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The White Negro (Fall 1957)

Norman Mailer’s inflammatory 1957 essay on the original “hipsters.”Norman Mailer June 20, 2007

Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin conceding defeat after Mailer’s 1969 mayoral campaign. Photo © Mitchell Cohen (all rights reserved).
Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin conceding defeat after Mailer’s 1969 mayoral campaign. Photo © Mitchell Cohen (all rights reserved).

Norman Mailer ran in the Democratic primaries for mayor of New York City in 1969 with journalist Jimmy Breslin as his running mate (Breslin sought the nomination for President of the City Council). Their program called for New York City to secede from the state of New York. Political power was to devolve to the city’s neighborhoods. The Mailer-Breslin slogan was “The Other Guys are the Joke.” Dissent published many of Mailer’s controversial articles, including “The White Negro” (Fall 1957), which is reprinted below, and Mailer served on Dissent’s editorial board for more than three decades. The photograph above was taken by a seventeen-year-old campaign worker who had then never heard of Dissent, Mitchell Cohen, who now co-edits the magazine. Mailer died November 10th at the age of 84.

The White Negro

Superficial Reflections on the Hipster

Our search for the rebels of the generation led us to the hipster. The hipster is an enfant terrible turned inside out. In character with his time, he is trying to get back at the conformists by lying low. . . . You can’t interview a hipster because his main goal is to keep out of a society which, he thinks, trying to make everyone over in its own image. He takes marijuana because it supplies him with experiences that can’t be shared with “squares.” He may affect a broad-brimmed hat or a zoot suit, but usually he prefers to skulk unmarked. The hipster may be a jazz musician; he is rarely an artist, almost never a writer. He may earn his living as a petty criminal, a hobo, a carnival roustabout or a free-lance moving man in Greenwich Village, but some hipsters have found a safe refuge in the upper income brackets as television comics or movie actors. (The late James Dean, for one, was a hipster hero.) . . . it is tempting to describe the hipster in psychiatric terms as infantile, but the style of his infantilism is a sign of the times, he does not try to enforce his will on others, Napoleon-fashion, but contents himself with a magical omnipotence never disproved because never tested. . . . As the only extreme nonconformist of his generation, he exercises a powerful if underground appeal for conformists, through newspaper accounts of his delinquencies, his structureless jazz, and his emotive grunt words.—“Born 1930: The Unlost Generation” by Caroline Bird, Harper’s Bazaar, Feb. 1957

american Hipsters 1950’s

Probably, we will never be able to determine the psychic havoc of the concentration camps and the atom bomb upon the unconscious mind of almost everyone alive in these years. For the first time in civilized history, perhaps for the first time in all of history, we have been forced to live with the suppressed knowledge that the smallest facets of our personality or the most minor projection of our ideas, or indeed the absence of ideas and the absence of personality could mean equally well that we might still be doomed to die as a cipher in some vast statistical operation in which our teeth would be counted, and our hair would be saved, but our death itself would be unknown, unhonored, and unremarked, a death which could not follow with dignity as a possible consequence to serious actions we had chosen, but rather a death by deus ex machina in a gas chamber or a radioactive city; and so if in the midst of civilization—that civilization founded upon the Faustian urge to dominate nature by mastering time, mastering the links of social cause and effect—in the middle of an economic civilization founded upon the confidence that time could indeed be subjected to our will, our psyche was subjected itself to the intolerable anxiety that death being causeless, life was causeless as well, and time deprived of cause and effect had come to a stop.

The Second World War presented a mirror to the human condition which blinded anyone who looked into it. For if tens of millions were killed in concentration camps out of the inexorable agonies and contractions of super-states founded upon the always insoluble contradictions of injustice, one was then obliged also to see that no matter how crippled and perverted an image of man was the society he had created, it wits nonetheless his creation, his collective creation (at least his collective creation from the past) and if society was so murderous, then who could ignore the most hideous of questions about his own nature?

Worse. One could hardly maintain the courage to be individual, to speak with one’s own voice, for the years in which one could complacently accept oneself as part of an elite by being a radical were forever gone. A. man knew that when he dissented, he gave a note upon his life which could be called in any year of overt crisis. No wonder then that these have been the years of conformity and depression. A stench of fear has come out of every pore of American life, and we suffer from a collective failure of nerve. The only courage, with rare exceptions, that we have been witness to, has been the isolated courage of isolated people.

It is on this bleak scene that a phenomenon has appeared: the American existentialist—the hipster, the man who knows that if our collective condition is to live with instant death by atomic war, relatively quick death by the State as l’univers concentrationnaire, or with a slow death by conformity with every creative and rebellious instinct stifled (at what damage to the mind and the heart and the liver and the nerves no research foundation for cancer will discover in a hurry) , if the fate of twentieth century man is to live with death from adolescence to premature senescence, why then the only life-giving answer is to accept the terms of death, to live with death as immediate danger, to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self. In short, whether the life is criminal or not, the decision is to encourage the psychopath in oneself, to explore that domain of experience where security is boredom and therefore sickness, and one exists in the present, in that enormous present which is without past or future, memory or planned intention, the life where a man must go until he is beat, where he must gamble with his energies through all those small or large crises of courage and unforeseen situations which beset his day, where he must be with it or doomed not to swing. The unstated essence of Hip, its psychopathic brilliance, quivers with the knowledge that new kinds of victories increase one’s power for new kinds of perception; and defeats, the wrong kind of defeats, attack the body and imprison one’s energy until one is jailed in the prison air of other people’s habits, other people’s defeats, boredom, quiet desperation, and muted icy self-destroying rage. One is Hip or one is Square (the alternative which each new generation coming into American life is beginning to feel) one is a rebel or one conforms, one is a frontiersman in the Wild West of American night life, or else a Square cell, trapped in the totalitarian tissues of American society, doomed willy-nilly to conform if one is to succeed.

Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong signs autographs in the Blue Note nightclub in Chicago in 1948.

A totalitarian society makes enormous demands on the courage of men, and a partially totalitarian society makes even greater demands for the general anxiety is greater. Indeed if one is to be a man, almost any kind of unconventional action often takes disproportionate courage. So it is no accident that the source of Hip is the Negro for he has been living on the margin between totalitarianism and democracy for two centuries. But the presence of Hip as a working philosophy in the sub-worlds of American life is probably due to jazz, and its knife-like entrance into culture, its subtle but so penetrating influence on an avant-garde generation—that post-war generation of adventurers who (some consciously, some by osmosis) had absorbed the lessons of disillusionment and disgust of the Twenties, the Depression, and the War. Sharing a collective disbelief in the words of men who had too much money and controlled too many things, they knew almost as powerful a disbelief in the socially monolithic ideas of the single mate, the solid family and the respectable love life. If the intellectual antecedents of this generation can be traced to such separate influences as D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and Wilhelm Reich, the viable philosophy of Hemingway fits most of their facts: in a bad world, as he was to say over and over again (while taking time out from his parvenu snobbery and dedicated gourmandise), in a bad world there is no love nor mercy nor charity nor justice unless a man can keep his courage, and this indeed fitted some of the facts. What fitted the need of the adventurer even more precisely was Hemingway’s categorical imperative that what made him feel good became therefore The Good.

So no wonder that in certain cities of America, in New York of course, and New Orleans, in Chicago and San Francisco and Los Angeles, in such American cities as Paris and Mexico, D.F., this particular part of a generation was attracted to what the Negro had to offer. In such places as Greenwich Village, a ménage-à-trois was completed—the bohemian and the juvenile delinquent came face-to-face with the Negro, and the hipster was a fact in American life. If marijuana was the wedding ring, the child was the language of Hip for its argot gave expression to abstract states of feeling which all could share, at least all who were Hip. And in this wedding of the white and the black it was the Negro who brought the cultural dowry. Any Negro who wishes to live must live with danger from his first day, and no experience can ever be casual to him, no Negro can saunter down a street with any real certainty that violence will not visit him on his walk. The cameos of security for the average white: mother and the home, lob and the family, are not even a mockery to millions of Negroes; they are impossible. The Negro has the simplest of alternatives: live a life of constant humility or ever-threatening danger. In such a pass where paranoia is as vital to survival as blood, the Negro had stayed alive and begun to grow by following the need of his body where he could. Knowing in the cells of his existence that life was war, nothing but war, the Negro (all exceptions admitted) could rarely afford the sophisticated inhibitions of civilization, and so he kept for his survival the art of the primitive, he lived in the enormous present, he subsisted for his Saturday night kicks, relinquishing the pleasures of the mind for the more obligatory pleasures of the body, and in his music he gave voice to the character and quality of his existence, to his rage and the infinite variations of joy, lust, languor, growl, cramp, pinch, scream and despair of his orgasm. For jazz is orgasm, it is the music of orgasm, good orgasm and bad, and so it spoke across a nation, it had the communication of art even where it was watered, perverted, corrupted, and almost killed, it spoke in no matter what laundered popular way of instantaneous existential states to which some whites could respond, it was indeed a communication by art because it said, “I feel this, and now you do too.”

