Krylons and Doc Martens: the world of skinhead graffiti writers

The idea of card-carrying members from the skinhead tribe being part and parcel of street graffiti culture can seem an urban myth to some or a far-fetched, unlikely crossover of subcultures at best. Having grown up in the NYHC scene, I saw this synthesis first-hand and have followed the trajectory of others in the US and the world at large that inhabit both scenes, seamlessly bending disparate influences into a cohesive whole. Graffiti’s ethos and the skinhead way of life can seem to be an unlikely pairing at first glance, but the shared mindset of following a particular set of values and methodology, while maintaining a distinct visual aesthetic indifferent to mainstream trends, can lead to cross-pollination in an under-the-radar fashion.

I have chosen to profile seven skinhead writers that fit this particular phenomenon. Some play in bands, some don’t. Others share the embryonic hip-hop scene as a reference point and some do not; what they all do have in common is finding a kinship in what are often maligned and misunderstood subcultures, making a strong case for inhabiting both worlds, all the while staying true to each group’s individual essence. I talked to the following: Core 2, Tatu Paul, Hand Selecta, Oaks FCS, all from the US, Meatdog and Swarm from Australia and The Firm from Brazil.

Freddy Alva

2017 Raybeez Urban Styles piece by CORE 2

CORE 2 is a prime example of this crossover/alliance. Having grown up in the Bronx writing graffiti while being a skinhead, he started the respected IMOK (If Mother Only Knew) crew that featured a number of bald-headed vandals tagging up the Greater New York (New York/New Jersey/Connecticut) area, as he recalls:

“I started tagging around 1985, growing up near the 6 line in the Bronx. My main influences style-wise were UA (United Artists) Seen, Duster, etc. I wrote a couple of different names before settling on Core 2 in 1987”.

IMOK’s origin and the skin connection

“IMOK started in 1989 in the Bronx, it started as a joke that took on a life if its own. 

Back in ‘89 I was chillin’ at my friend’s house on Young Ave off of Allerton in the Bronx. A bunch of kids were hanging out bullshittin’, drinking. I was talking to PEAK (SFI) and MODE (SFI/KTC) and these young ins came up to us asking questions and trying to impress us, like: ‘I write such-and-such and my crew is yada yada…’ Out of nowhere I just said: ‘Yo, I write CORE 2 and my crew is If Mother Only Knew… I Am Okay’ (it just happened to pop in my head) and these kids went silent. ‘If Mother Only Knew? I m o k? I am O Kay… Oh shit!’. Their young minds were blown, we started laughing and everyone was like, that shit is dope.

Negative Approach piece by CORE 2

Fast-forward a week or so; I go to my homeboy BRACES (RIP) crib and he was acting a li’l funny and then finally says, ‘Yo, so I heard you’re starting your own crew, we ain’t good enough?’. I was a little taken back and confused, then he blurts out: ‘I’m just playin’! If Mother Only Knew I Am Oh Kay! That shit is fresh, haha’. I was like, ‘What the… how does he know’, then MODE shows up ‘Yo, CORE! If moms only knew!’ 

Soon after, I brought Pauly CRO MAG around to my friend’s house and he was sitting on the stoops drinking a 40 and those young kids rolled up again. I’ll never forget this one kid asks Paul if he writes and says; ‘yeah, CRO MAG’ and the kid goes IMOK and Pauly was like; ‘does my mother what?!?’ He didn’t know if the kid was dissing his mom or what. The kid ‘uh, if mother only knew… IMOK?’. ‘What?! What about my mother?’ he starts to get up, and the kid backs up ‘No, no… CORE’ crew… If mother…’ – ‘Yo Core, what the fuck he’s talking about?’ I started cracking up and told him the story, but CRO MAG was pissed because he thought I had started a crew and didn’t tell him. Next thing he started pushing it, then it just spread.

CRO MAG (RIP) was a skin when I first met him, but he grew out of it, as did TOST (Harlem Slim). Up in the Bronx we had TAK, DEMO 3 (RIP) that wrote, but we had a couple of other skins who rolled with us that didn’t write”.

