cherry red, or burgundy rub — though not all companies offer all three, and many seem to play fast and lose with their definitions thereof.

The story of the skinhead and the red(dish) boot is as old as the story of skinheads. But when it comes to honouring the skinhead style of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which red(dish) colour is the “authentic” one? From what I can tell, none of them.

By all accounts I’ve come across, the original oxblood boots were made by skinheads themselves. The story goes that the creative kiddos who inhabited the bootboy primordial soup took medium-to-dark brown boots and polished them up with oxblood (known stateside as cordovan) polish.

The few, admittedly sketchy, images available of the oxblood bovvers (if that’s indeed what they are) of the time do seem to bear this out [see above gallery]. The boots appear very dark, a purplish brown with feint reddish undertones. If I took enough traditional oxblood polish to brown shoes or boots, this is the effect I’d imagine I would get. If I am wrong I hope a reader out there will let me know, but to my knowledge no companies in England were offering boots made in true oxblood leather in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

But what of the modern options? Do any come close?

Based on scant photographic evidence, the closest modern colour in terms of shade seems to be burgundy rub, but burgundy rub is basically the same sort of finish you’d see on a pair of patent leather dress shoes applied to a boot. Personally I think they look pretty cool, but I don’t think they’re particularly authentic.

The closest in actual colour would of course be oxblood, and the closest oxblood colour I’ve found to the originals of yore (which as we’ve established were likely brown boots painted over with oxblood polish) is in Red Wing Shoes’ oxblood leather offerings

Their oxblood Iron Rangers, pictured above, are b-e-a-utiful and in my opinion come the closest to the color of the boots in old photographs. Unfortunately though, oxblood varies from company to company, often appearing indistinguishable from cherry red (both Doc and Solovair are guilty of this).

Take for example these two separate boots from Doc. Even acknowledging possible differences in photo lighting and graphics rendering, there’s no way these aren’t two clearly distinct, different colours. I’d argue the first is really a cherry red variant, with nary a hint of purple or brown to be found. Funnily enough, what seems to be the most authentically looking “oxblood” coloured boot on the Doc website is sold as burgundy!

Now, onto the famous/infamous “cherry reds”. These were supposedly a mainstay back in the day. “Cherry red and black were most popular”, George Marshall assures us, and I’ve read firsthand accounts from skins who were there when it started claiming that cherry reds were definitely a thing. Having said that, I haven’t for the life of me seen any photographic evidence of cherry red boots in any film or photos of skinheads circa 1968-1971. None. Zip. Nada. If cherry reds really were available to — and worn by — skins in the late ’60s and early ’70s, then I have to assume they were darkening the hell out of them with brown, black, and/or oxblood polish. If anyone who was there could shed further light on this it would be greatly appreciated.

What I see when I see someone wearing cherry reds.

Personally, and this may be an unpopular opinion with some, I kinda hate these things. In my misguided youth I once owned a pair of cherry red Grinders. Ugh. I’m sorry but they’re clown shoes. Clown shoes I say (and don’t even get me started on yellow laces). Then again who knows — maybe, just maybe, if you put enough brown or black polish on a cherry red boot and you’ll get something resembling oxblood.

Once funds are available, my intent is to invest in a pair of brown boots (thinking William & Lennon Co.) and ‘blooding them up myself. Until then I can only look at what’s available now versus what’s depicted in old photos and sigh.

What say you, dear readers? Would you be caught dead in a pair of cherry reds? Is “oxblood” (whatever that might mean to any particular boot maker at any given time) your bag, or do you prefer the burgundy rub look?

Top 5 Skinhead Reggae Acts

Without further ado:

I honestly can’t get enough of this group. Almost every single song is a total jam. If you don’t know The Pioneers, do yourself a huge favour and get acquainted ASAP.

If you don’t know the utter awesomeness that is Toots & The Maytals then you’ve probably come to the wrong blog. It’s hard to get better than these guys.

No list of best skinhead reggae is complete without the mighty Symarip AKA the Pyramids. “Skinhead Moonstomp” is the obvious anthem of the cult.

Derrick Morgan is the man. ‘Nuff said.

The Upsetters – Lee Perry’s legendary house band. What more do you need to know?