So there was a new breed of adventurers, urban adventurers who drifted out at night looking for action with a black man’s code to fit their facts. The hipster had absorbed the existentialist synapses of the Negro, and for practical purposes could be considered a white Negro.

To be an existentialist, one must be able to feel oneself—one must know one’s desires, one’s rages, one’s anguish, one must be aware of the character of one’s frustration and know what would satisfy it. The over-civilized man can be an existentialist only if it is chic, and deserts it quickly for the next chic. To be a real existentialist (Sartre admittedly to the contrary) one must be religious, one must have one’s sense of the “purpose”—whatever the purpose may be—but a life which is directed by one’s faith in the necessity of action is a life committed to the notion that the substratum of existence is the search, the end meaningful but mysterious; it is impossible to live such a life unless one’s emotions provide their profound conviction. Only the French, alienated beyond alienation from their unconscious could welcome an existential philosophy without ever feeling it at all; indeed only a Frenchman by declaring that the unconscious did not exist could then proceed to explore the delicate involutions of consciousness, the microscopically sensuous and all but ineffable frissons of mental becoming, in order finally to create the theology of atheism and so submit that in a world of absurdities the existential absurdity is most coherent.

Beatnik Bongos

In the dialogue between the atheist and the mystic, the atheist is on the side of life, rational life, undialectical life—since he conceives of death as emptiness, he can, no matter how weary or despairing, wish for nothing but more life; his pride is that he does not transpose his weakness and spiritual fatigue into a romantic longing for death, for such appreciation of death is then all too capable of being elaborated by his imagination into a universe of meaningful structure and moral orchestration.

Yet this masculine argument can mean very little for the mystic. The mystic can accept the atheist’s description of his weakness, he can agree that his mysticism was a response to despair. And yet . . . and yet his argument is that he, the mystic, is the one finally who has chosen to live with death, and so death is his experience and not the atheist’s, and the atheist by eschewing the limitless dimensions of profound despair has rendered himself incapable to judge the experience. The real argument which the mystic must always advance is the very intensity of his private vision—his argument depends from the vision precisely because what was felt in the vision is so extraordinary that no rational argument, no hypotheses of ‘oceanic feelings” and certainly no skeptical reductions can explain away what has become for him the reality more real than the reality of closely reasoned logic. His inner experience of the possibilities within death is his logic. So, too, for the existentialist. And the psychopath. And the saint and the bullfighter and the lover. The common denominator for all of them is their burning consciousness of the present, exactly that incandescent consciousness which the possibilities within death has opened for them. There is a depth of desperation to the condition which enables one to remain in life only by engaging death, but the reward is their knowledge that what is happening at each instant of the electric present is good or bad for them, good or bad for their cause, their love, their action, their need.

It is this knowledge which provides the curious community of feeling in the world of the hipster, a muted cool religious revival to be sure, but the element which is exciting, disturbing, nightmarish perhaps, is that incompatibles have come to bed, the inner life and the violent life, the orgy and the dream of love, the desire to murder and the desire to create, a dialectical conception of existence with a lust for power, a dark, romantic, and yet undeniably dynamic view of existence for it sees every man and woman as moving individually through each moment of life forward into growth or backward into death.

It may be fruitful to consider the hipster a philosophical psychopath, a man interested not only in the dangerous imperatives of his psychopathy but in codifying, at least for himself, the suppositions on which his inner universe is constructed. By this premise the hipster is a psychopath, and yet not a psychopath but the negation of the psychopath for he possesses the narcissistic detachment of the philosopher, that absorption in the recessive nuances of one’s own motive which is so alien to the unreasoning drive of the psychopath. In this country where new millions of psychopaths are developed each year, stamped with the mint of our contradictory popular culture (where sex is sin and yet sex is paradise), it is as if there has been room already for the development of the antithetical psychopath who extrapolates from his own condition, from the inner certainty that his rebellion is just, a radical vision of the universe which thus separates him from the general ignorance, reactionary prejudice, and self-doubt of the more conventional psychopath. Having converted his unconscious experience into much conscious knowledge, the hipster has shifted the focus of his desire from immediate gratification toward that wider passion for future power which is the mark of civilized man. Yet with an irreducible difference. For Hip is the sophistication of the wise primitive in a giant jungle, and so its appeal is still beyond the civilized man. If there are ten million Americans who are more or less psychopathic (and the figure is most modest) there are probably not more than one hundred thousand men and women who consciously see themselves as hipsters, but their importance is that they are an elite with the potential ruthlessness of an elite, and a language most adolescents can understand instinctively for the hipster’s intense view of existence matches their experience and their desire to rebel.

Before one can say more about the hipster, there is obviously much to be said about the psychic state of the psychopath—or, clinically, the psychopathic personality. Now, for reasons which may be more curious than the similarity of the words, even many people with a psychoanalytical orientation often confuse the psychopath with the psychotic. Yet the terms are polar. The psychotic is legally insane, the psychopath is not; the psychotic is almost always incapable of discharging in physical acts the rage of his frustration, while the psychopath at his extreme is virtually as incapable of restraining his violence. The psychotic lives in so misty a world that what is happening at each moment of his life is not very real to him whereas the psychopath seldom knows any reality greater than the face, the voice, the being of the particular people among whom he may find himself at any moment. Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck describe him as follows:

The psychopath . . . can be distinguished from the person sliding into or clambering out of a true psychotic state by the long tough persistence of his anti-social attitude and behaviour and the absence of hallucinations, delusions, manic flight of ideas, confusion, disorientation, and other dramatic signs of psychosis.

The late Robert Lindner, one of the few experts on the subject, in his book Rebel Without A Cause—The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath presented part of his definition in this way:

. . . the psychopath is a rebel without a cause, an agitator without a slogan, a revolutionary without a program: in other words, his rebelliousness is aimed to achieve goals satisfactory to himself alone; lie is incapable of exertions for the sake of others. All his efforts, hidden under no matter what disguise, represent investments designed to satisfy his immediate wishes and desires
. . . The psychopath, like the child, cannot delay the pleasures of gratification; and tins trait is one of his underlying, universal characteristics. He cannot wait upon erotic gratification which convention demands should be preceded by the chase before the kill: he must rape. He cannot wait upon the development of prestige in society: his egoistic ambitions lead him to leap into headlines by daring performances. Like a red thread the predominance of this mechanism for immediate satisfaction runs through the history of every psychopath. It explains not only his behavior but also the violent nature of his acts.

Yet even Lindner who was the most imaginative and most sympathetic of the psychoanalysts who have studied the psychopathic personality was not ready to project himself into the essential sympathy— which is that the psychopath may indeed be the perverted and dangerous front-runner of a new kind of personality which could become the central expression of human nature before the twentieth century is over. For the psychopath is better adapted to dominate those mutually contradictory inhibitions upon violence and love which civilization has exacted of us, and if it be remembered that not every psychopath is an extreme case, and that the condition of psychopathy is present in a host of people including many politicians, professional soldiers, newspaper columnists, entertainers, artists, jazz musicians, call-girls, promiscuous homosexuals and half the executives of Hollywood, television, and advertising, it can be seen that there are aspects of psychopathy which already exert considerable cultural influence.

What characterizes almost every psychopath and part-psychopath is that they are trying to create a new nervous system for themselves. Generally we are obliged to act with a nervous system which has been formed from infancy, and which carries in the style of its circuits the very contradictions of our parents and our early milieu. Therefore, we are obliged, most of us, to meet the tempo of the present and the future with reflexes and rhythms which come from the past. It is not only the “dead weight of the institutions of the past” but indeed the inefficient and often antiquated nervous circuits of the past which strangle our potentiality for responding to new possibilities which might be exciting for our individual growth.

Through most of modern history, “sublimation” was possible: at the expense of expressing only a small portion of oneself, that small portion could be expressed intensely. But sublimation depends on a reasonable tempo to history. If the collective life of a generation has moved too quickly, the “past” by which particular men and women of that generation may function is not, let us say, thirty years old, but relatively a hundred or two hundred years old. And so the nervous system is overstressed beyond the possibility of such compromises as sublimation, especially since the stable middle-class values so prerequisite to sublimation have been virtually destroyed in our time, at least as nourishing values free of confusion or doubt. In such a crisis of accelerated historical tempo and deteriorated values, neurosis tends to be replaced by psychopathy, and the success of psychoanalysis (which even ten years ago gave promise of becoming a direct major force) diminishes because of its inbuilt and characteristic incapacity to handle patients more complex, more experienced, or more adventurous than the analyst himself. In practice, psychoanalysis has by now become all too often no more than a psychic blood-letting. The patient is not so much changed as aged, and the infantile fantasies which he is encouraged to express are condemned to exhaust themselves against the analyst’s non-responsive reactions. The result for all too many patients is a diminution, a “tranquilizing” of their most interesting qualities and vices. The patient is indeed not so much altered as worn out—less bad, less good, less bright, less willful, less destructive, less creative. He is thus able to conform to that contradictory and unbearable society which first created his neurosis. He can conform to what he loathes because he no longer has the passion to feel loathing so intensely.