2021 Major Accident piece by CORE 2 (Oi! the Black Book)

Doing art for bands

 “I’ve done flyers for Oi bands like Oxblood, Bottom of the Barrel. I did the artwork for the Bottom of The Barrel EP that never came out. I’m a curse – I’ve done art for bands and soon after, they break up or the release gets fumbled. NYHC band Bloodbeat (TAK IMOK played drums for them). I’ve done art for hip-hop acts like my boy Ill Bill and his group Non-Phixion, YES 2, and I did the art for the Non-Phixion vs Arsonists video ‘14 years of rap’. I did the cover for Oi! the Black Book and a page in that book for Major Accident. In other issues of the Black Book I did Negative Approach, Rykers, Raw Desk and a Raybeez dedication in the Urban Styles book”.

Meeting other skins into graffiti

“Back in the days you kinda kept that shit to yourself because you never know who you’d run into that you had beef with”.

Bombing stories

“Back around ‘91 CRO MAG, EROC (RIP) and I drove up to SUNY Purchase in CRO MAG’s car to hang out with TOST. At the time he was roommates with REID and DELAY (Walter Gorilla Biscuit’s younger brother).

2021 Oi! the Black Book cover by CORE 2

We were causing havoc, getting turned up, and at some point someone had the great idea to go hit some highways. CRO MAG was passed out drunk so we stole his car. It was REID, DELAY, a drunk friend of theirs, EROC and myself. We drove back down to the Bronx. We we’re hitting a highway spot when we got rolled up on by 5-0 [slang for police]. EROC and I were able to get away, running back to where we originally hopped over and back to the car, where we left their now passed-out friend. I looked back and saw REID’s halfway over the wall, when a cop grabbed him and yanked him back onto the highway. DELAY had booked it across to the opposite side of the highway dodging cars and death. He stopped and turned to check if the coast was clear, only to be tackled and pummelled by the cop who also ran across. 

They were busted, there wasn’t anything we could do so we took off in the car with this knocked out drunk civilian in the back seat. Next thing we know is this guy starts coming to, he starts freaking out because he doesn’t who we are, where he is or why he is in this car with us. As we try to explain and calm his ass down, he starts to remember that he was with the other two and demands to know where they are, what did we do with them and what are we going to do with him. He couldn’t grasp the concept that we were spray painting highways! So we stopped a couple of times on the way back to SUNY and this time he came with us, watching out while we did fill ins. We got back to SUNY to a very angry CRO MAG who couldn’t believe we took his whip and used some of his paint to go bombing. We let TOST know that the boys got bagged and to expect a phone call…”

Thoughts on being a skin into graffiti. Plus his top 3 all-time writers and skinhead bands

“Street kids doing street shit.

Writers: DONDI, SEEN, YES 2.

Bands: 4-Skins, The Business and The Last Resort”.

2010 demo cover by MEATDOG

MEATDOG is a native of Sydney, Australia skin and sang for the hard-hitting Oi/hardcore outfit Reckless Aggression and the psych-core stylings of Gutter Gods. His visually striking artwork has graced other bands’ releases and merchandise. Here he talks about getting his start doing graffiti:

“I started just simply vandalizing with no real understanding of graffiti culture or hip-hop. I’d be hanging out with a punk mate in Melbourne who’d stay with me when in town for shows. He was a writer from Sydney but we’d just like spray big dicks and syringes on doctor’s surgeries and on service stations just for a laugh, black out car head lights and shit like that, real arsehole-minded stuff. Eventually I started writing my nickname MEATDOG around and venturing to heaps of abandoned buildings – it quickly just escalated. The writers up in my area with heaps of style and impact were YUC and GRECO. It was a big impact on me to want to bomb as hard and have that kind of presence on the line. This was around 2012 – I was a late bloomer. I’d do straight letter tags of Reckless Aggression, but not hand style. Around the time Gutter Gods was happening, a guy in that band was a writer and a close friend of the band, the style leaked into my life”.

On being a skin into graffiti and how both styles complement one another

“I was a skinhead much before getting into graffiti. I didn’t know any of my skin mates to be into writing, it’s a crossover of worlds. I have a friend Trav who was a Melbourne skinhead who’s appreciative of Graffiti and hip-hop but it’s quite rare. One is a branch of the other in my opinion. The action expressed on the walls is a reflection of the thoughts and attitude of a scene or underground movement. Visual representation of a physical presence when you’re not around”.

