Monday, March 25, 2013
Dressing and messing at the match and more proclaims the cover. Once you start reading you realise there is more, a lot more.
Northern Monkeys isn't just a book on football hooliganism, heaven knows there are more than enough of those already filling bookshelves, nor is it a book on football culture alone, it's more of a history on youth culture, growing up with an identity defined by circumstance, clothes and music as much as football itself.
The emergence in the early eighties of the casual or dresser scene up north after some European 'shopping' trips is at the core of the book but the likes of Teddy Boys, Skins and Suedeheads, the Northern Soul boys, Scooter Boys, Punks, are all in here as they've all played a part in molding a generation of young tearaways. These aren't just the authors recollections of them either, there are detailed heart warming and often humorous accounts from lads that not only talked the talk but walked the walk and with swagger too.
There are wonderful stories of entrepreneurs arriving in Liverpool docks with holdalls full of exciting sportswear, stories of lads attending all nighters at Northern Soul venues with a bag full of spare clothes to change into midway through a nights dancing. Then of course are the tales of working class lads (Scally's from Liverpool and Perry Boys from Manchester) acquiring Adidas trainers and the like by hook and by crook, whilst on the other hand we have chronicles from two gentleman of their time back in the day with both JD Sports and Adidas themselves. It soon becomes apparent this wasn't just a fad, it was a movement, a way of life, and there was some serious money to be made in the process.
I flirted with the casual look as a teenager until I bought a motorbike. Then the appeal of leather denim and loud heavy metal music shaped my late teens and early twenties to a point where I even forgot about football for a while. I became a member of a motorcycle gang and did my dressing and messing in pastures new. It was still the same feeling though, we had a look, an identity, governed by clothes, music and bikes, it's just that bikers as a rule don't tend to 'do' football. Our motto to those on the outside that didn't 'get us' was "If I had to explain you wouldn't understand". It's much the same as any youth movement. I've a scooter now, a much better dress sense and my love of the beautiful game back.
Kids today (I think I'm old enough now to get away with starting a sentence like that) don't seem to have that identity. Whether it's the electronic age, the lack of new British genres of rebellious music or just the desire to be as American as possible, I don't really know. I do however see young lads at the match looking good and even wearing some of the Italian sportswear brands that were huge thirty years ago. I can't say however if they have or want that one-upmanship over their rivals but it always cheers me to see young lads wanting to look good. The book even finishes with a couple of explanations from two youngsters (one norvern, one cockney) as to where they believe the scene is nowadays.
The sixties, seventies and eighties were the greatest time to grow up, whether it was in London's suburbs or the heart of Preston. Some things were universal to both areas as in reading this book I discovered it wasn't just at my school that you asked kids if they were a punk or a mod, punching them if they answered incorrectly!
Buy yourself a copy and relive a time when everything in your world seemed a matter of life and death but was of course in hindsight so much simpler.