The psychopath is notoriously difficult to analyze because the fundamental decision of his nature is to try to live the infantile fantasy, and in this decision (given the dreary alternative of psychoanalysis) there may be a certain instinctive wisdom. For there is a dialectic to changing one’s nature, the dialectic which underlies all psychoanalytic method: it is the knowledge that if one is to change one’s habits, one must go back to the source of their creation, and so the psychopath exploring backward along the road of the homosexual, the orgiast, the drug-addict, the rapist, the robber and the murderer seeks to find those violent parallels to the violent and often hopeless contradictions he knew as an infant and as a child. For if he has the courage to meet the parallel situation at the moment when he is ready, then he has a chance to act as he has never acted before, and in satisfying the frustration—if he can succeed—he may then pass by symbolic substitute through the locks of incest. In thus giving expression to the buried infant in himself, he can lessen the tension of those infantile desires and so free himself to remake a bit of his nervous system. Like the neurotic he is looking for the opportunity to grow up a second time, but the psychopath knows
instinctively that to express a forbidden impulse actively is far more beneficial to him than merely to confess the desire in the safety of a doctor’s room. The psychopath is ordinately ambitious, too ambitious ever to trade his warped brilliant conception of his possible victories in life for the grim if peaceful attrition of the analyst’s couch. So his associational journey into the past is lived out in the theatre of the present, and he exists for those charged situations where his senses are so alive that he can be aware actively (as the analysand is aware passively) of what his habits are, and how he can change them. The strength of the psychopath is that he knows (where most of us can only guess) what is good for him and what is bad for him at exactly those instants when an old crippling habit has become so attacked by experience that the potentiality exists to change it, to replace a negative and empty fear with an outward action, even if—and here I obey the logic of the extreme psychopath—even if the fear is of himself, and the action is to murder. The psychopath murders—if he has the courage—out of the necessity to purge his violence, for if he cannot empty his hatred then he cannot love, his being is frozen with implacable self-hatred for his cowardice. (It can of course be suggested that it takes little courage for two strong eighteen-year old hoodlums, let us say, to beat in the brains of a candy-store keeper, and indeed the act—even by the logic of the psychopath—is not likely to prove very therapeutic for the victim is not an immediate equal. Still, courage of a sort is necessary, for one murders not only a weak fifty-year old man but an institution as well, one violates private property, one enters into a new relation with the police and introduces a dangerous element into one’s life. The hoodlum is therefore daring the unknown, and so no matter how brutal the act it is not altogether cowardly)

At bottom, the drama of the psychopath is that he seeks love. Not love as the search for a mate, but love as the search for an orgasm more apocalyptic than the one which preceded it. Orgasm is his therapy— he knows at the seed of his being that good orgasm opens his possibilities and bad orgasm imprisons him. But in this search, the psychopath becomes an embodiment of the extreme contradictions of the society which formed his character, and the apocalyptic orgasm often remains as remote as the Holy Grail, for there are clusters and nests and ambushes of violence in his own necessities and in the imperatives and retaliations of the men and women among whom he lives his life, so that even as he drains his hatred in one act or another, so the conditions of his life create it anew in him until the drama of his movements bears a sardonic resemblance to the frog who climbed a few feet in the well only to drop back again.

Yet there is this to be said for the search after the good orgasm: when one lives in a civilized world, and still can enjoy none of the cultural nectar of such a world because the paradoxes on which civilization is built demands that there remain a cultureless and alienated bottom of exploitable human material, then the logic of becoming a sexual outlaw (if one’s psychological roots are bedded in the bottom)
is that one has at least a running competitive chance to be physically healthy so long as one stays alive. It is therefore no accident that psychopathy is most prevalent with the Negro. Hated from outside and therefore hating himself, the Negro was forced into the position of exploring all those moral wildernesses of civilized life which the Square automatically condemns as delinquent or evil or immature or morbid or self-destructive or corrupt. (Actually the terms have equal weight. Depending on the telescope of the cultural clique from which the Square surveys the universe, “evil” or “immature” are equally strong terms of condemnation.) But the Negro, not being privileged to gratify his self-esteem with the heady satisfactions of categorical condemnation, chose to move instead in that other direction where all situations are equally valid, and in the worst of perversion, promiscuity, pimpery, drug addiction, rape, razor-slash, bottle-break, what-have-you, the Negro discovered and elaborated a morality of the bottom, an ethical differentiation between the good and the bad in every human activity from the go-getter pimp (as opposed to the lazy one) to the relatively dependable pusher or prostitute. Add to this, the cunning of their language, the abstract ambiguous alternatives in which from the danger of their oppression they learned to speak (“Well. now, man, like I’m looking for a cat to turn me on ..“), add even more the profound sensitivity of the Negro jazzman who was the cultural mentor of a people, and it is not too difficult to believe that the language of Hip which evolved was an artful language, tested and shaped by an intense experience and therefore different in kind from white slang, as different as the special obscenity of the soldier which in its emphasis upon “ass” as the soul and “shit” as circumstance, was able to express the existential states of the enlisted man. What makes Hip a special language is that it cannot really be taught—if one shares none of the experiences of elation and exhaustion which it is equipped to describe, then it seems merely arch or vulgar or irritating. It is a pictorial language, but pictorial like non-objective art, imbued with the dialectic of small but intense change, a language for the microcosm, in this case, man, for it takes the immediate experiences of any passing man and magnifies the dynamic of his movements, not specifically but abstractly so that he is seen more as a vector in a network of forces than as a static character in a crystallized field. (Which, latter, is the practical view of the snob.) For example, there is real difficulty in trying to find a Hip substitute for “stubborn.” The best possibility I can come up with is: “That cat will never come off his groove, dad.” But groove implies movement, narrow movement but motion nonetheless. There is really no way to describe someone who does not move at all. Even a creep does move—if at a pace exasperatingly more slow than the pace of the cool cats.

Like children, hipsters are fighting for the sweet, and their language is a set of subtle indications of their success or failure in the competition for pleasure. Unstated but obvious is the social sense that there is not nearly enough sweet for everyone. And so the sweet goes only to the victor, the best, the most, the man who knows the most about how to find his energy and how not to lose it. The emphasis is on energy because the psychopath and the hipster are nothing without it since they do not have the protection of a position or a class to rely on when they have overextended themselves. So the language of Hip is a language of energy, how it is found, how it is lost.

But let us see. I have jotted down perhaps a dozen words, the Hip perhaps most in use and most likely to last with the minimum of variation. The words are man, go, put down, make, beat, cool, swing, with it, crazy, dig, flip, creep, hip, square. They serve a variety of purposes, and the nuance of the voice uses the nuance of the situation to convey the subtle contextual difference. If the hipster moves through his night and through his life on a constant search with glimpses of Mecca in many a turn of his experience (Mecca being the apocalyptic orgasm) and if everyone in the civilized world is at least in some small degree a sexual cripple the hipster lives with the knowledge of how lie is sexually crippled and where he is sexually alive, and the faces of experience which life presents to him each day are engaged, dismissed or avoided as his need directs and his lifemanship makes possible. For life is a contest between people in which the victor generally recuperates quickly and the loser takes long to mend, a perpetual competition of colliding explorers in which one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same, (pay in sickness, or depression, or anguish for the lost opportunity) but pay or grow.

Therefore one finds words like go, and make it, and with it, and swing: “Go” with its sense that after hours or days or months. or years of monotony, boredom, and depression one has finally had one’s chance, one has amassed enough energy to meet an exciting opportunity with all one’s present talents for the flip (up or down) and so one is ready to go, ready to gamble. Movement is always to be preferred to inaction. In motion a man has a chance, his body is warm, his instincts are quick, and when the crisis comes, whether of love or violence, he can make it, he can win, he can release a little more energy for himself since he hates himself a little less, he can make a little better nervous systern, make it a little more possible to go again, to go faster next time and so make more and thus find more people with whom he can swing. For to swing is to communicate, is to convey the rhythms of one’s own being to a lover, a friend, or an audience, and—equally necessary— be able to feel the rhythms of their response. To swing with the rhythms of another is to enrich oneself— the conception of the learning process as dug by Hip is that one cannot really learn until one contains within oneself the implicit rhythm of the subject or the person. As an example, I remember once hearing a Negro friend have an intellectual discussion at a party for half an hour with a white girl who was a few years out of college. The Negro literally could not read or write, but he had an extraordinary ear and a fine sense of mimicry. So as the girl spoke, he would detect the particular formal uncertainties in her argument, and in a pleasant (if slightly Southern) English accent, he would respond to one or another facet of her doubts. When she would finish what she felt was a particularly well-articulated idea, he would smile privately and say, “other-direction . . . do you really believe in that?”