Bombing stories and graffiti crews

“The best ones are where I’d meet other writers I respected and ended up going on missions with, that’s the best way to link up and see who’s who. Also rolling up on scared cats that leg it and leave all their paint for the taking, haha. I’ve had a lot of close calls where I’ve escaped arrest, cops rolling up on a spot, but I’m fast on my toes. Once, and this is rare, the cops did a search on the tracks, I could see torches up ahead and gates being opened. I was freaked out because that never happens, managed to get in behind the only place I could and started ripping my sketch up into little pieces trying to discard of the caps, sweating but never found. I really enjoy the early hours when no one’s around so can just be by myself. That’s a very peaceful time to paint and feel a total sense of ease and satisfaction. Even though street bombing is a heightened sense of anxiety, doing 1000 tags and throwers on a row is the best release. Shout out to 73A, FM, RNK, RPB, AFP, PFK, BWP… so many good crews still active and all kings of the past. Shout out to the Brisbane Sharps representing the true culture.”

Melbourne 2009

About photo of him dripping blood from his forehead

 “My friend from England brought Stanley knife blades to the show ’cause he said he wanted to cut into his chest ‘King Of Punk’ like that Poison Idea cover but pussied out because he was seeing his mum in a week’s time. So I cut ‘is murder’ under my MEATDOG tattoo on forehead. We got burgers after the show and I saw this couple sitting eating their food. They had a small dog and a guy was patting it, but I recognized him because I’d watched him eating a pigeon a few weeks earlier – a junkie psycho guy. I said: ‘Hey, that guy’s a pigeon eater’, and the boyfriend freaked out and they left their meals. Here I am: saved the day, face dripping blood, words cut into my head, haha.’

Top writers ever and favourite skinhead bands

VOSKO FTK (Full Time Krime), most destruction I’ve ever seen. Sick tags and throwies, word changer and adapter, always on a path of destruction every word change. DSKYZ is classic Melbourne, there’s so many sick writers and creative letter builders but stand out ovation. Last is ACID MSA – this guy’s stuff ingrained in my psyche, letter style and heavy metal influence on his pieces and crew.

Bands I’m gonna say 4-Skins, Combat 84 and London Branch. All early era 100 Club Oi demos rule, okay?”

Current status:

 “Trying to tee up a band, been talking to a few heads, good stuff happening in Brisbane at the moment, little scene pumping away. I have been quiet on the graff front, gotta know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em in this town. Just grinding on commission art for bands really and injecting myself where I can into the hardcore and underground music scene. Respect bro, and thanks for including me. Peace, MEATDOG”.


HAND SELECTA aka MENE is a graffiti documentarian that grew up in the New Jersey Oi, hardcore and ska scenes. In 2013 he put out the classic Flip the Script book, an extensive chronicle of graffiti hand style alphabets, which has become a staple document of urban calligraphy. He was kind enough to answer some questions:

Which came first for you: writing graffiti or being a skinhead?

It depends if you are talking about exposure or participation. Exposure to graffiti definitely came first. I was definitely aware of and interested in graffiti as a young kid. But as a young teen I probably took to the culture of skinhead and the different music scenes before being an active participant of the culture of graffiti. I was pretty toy for a long time and I was never worth you noticing or hearing about me when I was active. As a young kid in the 80s, I got the breakdancing books from the school book fair and was obsessed with Michael Jackson (Thriller era) at a very young age. I was too young for the original PBS airings of Style Wars, but it was all in the air. Art was probably the first thing I fell in love with and I identified as an artist. I was always drawing.

I was born in the Connecticut suburbs of NYC in the late 70s. In 1985 we moved to the Trenton area of NJ. I then moved to NYC in 1997. As a kid, my dad commuted to NYC most of my life. Growing up in central Jersey I had a view of both NYC and Philly for both graff and going to shows. I didn’t see enough graff daily to be able to say confidently that I knew how to describe the difference back then. The graffiti I saw in my daily environment was more back of the shopping centre variety than true bombing. In fact, a remnant of some 80s skinhead graffiti was still around by the mid-90s when I came across it.

