Skins: A Way of Life, Patrick Potter, 2018 (Carpet Bombing Culture)
Indefatigable is not a word to be thrown around lightly, unless perhaps you’re George Galloway bending a knee to the nearest tyrant. But is there any other for the sheer number of chroniclers of skinhead? It’s a rich and varied genre of texts, more often than not inches of girth in photography rather than analysis, as we’ve considered before, with its own standard-bearers and flops.
Where then does Skins: A Way of Life sit? Is it a Nick Knight, a George Marshall or a just a dud? I’m happy to report it’s none of the above, though it’s not going to win any prizes for analysis, that’s for sure. And why should it? Even before its release on Carpet Bombing Culture (who’ve already put out the likes of Derek Ridgers’ subcultural portraits), it managed to elicit its fair share of favourable coverage, though doubtless the upcoming Spirit of 69 anniversary played a part.
Much of the text forms a single-handed diatribe rather than an overview or potted history of skinhead since the days of 1969, not to mention being uneven in parts (plus don’t even get me started on the Adam and the Ants comment). Another coffee-table book perhaps, but as sure as Sweden gave us IKEA it also gave us Perkele. And like a copper’s knock on society’s windscreen when we shouldn’t be behind the wheel, Potter is one author reminding the publishing world that skinhead remains as worth talking about in print as well as ‘well-received’ BBC4 documentaries and the occasional Viceland feature.
As much as his last book Mods: A Way of Life documented that subculture as experienced on a thousand council estates, there are photos here you will have seen a million times and a satisfying number you may not have. Next year also sees the imprint put out former Scootering editor Martin ‘Sticky’ Round’s Scooter Boys, which should act as something of a triple-decker or proof of how the subcultures doubled up in the 1980s.
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