“Well . . . No,” the girl would stammer, “now that you get down to it, there is something disgusting about it to me,” and she would be off again for five more minutes.

Of course the Negro was not learning anything about the merits and demerits of the argument, hut he was learning a great deal about a type of girl he had never met before, and that was what he wanted. Being unable to read or write, he could hardly be interested in ideas nearly as much as in lifemanship, and so he eschewed any attempt to obey the precision or lack of precision in the girl’s language, and instead sensed her character (and the values of her social type) by swinging with the nuances of her voice.

So to swing is to be able to learn, and by learning take a step toward making it, toward creating. What is to be created is not nearly so important as the hipster’s belief that when he really makes it, he will be able to turn his hand to anything, even to self-discipline. What he must do before that is find his courage at the moment of violence, or equally make it in the act of love, find a little more of himself, create a little more between his woman and himself, or indeed between his mate and himself (since many hipsters are bisexual), but paramount, imperative, is the necessity to make it because in making it, one is making the new habit, unearthing the new talent which the old frustration denied.

Whereas if you goof (the ugliest word in Hip), if you lapse back into being a frightened stupid child, or if you flip, if you lose your control, reveal the buried weaker more feminine part of your nature, then it is more difficult to swing the next time, your ear is less alive, your bad and energy-wasting habits are further confirmed, you are farther away from being with it. But to be with it is to have grace, is to be closer to the secrets of that inner unconscious life which will nourish you if you can hear it, for you are then nearer to that God which every hipster believes is located in the senses of his body, that trapped, mutilated and nonetheless megalomaniacal God who is It, who is energy, life, sex, force, the Yoga’s prana, the Reichian’s orgone, Lawrence’s “blood,” Hemingway’s “good,” the Shavian life-force; “It”; God; not the God of the churches hut the unachievable whisper of mystery within the sex, the paradise of limitless energy and perception just beyond the next wave of the next orgasm.

To which a cool cat might reply, “Crazy, man!”

Because, after all, what I have offered above is an hypothesis, no more, and there is not the hipster alive who is not absorbed in his own tumultuous hypotheses. Mine is interesting, mine is way out (on the avenue of the mystery along the road to “It”) but still I am just one cat in a world of cool cats, and everything interesting is crazy, or at least so the Squares who do not know how to swing would say.

(And yet crazy is also the self-protective irony of the hipster. Living with questions and not with answers, he is so different in his isolation and in the far reach of his imagination from almost everyone with whom he deals in the outer world of the Square, and meets generally so much enmity, competition, and hatred in the world of Hip, that his isolation is always in danger of turning upon itself, and leaving him indeed just that, crazy.)

If, however, yon agree with my hypothesis, if you as a cat are way out too, and we are in the same groove (the universe now being glimpsed as a series of ever-extending radii from the center) why then you say simply, “I dig,” because neither knowledge nor imagination comes easily, it is buried in the pain of one’s forgotten experience, and so one must work to find it, one must occasionally exhaust oneself by digging into the self in order to perceive the outside. And indeed it is essential to dig the most, for if you do not dig you lose your superiority over the Square, and so you are less likely to be cool (to be in control of a situation because you have swung where the Square has not, or because you have allowed to come to consciousness a pain, a guilt, a shame or a desire which the other has not had the courage to face) . To be cool is to be equipped, and if you are equipped it is more difficult for the next cat who comes along to put you down. And of course one can hardly afford to be put down too often, or one is beat, one has lost one’s confidence, one has lost one’s will, one is impotent in the world of action and so closer to the demeaning flip of becoming a queer, or indeed closer to dying, and therefore it is even more difficult to recover enough energy to try to make it again, because once a cat is beat he has nothing to give, and no one is interested any longer in making it with him. This is the terror of the hipster—to be beat— because once the sweet of sex has deserted him, he still cannot give up the search. It is not granted to the hipster to grow old gracefully—he has been captured too early by the oldest dream of power, the gold fountain of Ponce de Leon, the fountain of youth where the gold is in the orgasm.

To be beat is therefore a flip, it is a situation beyond one’s experience, impossible to anticipate—which indeed in the circular vocabulary of Hip is still another meaning for flip, but then I have given just a few of the connotations of these words. Like most primitive vocabularies each word is a prime symbol and serves a dozen or a hundred functions of communication in the instinctive dialectic through which the hipster perceives his experience, that dialectic of the instantaneous differentials of existence in which one is forever moving forward into more or retreating into less.

It is impossible to conceive a new philosophy until one creates a new language, but a new popular language (while it must implicitly contain a new philosophy) does not necessarily present its philosophy overtly. It can be asked then what really is unique in the life-view of Hip which raises its argot above the passing verbal whimsies of the bohemian or the lumpenproletariat.

The answer would be in the psychopathic element of Hip which has almost no interest in viewing human nature, or better, in judging human nature from a set of standards conceived a priori to the experience, standards inherited from the past. Since Hip sees every answer as posing immediately a new alternative, a new question, its emphasis is on complexity rather than simplicity (such complexity that its language without the illumination of the voice and the articulation of the face and body remains hopelessly incommunicative). Given its emphasis on complexity, Hip abdicates from any conventional moral responsibility because it would argue that the result of out actions are unforeseeable, and so we cannot know if we do good or bad, we cannot even know (in the Joycean sense of the good and the bad) whether unforeseeable, and so we cannot know if we do good or bad, we cannot be certain that we have given them energy, and indeed if we could, there would still be no idea of what ultimately they would do with it.

Therefore, men are not seen as good or bad (that they are good-and-bad is taken for granted) but rather each man is glimpsed as a collection of possibilities, some more possible than others (the view of character implicit in Hip) and some humans are considered more capable than others of reaching more possibilities within themselves in less time, provided, and this is the dynamic, provided the particular character can swing at the right time. And here arises the sense of context which differentiates Hip from a Square view of character. Hip sees the context as generally dominating the man, dominating him because his character is less significant than the context in which he must function. Since it is arbitrarily five times more demanding of one’s energy to accomplish even an inconsequential action in an unfavorable context than a favorable one, man is then not only his character but his context, since the success or failure of an action in a given context reacts upon the character and therefore affects what the character will be in the next context. What dominates both character and context is the energy available at the moment of intense context.

Character being thus seen as perpetually ambivalent and dynamic enters then into an absolute relativity where there are no truths other than the isolated truths of what each observer feels at each instant of his existence. To take a perhaps unjustified metaphysical extrapolation, it is as if the universe which has usually existed conceptually as a Fact (even if the Fact were Berkeley’s God) but a ract which it was the aim of all science and philosophy to reveal, becomes instead a changing reality whose laws are remade at each instant by everything living, but most particularly man, man raised to a neo-medieval summit where the truth is not what one has felt yesterday or what one expects to feel tomorrow but rather truth is no more nor less than what one feels at each instant in the perpetual climax of the present.

What is consequent therefore is the divorce of man from his values, the liberation of the self from the Super-Ego of society. The only Hip morality (but of course it is an ever-present morality) is to do what one feels whenever and wherever it is possible, and—this is how the war of the Hip and the Square begins—to be engaged in one primal battle: to open the limits of the possible for oneself, for oneself alone because that is one’s need. Yet in widening the arena of the possible, one widens it reciprocally for others as well, so that the nihilistic fulfillment of each man’s desire contains its antithesis of human cooperation.

If the ethic reduces to Know Thyself and Be Thyself, what makes it radically different from Socratic moderation with its stern conservative respect for the experience of the past, is that the Hip ethic is immoderation, child-like in its adoration of the present (and indeed to respect the past means that one must also respect such ugly consequences of the past as the collective murders of the State) . It is this adoration of the present which contains the affirmation of Hip, because its ultimate logic surpasses even the unforgettable solution of the Marquis de Sade to sex, private property, and the family, that all men and women have absolute but temporary rights over the bodies of all other men and women—the nihilism of Hip proposes as its final tendency that every social restraint and category be removed, and the affirmation implicit in the proposal is that man would then prove to be more creative than murderous and so would not destroy himself. Which is exactly what separates Hip from the authoritarian philosophies which now appeal to the conservative and liberal temper—what haunts the middle of the Twentieth Century is that faith in man has been lost, and the appeal of authority has been that it would restrain us from ourselves. Hip, which would return us to ourselves, at no matter what price in individual violence, is the affirmation of the barbarian for it requires a primitive passion about human nature to believe that individual acts of violence are always to be preferred to the collective violence of the State; it takes literal faith in the creative possibilities of the human being to envisage acts of violence as the catharsis which prepares growth.