I started going to shows in the early 90s. I had a family friend who was between my parents age and mine. He was a skinhead in the early 80s, when the 2-Tone thing was big, and he started taking me to ska shows in those years before I could drive. He educated my tastes, and gave me those first dubbed tapes of Madness, The Specials, Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker. I found my own way to Oi and hardcore. I was 13 or 14 when he started taking me to City Gardens in Trenton, NJ for ska shows. In retrospect I look at those City Gardens flyers and wish I went to every hardcore show. A single month at City Gardens in the late 80s or early 90s looked like 10 years’ worth of good bands all playing week after week.

2021 Battle Ruins piece by HAND SELECTA (Oi! the Black Book)

My first show was probably local bands, Inspecter 7 and Bigger Thomas from NJ. A bunch of other ska bands I don’t listen to much anymore, but also some I do: The Toasters, Scofflaws, Insteps, Mephiskapheles, The Slackers. I remember being blown away by Hepcat on their first tour. I got into first generation Jamaican ska and rocksteady and have been listening to that for the last 30 years pretty consistently. But then I also eventually spent a lot of time in the Oi And hardcore scenes – much more than the aka scene in retrospect. The clubs I frequented were City Gardens, a few shows in Philly in the 90s (Stalag 17, Trocadero, TLA) The Pipeline (Newark), A bunch of VFW Halls and Elks Lodges in NJ. And then a lot of shows in the city at the Wetlands, CBs, Coney Island High were my generation of clubs in those formative years. I remember Nightingales had a period there were a bunch of punk and Oi shows after I moved to the city for university. 

When and where did you start writing, who were your influences?

I think I was always a poser skater, a toy writer and herbert of a skin, so in some ways I never stopped starting. I was always into art and graffiti was always a part of that culture. Skateboarding in the late 80s. Powell Peralta era. I was younger, for that time period – 10 years old in ’89 – so I was probably more influenced by the Bones Brigade and Animal Chin than the more hardcore skaters like the Z Boys or Bill Danforth. I was a poser skater from like 1988 to 1992. I would go to my local skateshop and back then, when boards had definitive shapes (before popsicle stick shapes became the norm), you could pick a deck off the wall and order a blank shop deck. They would trace the shape and you’d pick it up a week later. I would buy those because I was young and broke, but I probably liked the painting my own graphics on them more than skating them. 

Unnamed piece by HAND SELECTA

My earliest boots, weren’t Docs but mailman uniform shoes I bought from an Army-Navy or a mail order catalogue. I probably got a 1965 field jacket before a flight jacket – i.e. the Travis Bickle jacket from Taxi Driver. So my vibe was probably more NYHC skinhead than the spirit of 69, Fred Perry and sta-prest trad thing I wanted to emulate. An older friend eventually gave me an old pair of his Docs when I was maybe 15. I didn’t get a new pair of my own boots until I was 16 or 17. Anyway, that’s a long intro to say that I only started consistently writing in like ‘97 or ‘98, when I moved to NYC to go to university. I started catching marker tags, street level shit, mailboxes and men’s rooms. Small-time shit. 

In those years of 97-00. I was looking at a lot of REVS and COST. They were mostly winding down by that point, but their rollers were everywhere. I really liked the stuff that was pushing boundaries before it splintered off into an operate scene of ‘street art’: Shepherd Fairey, Bäst, Faile, ESPO, TWIST. I remember going to the opening of the street market show at Deitch Projects. It was a really exciting time for that stuff just starting to get noticed by the establishment. But then I was also really into tags, and throwies, personally. I loved the 907 guys, GEN 2, MUK 123, OZE, UFO, the graffiti was that was probably a bit more raw and punk. But I also was really loving the bombers of the time that were crushing, SKUF comes to mind. SABE KST was bombing with those giant faces. Those were both traditional graffiti and pushing boundaries. Around 2000 I was loving GOUCH and SOBER. 

2008 flyer by HAND SELECTA

Eventually, my personal style was influenced most by HENCE C&F. I met HENCE coincidentally after I was writing for two or three years on my own. And he was the first to slow me down, helped me build some basics. I was trying to innovate too much at that point. He got me doing some meat and potatoes, straight letters, prints, upper case tags, lower case tags. Balloon styles, softies. He regimented it with a system. Which was perfect for me, because I was at design school and learning typography and calligraphy. Graffiti was the wild west for me. I didn’t have a model or a guide. But once I did it started to make more sense. I just had to put in the reps. 

How do you think the skinhead and graffiti subcultures complement one another?