Top 5 Oi! Acts

I said there might be some discussion of Oi! on this blog and here it is. I know it’s far from traditional skinhead but what can I say, I enjoy the stuff. In creating my top five lists I look at three basic categories: the significance/influence the artist had on the genre and music in general, the artist’s talent and musicianship, and the strength of the artist’s catalog and songwriting — not to mention a whole lot of personal preference. To be honest, picking my five favourite Oi! bands wasn’t that difficult. In a genre that’s quite frankly overcrowded with mediocre soundalikes, the truly great Oi! bands stand out easily. Having said that, I could easily fill up a top 15 list, which is why I included a number of honourable mentions.

Related image

I could listen to Shock Troops repeatedly, for hours, and not get bored. While some may argue the band is more “street punk” than Oi!, it’s clearly not run of the mill punk and it’s clearly bloody brilliant.

Another band some may argue is more proto-Oi! than Oi!, the Cockney Rejects gave name to the genre and their anthemic tunes are some of the best in the genre.

I love this band. These guys just might take the overall win in the songwriting category. It’s astonishing that a band with such a small initial output in the genre could have so many incredible songs. “We Are the Boys”, “Razors in the Night”, “Propaganda”, “Voice of a Generation”, and “Warriors” are all killer.

Image result for the blood punk logo

This is a band that was way ahead of its time and wrote some truly amazing songs. “Stark Raving Normal”, “Napalm Job”, and “Such Fun” are particular standouts in my opinion.

Definitely one of the most talented and probably one of the most musically interesting Oi! bands. This is another band of which I’d be hard-pressed to get bored.

Honorable Mentions

Image result for angelic upstarts
Image result for sham 69 logo

The first, last, & only political post you’ll read on this blog

There’s a phrase that often appears on banners and placards at patriotic marches and demonstrations in Poland: “Stop Totalitaryzmom“. That about sums up my political beliefs as they relate to a scene so often ruined by political beliefs.

In case the numerous references to ska and the 1960s haven’t make it clear, I have zero time of day for boneheads. I have English, Polish, and Jewish blood in my veins. All of my grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought the Nazis in the Second World War. One of my great-grandfathers died fighting them. If you think waving a swastika around is something of which to be proud, maybe one day my steel caps and your teeth can meet.

Having said all that, I have come to detest SHARP types as much as I detest neo-nazis. In my experience they are almost always communists or other radical leftists pushing a political ideology just as repressive and repulsive as that of the boneheads.

Bonehead v. Sharp. Two idiotic sides of the same idiotic ideological coin. Image Copyright: Oscar Hertin 2019.

That’s to say nothing of the insane social justice warrior mentality that seems to have infected parts of the Oi! scene today. I’ve seen these sorts of neo-bolshevik numbskulls claim that bands like Combat 84, Condemned 84, and 4Skins are legitimately racist or fully blown RAC bands. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

Anyway, the point of all this is that if you want to talk politics then go be a political activist elsewhere. If you want to learn about some great clothes and great music, then you’ve come to the right place.

UPDATE: Relco short sleeved button down review

So the size medium Relco short sleeved button down arrived today. As I suspected, the sleeves were pretty much perfect but the shirt was too large around the chest by a few inches.

Unless one of the shirts I received was somehow defective, the difference in size between a small and medium is significant and severe, indeed it almost seems like the small should really be extra-small and that the company lacks a true size small. If Relco could combine the small size’s chest with the medium size’s sleeves, we might have a very well-fitting shirt on our hands. Alas they do not do that as far as I know.

Ah, but the plot thickens, dear readers.

The medium I received has a different label than the two size smalls I purchased previously. Moreover the fabric on the size medium seems to be of slightly better quality than than the trash cotton of which the size smalls are made. This fact suggests a number of possible conclusions. It is possible that one of the sizes is old stock and one is new. It is also possible that they actually come from different lines by Relco, though I’ve found no evidence that such different clothing lines exist. It’s also possible the cheaper ones may be fakes, but it seems quite a niche company to be worth fake.

Either way it would appear that more Relco research is needed. I need to find a Relco small with a label that matches the one in the medium, and vice versa, in order to reach a proper conclusion about Relco shirts.

If any reader out there knows if there’s a difference between older and newer Relco shirts, and why I have two shirts from the same company with two different labels, I’d love to know in the comments section.