Whether the hipster’s desire for absolute sexual freedom contains any genuinely radical conception of a different world is of course another matter, and it is possible, since the hipster lives with his hatred, that many of them are the material for an elite of storm troopers ready to follow the first truly magnetic leader whose view of mass murder is phrased in a language which reaches their emotions. But given the desperation of his condition as a psychic outlaw, the hipster is equally a candidate for the most reactionary and most radical of movements, and so it is just as possible that many hipsters will come—if the crisis deepens—to a radical comprehension of the horror of society, for even as the radical has had his incommunicable dissent confirmed in his experience by precisely the frustration, the denied opportunities, and the bitter years which his ideas have cost him, so the sexual adventurer deflected from his goal by the implacable animosity of a society constructed to deny the sexual radical as well, may yet come to an equally bitter comprehension of the slow relentless inhumanity of the conservative power which controls him from without and from within. And in being so controlled, denied, and starved into the attrition of conformity, indeed the hipster may come to see that his condition is no more than an exaggeration of the human condition, and if he would be free, then everyone must be free. Yes, this is possible too, for the heart of Hip is its emphasis upon courage at the moment of crisis, and it is pleasant to think that courage contains within itself (as the explanation of its existence) some glimpse of the necessity of life to become more than it has been.

It is obviously not very possible to speculate with sharp focus on the future of the hipster. Certain possibilities must be evident, however, and the most central is that the organic growth of Hip depends on whether the Negro emerges as a dominating force in American life. Since the Negro knows more about the ugliness and danger of life than the White, it is probable that if the Negro can win his equality, he will possess a potential superiority, a superiority so feared that the fear itself has become the underground drama of domestic politics. Like all conservative political fear it is the fear of unforeseeable consequences, for the Negro’s equality would tear a profound shift into the psychology, the sexuality, and the moral imagination of every White alive.

With this possible emergence of the Negro, Hip may erupt as a psychically armed rebellion whose sexual impetus may rebound against the anti-sexual foundation of every organized power in America, and bring into the air such animosities, antipathies, and new conflicts of interest that the mean empty hypocrisies of mass conformity will no longer work. A time of violence, new hysteria, confusion and rebellion will then be likely to replace the time of conformity. At that time, if the liberal should prove realistic in his belief that there is peaceful room for every tendency in American life, then Hip would end by being absorbed as a colorful figure in the tapestry. But if this is not the reality, and the economic, the social, the psychological, and finally the moral crises accompanying the rise of the Negro should prove insupportable, then a time is coming when every political guide post will be gone, and millions of liberals will be faced with political dilemmas they have so far succeeded in evading, and with a view of human nature they do not wish to accept. To take the desegregation of the schools in the South as an example, it is quite likely that the reactionary sees the reality more closely than the liberal when he argues that the deeper issue is not desegregation but miscegenation. (As a radical I am of course facing in the opposite direction from the White Citizen’s Councils—obviously I believe it is the absolute human right of the Negro to mate with the White, and matings there will undoubtedly be, for there will be Negro high school boys brave enough to chance their lives.) But for the average liberal whose mind has been dulled by the committee-ish cant of the professional liberal, miscegenation is not an issue because he has been told that the Negro does not desire it. So, when it comes, miscegenation will be a terror, comparable perhaps to the derangement of the American Communists when the icons to Stalin came tumbling down. The average American Communist held to the myth of Stalin for reasons which had little to do with the political evidence and everything to do with their psychic necessities. In this sense it is equally a psychic necessity for the liberal to believe that the Negro and even the reactionary Southern White eventually and fundamentally people like himself, capable of becoming good liberals too if only they can be reached by good liberal reason. What the liberal cannot bear to admit is the hatred beneath the skin of a society so unjust that the amount of collective violence buried in the people is perhaps incapable of being contained, and therefore if one wants a better world one does well to hold one’s breath, for a worse world is bound to come first, and the dilemma may well be this:
given such hatred, it must either vent itself nihilistically or become turned into the cold murderous liquidations of the totalitarian state.

No matter what its horrors the Twentieth Century is a vastly exciting century for its tendency is to reduce all of life to its ultimate alternatives. One can well wonder if the last war of them all will be between the blacks and the whites, or between the women and the men, or between the beautiful and ugly, the pillagers and managers, or the rebels and the regulators. Which of course is carrying speculation beyond the point where speculation is still serious, and yet despair at the monotony and bleakness of the future have become so engrained in the radical temper that the radical is in danger of abdicating from all imagination. What a man feels is the impulse for his creative effort, and if an alien but nonetheless passionate instinct about the meaning of life has come so unexpectedly from a virtually illiterate people, come out of the most intense conditions of exploitation, cruelty, violence, frustration, and lust, and yet has succeeded as an instinct in keeping this tortured people alive, then it is perhaps possible that the Negro holds more of the tail of the expanding elephant of truth than the radical, and if this is so, the radical humanist could do worse than to and brood upon the phenomenon. For if a revolutionary time should come again, there would be a crucial difference if someone had already delineated a neo-Marxian calculus aimed at comprehending every circuit and process of society from ukase to kiss as the communications of human energy—a calculus capable of translating the economic relations of man into his psychological relations and then back again, his productive relations thereby embracing his sexual relations as well, until the
crises of capitalism in the Twentieth Century would yet be understood as the unconscious adaptations of a society to solve its economic imbalance at the expense of a new mass psychological imbalance. It is almost beyond the imagination to conceive of a work in which the drama of human energy is engaged, and a theory of its social currents and dissipations, its imprisonments, expressions, and tragic wastes are fitted into some gigantic synthesis of human action where the body of Marxist thought, and particularly the epic grandeur of Das Kapital (that first of the major psychologies to approach the mystery of social cruelty so simply and practically as to say that we are a collective body of humans whose life-energy is wasted, displaced, and procedurally stolen as it passes from one of us to another)—where particularly the epic grandeur of Das Kapital would find its place in an even more Godlike view of human justice and injustice, in some more excruciating vision of those intimate and institutional processes which lead to our creations and disasters, our growth, our attrition, and our rebellion.

Norman Mailer is a longtime contributer and former board member of Dissent.

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Harrington Jacket an icon of British Fashion design

Harrington decades of cool

The Harrington Jacket, and The Roll Call Of The Cool

When, it comes to the Harrington Jacket, I feel a sense of pride. I am from the North West of England. I was born in Salford and was brought up in Greater Manchester. For those that don’t know – the versatile and simply smart casual jacket originated in the form as we know it, in Manchester, the metropolis that was at the centre of England’s textile industry and had been, since the industrial revolution.

I mean, if you look at the Twentieth century, and if you had to pick out one British-designed garment that has transcended numerous decades, and had earned its right as a favourite amongst sportsmen and Hollywood greats alike, and infiltrated its way into the wardrobe of fringe subcultures, the Harrington jacket, simply stands taller than any other.

harrington jacket a222

It is impossible not to talk about the Harrington jacket and not begin by paying homage to its originators of the style of this classic and extremely wearable garment, Baracuta.

Baracuta was founded in 1937 by James and Isaac Miller in Manchester, they “designed the G9 (The G stands for Golf) when they set out to create a functional rainproof jacket for the English modern working man,”

The company is inextricably linked to the Harrington jacket. In the same year, it was founded, the brand released the iconic G9, which then only became known as the ‘Harrington’ after the rise of US TV soap opera Peyton Place, in which a character – Rodney Harrington played by Ryan O’Neal – would often wear the style.

peyton place mia farrow ryan oneal

John Simons, the purveyor of American classic styles is considered to be the most influential man in Britain with regards to Ivy Style, and quality garments plays a part in this tale of the Harrington jacket. As aforementioned, there was a character in Peyton Place played by Ryan O’Neal called Rodney Harrington. Legend has it, that Simons would handwrite cards to go in the window next to the garments on show. He would write for example “The Rodney Harrington Jacket” when displaying a Baracuta G9 in his shop window. After doing this a few times the writing of the name was shortened simply to “The Harrington”

My first Harrington i got in 1979 whilst collecting for a Scouts charity sale, it had a hole in the arm so i sewed a ska patch over it, i was the proudest skinhead on Earth”. Symond Lawes
Picture by Gavin Watson

The Harrington jacket’s original purpose was to be worn in the great outdoors. Traditionally, its shell is a water-repellent poly-cotton blend with an umbrella-inspired vent on the back to aid the run-off of rainwater so one’s trousers don’t get wet. There are also two slanted flap pockets with concealed buttons and an elasticated waistband and cuffs to keep you dry. The collar is a double-button, stand-up, Mandarin-esque collar which can be snapped shut to stop the incoming rain. There is also a central fastening zip. Overall, it’s incredibly lightweight, yet its signature element is the tartan lining of Lord Lovat, a British commando and chief of the Fraser Clan, who gave Baracuta’s founding brothers permission to use his family’s colours in 1938. Since then, this has remained an unchanged feature on Baracuta Harringtons. Why? Because according to Paul Harvey, a designer at Baracuta, “firstly it must be simple and not follow fashion. Secondly, proportions and balance are vital to such a simple design. Thirdly, it has to feel right. The simplicity of the jacket asks nothing of you and that means you feel totally comfortable wearing it.”

harrington jacket advert

It’s a simple design and the look has been worn by many that have become style icons. Movie and music legends alike have been known to wear Harrington jackets. It’s no surprise that stylists from many different backgrounds have gravitated towards wearing a G9, or more recently Harrington jackets that have been manufactured by other manufacturers. For it is a testament to this garment that it has been copied widely, as its influence is such that it is the epitome of cool. When you see James Dean, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and the King of Cool Steve McQueen wearing a Baracuta, it makes you want to buy into that coolness. When you see the Mods, Skinheads, Britpoppers and indie artists looking cool in Harrington’s you acknowledge that sense of style for an easy to wear, sharp and understated look.