That’s a good question. I think for me, there was a working class, DIY, entrepreneurial-move fast and break things aspect to both cultures. I came to skinhead hand in hand with punk, but also learned about its pre-punk, hard mod and rudeboy culture-clash origins right off the bat. As an American skinhead I always identified skinhead more with work ethic than working class. Maybe I’m too American or too “old school” for today’s thoughts on this, but I was always apolitical but simultaneously patriotic, and a big part of that for my family growing up was the idea of connecting hard, honest work to success. Skinhead was the clean-cut alternative to punk. I always had a job (in an age when mohawks and hand tattoos were job-stoppers). There was a no-frills, DIY aspect that drew me to skinhead. It was simultaneously rebellious and respectful/ respectable. It asked no permission. Made no apologies. I think the same for graffiti. I was always more drawn to the parts of graffiti that outsiders considered vandalism, not permission pieces or multi-can productions. Mostly tags and throwies, simple styles. 

Your top 3 writers from any country or era and top 3 skinhead bands ever?

Damn. These are hard. I’m going to cheat and break it into categories. 

Tags and handstyles: CHAZ, SP.ONE, EARSNOT 

Throwies: SKUF, DESA, SP.ONE


Boundary pushers: ESPO, REVS, OS GEMEOS

Reggae, rocksteady and ska: Harry J All Stars, Symarip, The Specials and Madness might be tied, depends on the day for me. 

Oi and punk (UK): The Business, Cock Sparrer, Blitz.

Oi and Punk (US): The Templars, Anti-Heros, The Beltones, The Trouble, Noi!se

US hardcore: Warzone, Agnostic Front, Tears of Frustration, Vision – google for those old pictures of Dave Franklin as a skin, plus they had one of the best graf logos in all of hardcore.

Were you ever down with any graffiti or skin crews?

I was never a part of any formal crews in either culture. I’m not much of a joiner, I guess. Affiliated may even be a stretch as the crews of friends I had were very informal. In the mid to late 90s I would hang with the New Brunswick punks and skins of that era. Mostly it centred around a house where my friend Junior lived. He sang for a hardcore band called Heidnik Stew. He and some of that crew would work security at The Pipeline in Newark in those years. There was a crew of New Brunswick skins a generation before called HCS, immortalized in a song by Inspector 7 and Travis Nelsons band of the same name. I was friends with a band called Tears of Frustration and they had a crew of skins and hardcore kids from Bergen County and north Jersey in the late 90s that went by STB.

What are up to currently projects-wise?

I’m about to publish the 10th anniversary (fourth) edition of Flip the Script, a book I wrote about American graffiti hand styles. I’m continuing document hand styles on my Instagram ( and YouTube  ( channels, and I’m starting to gather some new interviews and collaborations for a possible new volume sometime in the future, maybe a few zines before that. More at (

Shipwrecked by SWARM (International HC Black Book)

SWARM comes from Sydney, Australia and has been an active participant in the graffiti/skinhead/tattoing movements for decades. Here he discusses the hip-hop influence on the embryonic Australian graffiti scene:

“So, I asked my mum to take me to see Breakin’ in the cinemas and she said, “No, I think it’ll be too mature for you’. I was 10 years old at the time. Then, when Beat Street came out, I asked her to let me see it, which she said yes to and took me, much to her horror when the swearing and train graffiti and death was all included within, haha. I was already trying to breakdance but the graffiti side of things I hadn’t been exposed to because we were living in Bundaberg, Australia. In the following days I asked my mum to get me some spray paint. Right across the road from my house was a drainage ditch we used to use as a playground and I went there in the middle of the day and tried to copy things I’d seen in Beat Street, like the ghetto blaster and the “do it!” guy doing a head spin.

There was no other influence besides that until we moved to a new town and I met some other kids also into doing a little bit of graffiti and then realizing my cousin Jason was also into breaking and graffiti. But we didn’t know anything much, we just did it for fun and had no idea about the history or culture. I specifically remember my cousin having a stack of bubblegum cards that had photos of pieces on them. Every now and then there’d be a news article or a tv show with graffiti. This was around 1984 to 1986”.