Original Relco review here.

Welcome, and a few notes on my personal style

This should have probably been the first post on this blog, but oh well.

First, a little bit about myself. I have been fascinated with the skinhead cult and its style since I was first exposed to it when I was around 12 or 13 years old. When I was a wee lad, that bizarre bastard synthesis of two-tone and pop-punk that became known as “third wave ska” was all the rage in my corner of suburban New Jersey. Thankfully it wasn’t all Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake — bands like the Slackers, the Toasters, and the Hub City Stompers pointed me in the direction of the roots ‘n’ real stuff. And in a blended scene that saw skater-punk kids, two-tone wannabes, street punks, and what can only be described as proto-emo kids all stewing in the same shows, the skinheads — slightly menacing and smartly dressed — truly stood out. Around the same time I was getting deep into ska and encountering actual skinheads for the first time, my dad was regaling me with tales of skinhead encounters during his youth in England in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was sold.

You probably noticed that I refer to myself as a suedehead in the ‘About’ section of this site. This is not only because my hair is longer than a #3, but also due to the fact that I have a white collar job and grew up in the suburbs. I’m fiercely proud of my working class roots (my dad comes from a long line of millworkers in Yorkshire), but it would be dishonest to claim that I myself am working class — other than perhaps a few of my political beliefs.

“Working class pride” rhetoric aside, the skinhead cult (the original one, anyway) was, in my oh so humble opinion, always first and foremost about fashion. The — dare I say — fetishization of working class identity didn’t really solidify until the second wave of skinheads and the rise of Oi! in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Anyway, back to fashion.

As you may have guessed, this blog, and my personal style, pay homage to the original skins, suedes, and boot boys of the mid 1960s through the early 1970s. To that end, here are some of the things you will find discussed and celebrated here: the 1960s Ivy League look, mod and skin-associated clothing brands, sta-prest, button-downs, brogues, sheepskins, crombies, ska, rocksteady, reggae, and maybe, just maybe, even the occasional Oi! band. And here are some of things you will absolutely not find celebrated here, and discussed only with derision: boots higher than 11 eyes (and that’s only because I own a pair of 11 eye Solos), bleached anything, skin-tight trousers or jeans, flight jackets, or Jenny Woo.

Anyway, that’s all for now, folks. And remember: stay booted, suited, and sharp!

Review: Relco short sleeved button down

Ugh. Where to begin. I wanted to like this shirt, I really did. They don’t look too terrible and they’re cheap. Alas, one gets what one pays for, I suppose.

First up, the fit. I ordered a small. My chest size is somewhere between 36 and 38, and I like my shirts fitted. While the shirt fit well-enough around my chest (it was a hair on the small side), the sleeves were indescribably tight. I’m not particularly buff nor do I spend much, if any, time at the gym. But after wearing the shirt for about seven minutes it became readily apparent that I was losing circulation in my left arm. The comically small sleeves suggest these shirts are not designed with regular men in mind, but rather made for scrawny hipster man-boys or actual children. To add insult to the injury caused by the slow loss of circulation to my arm, the shirt was far from long enough to achieve a secure tuck.

When it comes to fabric and finish the shirt fared no better. The label says the shirt is 100% cotton, but assuming that’s not a lie, it’s some of the cheapest cotton I’ve ever touched, feeling thin (as in paper, not pique) and synthetic. Trash cotton aside, the shirt was obviously mass-produced and certainly isn’t going to win any awards for stitching. At least the requisite styling was there — three-fingered, three-button collar, box-pleat, and all.

I have a medium I managed to snag a good deal on en route on the off chance it fits better, though I fear adequately-sized sleeves may come at the expense of the fit around the chest. Time will tell. For now I’m giving the shirt 2/10 — 4/10 if you can manage to fit into it.

Song of the Week: Phoenix City – Roland Alphonso & the Soul Brothers

This track is easily one of my favourite ska songs of all time, and a crystal clear example of why Skatalites founding member Alphonso was called “The Chief Musician”. His solo on this track is exceptional. Having said that, he’s outshone on this one by Johnny “Dizzy” Moore’s trumpet playing. Moore’s solo screams passion, and the listener can’t help but get swept away in the horn player’s emotion.