From cheaper ones to ones that are much more expensive. They are in various different fabrics. I have three Baracuta’s. One is in the traditional water repellent fabric, one that is in Chambray cotton, and another is a rare lightweight summer one, that is in red polyester and has a mesh Fraser tartan lining. I also have a Harrington style jacket by Two Stoned, that has the legend “The Two Stoned Rodney Harrington Style Jacket” on the label, and had been purposefully aged to look vintage and has several “Northern Soul” patches on it. I have a vintage US college version of a Harrington made by Haband of Patterson, New Jersey which is more like the Baracuta G4, and a black Leather G9 style Harrington I wear in the autumn and winter that is made by Charles Caine.

Rebel Without a Cause natalie wood james dean harrington g9 coat

Harrington’s are functional, comfortable, and timeless. The functionality is what appeals to most men, and the knowledge that when you slip one on, you instantly join that roll call of the cool. Of course – Harrington’s look great on women also. As when the fairer sex chooses to wear masculine clothing to subvert style norms, so they choose items that men have looked up to and admired. In affect reaffirming that they too can join that roll call, and show that they also like the functionality, comfort, and design that has a history that is broad, long and full of cultural identity.

Harrington’s are here to stay for it is the jacket that is made for both work and play.

harrington jacket female
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Mods v Rockers! The beach battles that rocked Britain in 1964 – and terrified bank holiday tourists

50 years ago the nation was shocked by violence which accompanied our first true youth culture. One man at the notorious Brighton brawl looks back on the chaos

The bank holiday began with tourists flocking to the coast but ended with them fleeing for their lives as Mods and Rockers turned beaches into battlefields.

Fifty years ago, in the spring of 1964, simmering rivalry between the groups reached a flashpoint as they clashed repeatedly on seaside piers and promenades across the country.

But the worst of the violence was seen in Brighton, as families were trapped in a shocking showdown which sparked moral panic about the state of British youth.

Tony Edwards was 18 and one of the first band of Mods to arrive on the Sussex coast that day. He says: “The Rockers had outnumbered us for years but leading up to 1964 we’d grown in numbers – now it was payback time.

“When we arrived on the beach there were just a few Mods and a big group of Rockers in the middle. Within about 90 minutes the beach filled up with hundreds of Mods.

“Then someone on our side threw a pebble at them and within a few seconds they were just being blitzed. I saw one guy who’d been cut on the head with blood running down his face.

“In the end the police had to charge on to the beach and escort this group of Rockers off the seafront, which must have been humiliating. They were tough men and we were just little kids poncing around in fancy clothes.

“But we weren’t going to take their c**p any more. It was the holidaymakers I felt sorry for. They looked terrified.”

You’re coming with me, son: Police arrest youths on Brighton beach (Image: PA)

Tensions had been rising for some time. The Rockers were usually in their 20s or 30s; Elvis-loving bikers rooted in 1950s Teddy Boy culture.

The teenage Mods’ culture, which flourished in the early 60s, was based on continental clothes, Italian Vespa and Lambretta scooters and the music of soul and jazz musicians.

They first clashed that spring on the March bank holiday in Clacton. At the Essex resort 97 people were arrested and the battle lines were drawn.

After that, trouble flared from Bournemouth to Margate, up to the bank holiday of August 1964. But Brighton’s Whitsun clash was the most notorious, thanks to sensational headlines and its immortalisation in Mod flick Quadrophenia.

Battles ran well into the night but although there were weapons – knives, chains and makeshift knuckle dusters – most scuffles involved fists and boots.

Tony, once branded King of the Mods in hometown Reading, says: “There were quite a few scuffles. I got into a few myself and nearly got arrested.

“I kept out of it most of the time but we would rush over and watch if something did kick off. We saw the action on top of the aquarium, a scene which is famous.

“In the middle were these Mods with deck chairs bringing them down on the heads of Rockers.

“But a lot of injuries came from the sense of panic and all these crowds running around. It was bedlam.

“A Mod got pushed through a window and got so badly cut he was pouring with blood. It was really nasty and there was this copper holding this lad and he was quite emotional: ‘For Christ’s sake, just look at this!’ he said.

“It was an accident, the crowds pushed him through, but word spread that a Rocker did it – and that fired us up more.”

The Mods got much of the blame for the violence but 68-year-old Tony, now a dad of three and a grandad of two living in Cornwall, blames the Rockers and police.

He says: “The police were very heavy-handed. There was panic about Mods but it was misplaced. All we wanted was to have a good time. Music and clothes were our passion.

“There was probably a hardcore of violent people, Mods and Rockers, who just used it as an opportunity for a fight.

“But it was the Rockers who went to Brighton knowing there was going to be trouble. They went there looking for it – and they certainly found it.”

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Mods Vs Rockers! Best friends mark 1964 clash

Mods Vs Rockers! Best friends mark 1964 clash that became part of Sixties folklore and inspired iconic film Quadrophenia

  • John Pedrick and Adrian Tincknell headed to Brighton for anniversary
  • They were part of the bloody seafront battle in in Brighton in 1964
  • More than 1,000 youths clashed there as police fought to control them
  • Battle between Mods and Rockers that became part of 60s folklore

Original story By LEON WATSON

They may now be retired grandfathers, but that didn’t stop these two former Mods climbing aboard their scooters and heading for Brighton.

Fifty years ago today John Pedrick and Adrian Tincknell were part of the bloody seafront confrontation between the Mods and Rockers that became part of 60s folklore.

More than 1,000 youths clashed on the seafront on May 18, 1964, as police fought to control running battles that saw more than 70 arrests and deck chairs used as weapons by the warring groups of youths.

Former Mods John Pedrick and Adrian Tincknell climbed aboard their scooters and headed for Brighton
Old aged Mods, Lambretta Scooters Brighton Beach

Former Mods John Pedrick and Adrian Tincknell climbed aboard their scooters and headed for Brighton

I'll deck you! Adrian Tincknell, 69, and John Pedrick, 67, met at the spot where the Mods and Rockers battled


I’ll deck you! Adrian Tincknell, 69, and John Pedrick, 67, met at the spot where the Mods and Rockers battled

But with the combatants now pensioners there was only good natured banter as they shared an ice cream with bikers who had also headed for the city to mark the anniversary.

Mr Tincknell, a former mechanic, is now 69 and still owns a Lambretta scooter and dresses in Mod gear.

After riding into Brighton from his home nearby in Worthing, West Sussex, he said: ‘Once a Mod, always a Mod. I had to be here.Share

‘On that fateful day 50 years ago I was keeping out of trouble up a lampost on the seafront watching the mayhem when my father spotted me.

‘He was a Brighton policeman at the time and he ordered me to go home. Needless to say, I didn’t. There was too much going on.

‘I still love riding my scooter and dressing in Mod gear. We are all too old to fight now, it has all been very peaceful with lots of banter over a cup of tea with the lads on their motor bikes.’

John Pedrick and Adrian Tincknell were part of the bloody seafront confrontation between the Mods and Rockers


John Pedrick and Adrian Tincknell were part of the bloody seafront confrontation between the Mods and Rockers

Mods and rockers fighting on the beach at Brighton in 1964
Mods fighting Brighton beach 1964, inspiration for Quadrophenia film


Mods and rockers fighting on the beach at Brighton in 1964

Mods at the opening of the 1979 film Quadrophenia, about the Brighton battle
Mods on Lambretta scooters heading for Brighton


Mods at the opening of the 1979 film Quadrophenia, about the Brighton battle

His best friend John Pedrick, now 67 and a retired insurance assessor living in Chichester, West Sussex, rode the same model Lambretta scooter along the promenade in Brighton where 50 years earlier he had run into the sea to escape the fighting.

‘It’s all very friendly today but it was pretty violent back then. I was a footballer in those days so I could run fast enough to get away, something I’d struggle to do now.

‘And the only safe place was in the sea. I can’t believe it has been 50 years. I’m still a young Mod at heart and thankfully things are much more chilled out now.’