2022 Sydney wall by SWARM

The skinhead connection

“My first exposure to skinheads was in about 1987 and they definitely were more on the bonehead side of the coin. We were skateboarding in this city Newcastle, which was the major city near where we had moved to a couple of years earlier. We were at the train station and these skinheads came up to us all drunk wanting to see out boards and it was scary, haha, but the one guy talking to me saw I had The Stupids and Spermbirds written on my grip tape and said how he’d seen The Stupids play and was actually being cool, then his mate came over and wanted to ride my board and he shot out and landed in his ass, so I ran after my board jumped on it and said “bye” and kept skating away from them.

I might have been writing REAPER at that time? I’m sure I had a few different names those first couple of years. It was still just kinda a fun thing I did that went hand in hand with punk and skating. I think those two things increased my interest in graffiti a lot more. I actually remember when we started dressing more like skinheads and taking the label on because it was around the same time. We were like, “we are straight edge skinheads” and some people didn’t understand it? I think they thought all skinheads were beer-swilling psychos. This ex-bonehead that was hanging around was all personally offended by it, but we didn’t care about what some ex-nazi had to say. I actually saw that guy a couple of years back, sweating and creeping, still on a quest for… not herb.

As for other graffiti skins in the scene, my mate Fingers, who was in the bands Regular Boys Haircut and Three Found Dead and Mass Trauma. There’s a photo of us somewhere standing on the train lines in front of a big x’d up fist he did, and I think it says SXE SKINS.”

SWARM piece made especially for this article

Playing in bands, tattooing and graf/skin crews

BK was my first proper band, they kicked their singer out and just assumed I’d be good at yelling, but they were called Fudge Undies and I said; ‘no I won’t join if it’s still called that’ so TBK was born and it stood for Those Bloody Kids, because we were young skate punks just making noise and being menaces. I was in a bunch of bands from then on, most notably Deadstare, Taking Sides and currently Society’s Chain. I also had a side project called Razorback with some Boston goons. In recent years I’ve done designs for The Rival Mob, Out Crowd, Shipwrecked and Conservative Military Image. I think even now when I tattoo the graffiti influences are still there in everything I do. I remember someone early on with my tattooing tried to tell me I had to unlearn my graffiti in order to draw for tattoos, and I just couldn’t separate them – and I’m really glad I couldn’t, honestly. There was already a million traditional tattoo clones out there. But anyway, yeah, flyers, band logos for bands I was in and my friends’ bands: ‘You know, we’re gonna have album covers, posters, T-shirts, buttons…’

As for graffiti crews related to hardcore, we had xSELx, which was me, my housemate Sayno and Deadmeat. xSELx stood for Straight Edge Legends, haha. That eventually turned into a crew called MRS (My Rules Sucker) when we moved to Sydney and we befriended the 97A crew because of the obvious skate/hardcore references. That was probably the busiest I’d ever been with graffiti, it was daily. After work I’d do loops on the trains tagging the back car. We’d always be painting the train lines or coal train or actual trains. Racking paint, we kinda stuck to ourselves. Eventually MRS was blended into KOC (Keep On Crushing) because we shared crew members. I remember being told, ‘Hey you know you’re in KOC too, right?’ and I said, ‘Well, CAIB can tell me it’s cool himself, then I’ll write it’. I kinda took myself out of that crew ’cause I wasn’t feeling too connected with it, no beef. I just like doing things the way I do them. There were never enough skinheads around in HC here to have a crew. It was just a bunch of hardcore kids hanging out, having fun, taking trains all up and down the NSW coast to see shows, staying on peoples couches, it was a really fun time”.

2023 Sydney wall by SWARM

Connection between both scenes

I think it goes back to them both being primary youth and street culture. Even way back in the 60’s you had skinheads daubing ‘skins rule

 ok!?’’ and their nicknames on walls with house paint, marking off their territory, letting people know they were there. ROBBO (rest in power) was a Skinhead before he became a writer and I’m sure there was a crossover there for him at one point. And I mean, NYHC and graffiti is like two peas in a pod. The New Breed compilation alone is testament to that connection. It’s so fucking cool that a melting pot like NYC threw all these things together to create an entire style and aesthetic”.

Top three writers and bands

Writers: SEEN of course, epic. T-KID still innovating and pushing it! FEAR, BEON, BEYOND, KRIE from Sydney, the roughest looking pieces as in they’re not all cleaned up with cutbacks etc but the fucking style and attitude shines through

4-Skins with Hodges rule! Cock Sparrer, when I first heard them, I didn’t rate them at all and one day it just clicked. Stanley Knife from Sydney! I miss seeing you around Drew! The best songs and the funniest lyrics”.