Mr Tincknell (right) is a former mechanic, is now 69 and still owns a Lambretta scooter and dresses in Mod gear


Mr Tincknell (right) is a former mechanic, is now 69 and still owns a Lambretta scooter and dresses in Mod gear

For the 50th anniversary in the sun the fighting had been replaced by a seafront Mini Car Rally


For the 50th anniversary in the sun the fighting had been replaced by a seafront Mini Car Rally

Morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse said she was 'disgusted' with mass brawls she blamed on youngsters watching violence on television


Morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse said she was ‘disgusted’ with mass brawls she blamed on youngsters watching violence on television

The pictures of the battles along the seafront and pavements in Brighton on that Whitsun bank holiday in 1964 became iconic symbols of the era.

The courts were busy for weeks afterwards dealing with the 75 youths arrested and the skirmishes were later immortalised in the film Quadrophenia.

Morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse said she was ‘disgusted’ with mass brawls she blamed on youngsters watching violence on television.

For the 50th anniversary in the sun the fighting had been replaced by a seafront Mini Car Rally and a performance by a group of Morris dancers.


A youth waves a defiant hand as he is taken from the beach by policemen

Fifty years ago, in the spring of 1964, simmering rivalry between the groups reached a flashpoint as they clashed repeatedly on seaside piers and promenades across the country.

But the worst of the violence was seen in Brighton, as families were trapped in a shocking showdown which sparked moral panic about the state of British youth.

Tensions had been rising for some time. The Rockers were usually in their 20s or 30s; Elvis-loving bikers rooted in 1950s Teddy Boy culture.

The teenage Mods’ culture, which flourished in the early 60s, was based on continental clothes, Italian Vespa and Lambretta scooters and the music of soul and jazz musicians.

They first clashed that spring on the March bank holiday in Clacton. At the Essex resort 97 people were arrested and the battle lines were drawn.

After that, trouble flared from Bournemouth to Margate, up to the bank holiday of August 1964. But Brighton’s Whitsun clash was the most notorious, thanks to sensational headlines and its immortalisation in Mod flick Quadrophenia.

Battles ran well into the night but although there were weapons – knives, chains and makeshift knuckle dusters – most scuffles involved fists and boots.

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Rebel Dykes London Punk Rock

Lesbian Punk Girls

Brixton in the ’80s was home to a group of radical lesbians who mixed sexual politics with squat culture. Meet the group calling themselves the ‘Rebel Dykes’

In the early 1980s, young gay women, many still teenagers, gravitated to London, attracted by its diversity and experimentation. A lesbian subculture grew up around the squats of Brixton and Hackney. ‘You could tell which houses were squats by the painted doors and blankets in the windows,’ Siobhan Fahey remembers. ‘I wanted to live in Brixton, so all I did was walk around the streets asking if I could move in.’

Fahey had come to London from Liverpool as a teenager. At the time being gay could be dangerous. It had only just become legal for gay men to have sex, and in 1988 Margaret Thatcher brought in Section 28, legislation which outlawed the promotion of homosexuality as ‘a pretend family relationship’. The capital’s empty buildings offered safe spaces for sexual openness, creativity and activism, and so the Rebel Dykes – as Fahey later christened them – were born. Dressed in biker jackets and chains, their hair sculpted, shaved and rainbow-coloured, the Rebel Dykes were the antithesis of ’80s conservatism. They helped establish women-only squats across the city and opened London’s first lesbian fetish club.

  ‘There have been no books or articles. It’s like it never happened’ – Siobhan Fahey

Now, though, these pioneering women feel like they’ve been written out of history. ‘There have been no books or articles. It’s like it never happened,’ Fahey says, explaining that their ‘punky intersectional feminism’ was attributed to ’90s movements like Riot Grrrl, while stories about 1980s squat culture often focused on men. Eventually, she set up a Facebook group to find former Rebel Dykes and nearly 200 people joined. Now she’s producing a documentary to tell their story.

The roots of the Rebel Dykes can be chased back to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, the female-only protest which campaigned against US nuclear weapons being sited at an RAF base in Berkshire. It was a feminist hub and, according to many of the women I spoke to, a hot spot for coming out and hooking up.

Lesbian Fetish Punk London

‘ I was young, I was cute – why not?’ – Karen Fischer

Rebel Dyke Karen Fischer, known as Fisch, explains that, for many lesbian women, heading to Greenham was liberating. ‘It was like being alone on a desert island, then suddenly there were loads of you,’ she says. ‘It was like being a kid in a candy store. I was young, I was cute – why not?’

There was more at stake, though. ‘If people found out you were gay, you could lose your job, you could get your kids taken away,’ says Fisch. ‘Our lives were made political by the lifestyles we had.’ One Rebel Dyke told me how a Lesbian Strength March was followed by neo-fascists.

Lesbian Punk girls kissing London

Pink Paper

 Two women kiss at Pride (from Pink Paper) 

A major component of the Rebel Dykes’ ‘political lives’ was London’s squat culture. Squatting became a criminal offence in 2012, but in the ’80s it was a basic lifestyle option for
struggling young people. More than 30,000 people were reported to be living in squats in London at the start of the decade. With 3 million Brits out of work, a scene of artists, activists and musicians grew in our city’s squats. As women from Greenham drifted to London, a radical group formed among them.

Fahey ended up living – ironically – in a disused housing benefits office as well as sharing a room at a well-known house on Brailsford Road. ‘We lived in one street that was full of squats where we all took turns cooking at each other’s houses,’ she says, describing how there was a band practice room downstairs .‘There were lots of people in open relationships,’ says Fahey. ‘We had parties that would go on for days.’ It wasn’t all fun, though: drugs, Aids and homelessness affected the community.

The back page of ’80s squatters’ zine Crowbar

The Rebel Dykes were known for their liberal attitude towards sex . They launched London’s first lesbian fetish club, Chain Reactions, which caused uproar among other lesbian groups who were more conservative. Fahey says that the complaints only fuelled the night’s success. It was always packed out, with a different ‘sex cabaret’ each week. ‘Groups of women would come together to put it on and fall in and out of love while making it,’ she laughs. ‘We had pickets outside from other lesbians who thought that lesbians shouldn’t be doing this thing as it “wasn’t quite right”.’

Another popular night was Systematic at Brixton’s Women’s Centre, run by promoter Yvonne Taylor. ‘It was different to other club nights at the time,’ she says. ‘Because it brought in a whole range of different types of women: black, white, young, old, butch and femme.’ Taylor still hosts a monthly night – Supersonic – and says she’s enjoyed watching London’s nightlife become more inclusive in recent years. She’s not the only Rebel Dyke still involved with London’s LGBT+ nightlife, Fisch still performs as drag king Frankie Sinatra.

  ‘I would climb into first-storey windows, take parts of security doors off and change locks’ – Atalanta Kernick

Beyond clubbing the Rebel Dykes’ lives were centred on punk bands and protests. They took part in anti-apartheid, Stop the Bomb and Support the Miners demos as well as early Pride marches. ‘I’ve got a photo of me carrying a banner that reads: “Brixton Dykes Demand Wages for Bashing Bailiffs”,’ says Rebel Dyke Atalanta Kernick. ‘It’s a play on a campaign for women demanding wages for housework. Another was made out of pink mesh and had cats embroidered on it. It said: “Brixton Dykes Make Pussies Purr”.’

Lesbians are fucking everywhere. London Punks

T-shirt made to promote fetish night Chain Reactions

As a teenager with an acid-green mohican, Kernick moved into her first squat in 1985 with a woman she met at Greenham Common. ‘I would climb into first-storey windows, take parts of security doors off and change locks,’ she says. ‘I did a building maintenance course, then carpentry, electrics and plumbing.’ She was one of a number of women who used the skills they learned squatting to take cash-in-hand trade jobs.

Rebel Dykes now: Kernick, Fisch (left), Fahey, Taylor (right) 

Eventually Kernick left London, but the era remains a key part of who she is. After living up north for 15 years, she returned to the city after reconnecting with another Rebel Dyke. ‘We used to flirt in the squats when we were 18,’ Kernick smiles. ‘We’ve been together five years now.’

For Fahey, the Rebel Dyke years are still relevant. She sees her film as a way to connect with today’s queer activists. ‘Sometimes young people look at us like: “You’re so brave”,’ she says. ‘But we had the dole, squats and no CCTV. I look at them in awe.’