Current status

I’m yelling in Society’s Chain. If you like Breakdown chances are you’ll like that band. We are about to start writing for a 7”. We kinda broke up in 2016 and got back together with a new line up in 2022. I’ve been doing a lot of writing the past couple of years. I’ll slow down here and there but I’ll never stop. “Born to expire, never retire”. I guess besides that I’m tattooing most days and just doing art for bands I like and listen to. Thanks for the talk! It’s been an honour”.


I met TATU PAUL in 1987 and my earliest recollection of him is seeing a boots and braces skin running around tagging VERS up everywhere with a Sharpie marker and he also played bass in local NYHC outfit Fit of Anger. He left town for a couple of years and upon his return started up Oxblood, who went on to be one of the more notorious American Oi bands ever, and he also incorporated his graffiti background in the tattooing world”.

Early writing days

“I started writing more on the serious tip around 1986. When I was younger, in like sixth grade, I remember seeing all these black books being passed around in school. I didn’t know what that was, but for some reason everyone wanted to write the name SAINT and they’d pass the black books with markers around during lunch period. I think I started writing MORE and at the same time seeing the world of hip-hop with breakdancing, and within that graffiti was a big part. I started noticing crews like X-Men/UPS and people tagging and taking shoe polish with blackboard erasers to make your own markers”.

Becoming a skinhead and meeting other writers in the hardcore scene

Right around that same time in ’86 I was more into metal but then got into hardcore and became a skinhead and into Oi as well. In those days I remember DM ONE, 2SOON, IKE-1, they were all skins that wrote Graf and later on in 1988–89 I met HUSH and the SPORTS (Skins and Punks Out Rocking The System) crew. Everyone we hung out with wrote, and when I started going to Jackson Heights I met JERE, SYD and all the early DMS (Doc Marten Skins) guys that were also writers. I went away in ’89 for a couple of years and when I came back, everyone I hung out with had disappeared”.

2021 Criminal Class piece by TATU Paul (Oi! the Black Book)

Starting up Oxblood

“When I came back and started hanging out again, the same people from the past weren’t around anymore, met new people, found out some of them played instruments, I started up a band with the original name being The Allies with Mac singing and before we found our drummer Harry, Raybeez from Warzone drummed for us a little bit. Harry came around and at first, we changed the name to Oxblut with the u having those two-dots umlaut thing, but then then we just did it straight up Oxblood and started using the boots logo. I didn’t really meet any writers in the Oi scene as opposed to the hardcore scene in the past. It was segregated: you got Oi skinheads, then the ska thing was big. The only skins that I knew from the past were into graffiti, there were never any that I met in the Oi scene. For Oxblood I did basic record cover art, but the rest of the band didn’t want graffiti art – by then, all that stuff was just one thing for a different scene. I just started getting into tattooing and did more graffiti-styled tattoos”.

Connection between being a skinhead into graffiti and tattoos

“When I first started going to shows in ‘86/’87 it blended in more because all the kids I met at CBGB’s matinees did graffiti. I guess they were more from the streets, you had people hanging out in the city (Manhattan) that came from our neighbourhoods in Queens that were part of that graffiti world, so it all just blended in. I started tattooing in like 1993. SEEN was a big influence being a tattoo artist and Graffiti writer. After doing basic graf stuff like characters as tattoos I then came up with my own style. I worked in Manhattan for seven years, then I got my own shop out in Long Island. Suburban kids really liked that urban graffiti style, and I still do a lot of graf tattoos”.

Top 3 Writers and skinhead bands

“For Graffiti: REVS, COST, MIRAGE.

For Oi: Anti-Heroes, The Oppressed, Combat 84”.

São Paulo

THE FIRM hails from São Paulo, Brazil and is a Pixação practitioner/graffiti writer and a skinhead playing in Oi band Ruas. Pixação is the homegrown Brazilian version of urban calligraphy with highly stylized letters, originally derived from 1980s heavy metal covers, meant to reflect the huge socio-economic disparities in that city/country. Here’s him talking about his origins:

“I’m 41 years old, I come from the ABC Paulista region, from São Paulo, Brazil. My first contact with Pixação was in the 90s in the city of Mauá, ABC, Brazil. Graffiti and stencil for about eight years, but Pixação since I was 13 years old. I make ‘Insanos’ and the main influence was the graffiti from LIXOMANIA (Sao Paolo writer).

Skinheads and graffiti

“I’ve been skinhead for over 20 years. I come from punk gangs in the ABC Paulista, Brazil (more specifically the Punks Carniça ABC gang, in the 90s) and among the gang there were members who did Pixacao and Graffiti. I identified myself as a skinhead in the early 00s, and I had a skinhead brother called Pózinho (RIP) who was involved with Pixação and graffiti, but in Brazil the Graffiti culture was not very common in the skinhead movement”.

His tags and how each style complement one another

“Three tags: THE FIRM, LXSH or RUAS. I usually do it on the streets, with my band and with bands that I simply like, or I leave a THE FIRM or a simple Oi on the walls or places where I pass. Street culture: marginal, complete and complement each other, it is a form of expression and feeling of being excluded by society.

Top 3 writers and skinhead bands

Top 3 graffiti/ Pixação for me is: LIXOMANIA (São Paulo), REIS Crew (Lisboa), OS GEMEOS (São Paulo).

Top 3 skinhead band for me: 4 Skins (London), The Templars (New York), Ultimo Asalto (Catalunya)”.

OAKS and John Lopez (SFA), 1985

OAKS FCS (Fist City Skins) is a NYC native that got into both subcultures during the early 1980s, moved to Hawaii and became a prominent member of that state’s skinhead scene in the 1990s, all the while maintaining his graffiti roots. Here’s him talking about his start in both scenes:

“It all started at Martin Van Buren HS in Queens Village, the year was 1983. My best friend Ed (ZEFO) and I had grown up seeing Graffiti all over our school and hood, so we started trying to write. We were both way more into hand style than actual bombing or doing pieces. ZEFO had linked up with the writer by the name of BIZZER – he was so helpful and patient with us. He gave us two alphabets to practice, and that’s all we did! He is the definite father to my style and ZEFO’s style. I discovered skinhead culture in late 1984, after seeing Agnostic Front at CBGB’s. I was actually chased away from CBGB’s by a skinhead girl right after the show – I was a metal head with long hair… Me and Johnny Lopez (SFA, GO!) went right home and shaved our heads! The only other skinhead that I knew at that time that wrote was my bro ZEFO”.

Graffiti and skinhead crews

“My graf crew is NTC (Nite Time Crime) started in 1983, only OAKS and ZEFO remain. My crew of skinhead brothers is called FCS (Fist City Skins) which was born from the ashes of HARSH (Hawaii Anti-Racist Skinheads). We remain active to this day”.

Being in the Cro-Mags 1986 video and doing art for bands

“The shot of me in the ‘We Gotta Know’ video actually came from the filming of ‘The Beat’ also known as Vorhaus. The Cro-Mags were in a scene filmed at the old Ritz, all the NY skins were there. I had the bands logo on my jacket, and Parris loved it and filmed me. It made it into the video! The only band that I ever did some art for was a Wisdom in Chains shirt design with my writing on! I was honoured!”

Hawaii skinhead scene

“The skinhead scene in Waikiki in the late 80’s was insane! There were about 12–15 die-hard skins fighting cops, locals, military boneheads, gangs… It was so crazy, it’s a miracle that most of us made it out alive. The graffiti scene that I saw there, back then, was mostly at skate spots like pools, ditches. I don’t remember seeing any taggers back then, too touristy!”

Top 3 writers and skinhead bands

Writers: 1) SAINT 2) FIB 3) ZEKE

Bands: 1) The 4-Skins 2) The Business 3) Crown Court


This is but a small sampling – there are plenty more bald-headed boots and braces vandals running around worldwide putting their names up wherever they see fit. Thank you to all the writers that answered my questions!

Freddy Alva is a New Yorker by way of Peru. He’s written Urban Styles: Graffiti in NYHC and is currently working on a book chronicling the ABC No Rio hardcore matinees. He enjoys playing speed chess in his spare time. Click here to visit his website.

Featured image top of article: Core 2

Skins & punks wall by The Firm

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