Help the Rebel Dykes make their film at

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Todd Youth,Agnostic Front, Warzone, Murphys Law Dies

Todd Youth (Warzone, Murphy’s Law, etc) reportedly passed away

by Andrew Sacher October 27, 2018 2:25 PM

Todd Youth passes away, a huge loss to the Punk Rock community worldwide

NYHC legend Todd Youth, who played in Agnostic Front, Warzone, Murphy’s Law, D Generation, Danzig, and more, and most recently Fireburn, has reportedly passed away. Todd’s Fireburn bandmate Ras Israel Joseph I (also formerly of Bad Brains) posted on Facebook:

On the passing of my friend, and my Brother Todd Youth
There are no words to express how sad I am at the passing of my brother Todd Youth. The music he made will forever be remembered, and I’m so thankful that I was able to work with him and that we created Fireburn together. Todd and I were living separate lives doing hardcore and reggae music. We met each other in 1992 and then never spoke again until 2017. We created Fireburn within two weeks of knowing each other and finished writing two of my favorite hardcore records that I ever worked on: “Don’t stop the youth”, and “Shine”. Closed casket records signed the band and we were on our way. We had great shows and lots of people showed up to them. We toured with gbh from England, hung out with the guys from Negative Approach, and got our blessings about our music and our records from the Bad Brains. I know that Todd is now resting in peace and I know that Krishna is taking his soul to a better place. He was a devout Hari Krishna and The Devout human being. Todd wherever you are I hope that we will make music again one day. Life is a circle and I know I’ll meet you again in that circle brother. We will meet again. Rest In Peace, Rest In Power, rest my brother. I am saddened that we cannot make music again together, but I am happy that you are finally going home to be with Krishna that Haile Selassie has finally giving you peace and comfort my brother. one day, I too will lay down and die. This body that I ware is temporary. I will probably be alone. They’re probably be no one around me. However I know that I will join you and all of our other friends in that good place and we’ll all see each other again. I’m sorry you died Todd. I’m sorry I can’t see you again. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you. You are my friend and my brother and I love you. Rest in peace my brother. May your visit to our Heavenly Home be full of peace, and comfort, and closeness to Krishna. Haribo. Haile Selassie I. FIREBURN.

Todd Youth live on stage

NYHC show promoters BlacknBlue Productions also posted, “I can’t ….. A very sad day for NYHC FAMILY . 😞😞😞🙏🏼🙏🏼 Todd Youth . We love you . Condolences to all friends & family . Tell the people you love that you love them any chance you get.”

Todd was always such a positive character and passionate about his music. The scene has lost a great character. On behalf of The British Skinhead and Punk scene I send my most sincere thoughts and love to all his family and friends across the pond

Symond ( subcultz ) England

Hatebreed also posted a tribute:

Rest in peace, Todd. You’ll be missed and your crucial contributions to NYHC and beyond will live on.

Watch the full set video of Todd playing with Warzone for the Raybeez tribute in 2017, stream the latest Fireburn single, and listen to one of the Murphy’s Law classics he recorded with them:

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How Fred Perry became a target of New York tabloids

Wimbledon tennis champion Fred Perry

Mod lad London

At far-right rallies across the U.S., an English tennis champion named Fred Perry hovers, invisible to the men unwittingly representing him. For the last two years, members of the Proud Boys cult of masculinity have worn Perry-branded striped-collar polo shirts with a Wimbledon-inspired laurel insignia as they shout at anti-fascist protesters and take rocks to the head. In blog posts and tweets dating back to 2014, their patriarch Gavin McInnes has instructed them that this — a Fred Perry cotton pique tennis shirt, always in black and yellow — is the proper armor for battling multiculturalism.

The Proud Boys at most have a few hundred active members, but they are a fixture at fascist “free speech” events like this month’s anti-Muslim marches, where they mingle with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. McInnes is eager to point out that the Proud Boys accept people of colour, Muslims, and Jewish people — so long as those members also “accept that the West is the best” and reject non-Western immigrants to America (McInnes is Canadian). But McInnes insists his followers are not themselves white supremacists, a clarification he has to make partially because Fred Perry polos have a history of popping up at any fashion orientated event across Europe and the Americas. The shirts have been a fixture in some form or another, in all their two-dozen-plus colorways, in modern and youth style for fifty years, here in the States but especially in England, where both the brand and the skinhead subculture that co-opted it are from.

    Skinheads High Wycombe 1986

In the mid-1960s, a movement emerged, which was to become a god send for very cheap headlines, to sell newspapers and movies. when first-generation ‘Black’ Jamaican and Barbadian Brits, whose parents had been recruited by the tens of thousands to help rebuild England after WWII, introduced their white working-class friends to ska, rocksteady, and rude boy style at clubs around London’s council estates. “You could see the music was bringing these different cultures together, and it was suggesting a possible way forward through understanding our differences,” Don Letts, a filmmaker, DJ, and BBC Radio host, who was born in London in 1956 to Jamaican parents, told The Outline. In 2016 he produced the BBC documentary The Story of Skinhead, mostly to correct the record on skinhead culture’s non-racist origins. “Politics wasn’t really something that we talked about. That was on our parents’ level. We just wanted to bond over music, clothes, and girls.”Amid England’s entrenched class consciousness, taking pride in looking nice as a working-class person inspired the white English kids to spin together their own heritage with their West Indian neighbors’ sleek suits, dress shoes, and generally smart style. “They went for things that were associated with the English upper class and looked clean and sharp but were more affordable, and Fred Perry was definitely one of those things,” Letts said. Paired with work boots and tight jeans, Perry’s designs for the tennis court became a subversive dig at English elitism. The look, which according to Letts appeared mostly on white kids but a few black ones, too, was also a response to flamboyant, middle and upper-class mod culture;
before the term “skinhead” finally began appearing in the late ‘60s, the young white kids with short-cropped hair and crisp workwear were called hard mods.

As young people were working out this visual identity, white English adults had become convinced that black and South Asian immigrants were taking their jobs and ruining the economy. In 1968, conservative MP Enoch Powell delivered a now-infamous, vitriolic speech in which he warned white Brits that they would soon be an oppressed minority in their own country, punished by a politically correct government for daring to reject multiculturalism. “After that speech, I felt the atmosphere change immediately,” Letts said. “Race really came into the picture and the scene became more hostile.” a perfect subject matter could be stired up and encouraged, the press were onto something. a big group of young uneducated, poor working class kids, that could become the modern devil in the midst, The modern antichrist

The more ostracized and feared they were, the stronger their identity became.Skinhead culture began migrating north, to predominantly white communities, which at that time was 95% of the Britain, where football matches were the main source of distraction from a deteriorating economy on a Saturday afternoon. Fred Perry’s wide color range gave fans plenty of options to show which team they supported, and the look emanated a tough edge well suited to the violence simmering underneath football culture. Ensconced in white suburban bubbles, these boys became a natural target for the U.K. National Front, (just as much as they were by fleet street), a rapidly growing white nationalist party founded in 1967 that often recruited outside football stadiums. Every fresh college grad journalist had easy meat for the first published piece The party also opened social clubs across northern England that hosted live music, giving working-class kids — many of whom, proud of their class status, by then identified and dressed as skinheads — a place to congregate and commiserate about their dimming futures. “But you could only get in if you signed up to be a member of the National Front, and up north it was probably the only club, and so of course they wanted to go there and hear music,” Letts explained. “A lot of it came down to ignorance and just following the herd. These kids didn’t have any formulated political views.”

Gavin McInnes Proud boys USA

We discussed this story, and Gavin McInnes, on our daily podcast, The Outline World Dispatch. As the ’70s progressed, mainstream media became fascinated with this young, fashionable, seemingly new strain of the far right. The skinheads loved it; the more ostracized and feared they were, the stronger their identity became. Like today’s Pepe trolls, any attention was a godsend. Even when framed as reprehensible, ignorant ideology aired in public forums exposed more people to the journalist’ views and legitimized them as being worthy of discussion. After Margaret Thatcher brought the Tories’ isolationist, neoliberal policies to power in 1979, gutter journalism boomed across England, and there were always badly dressed college grads in the ranks twitching to bitch and lie for a quick buck down Fleet Street

Skinhead Girls at the Reunion Brighton England

Women wear Fred Perry at the annual Skinhead Reunion event in Brighton in 2014.

A picture taken by a passer by and sold to a photo library, by a passing member of the public, looking for a quick earner, with no permission or knowledge of the girls personal lives or history

With Reagan’s inauguration signaling a similar shift in the U.S., lazy journalism, and blatant blackening of characters of the lower wealth bracket became the norm, badly dressed press reporters uniform, boomed, to the levels of the padded shoulder suits, found a welcome home stateside when it landed in the early 1980s, according to Heidi Bierich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “poor, white people ideas already had a toehold in the US, and this culture spread very quickly across the country,” said Bierich. In conservative strongholds like Orange County, California and in parts of northern Florida, angry white youth who were politically unwelcome amongst punk and hardcore’s overwhelming anti-Republicanism became a perfect victim of cheap lazy journalism, these uneducated, low paid mass were never going to make the media have to answer charges of malicious slander, character degredation, or incitement to abuse.

Skinheads in Bogota Colombia wearing Fred Perry
Zoe Beery , fashion expert and journalist

Since the SPLC began tracking these journalists in the late 1990s, bad fashion sense has been a consistent enough presence that it’s one of only two things that really identifies these people. Number two, being their complete lack of factual evidence whilst concocting stories for the gaps between adverts in throwaway magazines clothing brands the SPLC includes in its lower class trash glossary is a fred perry t shirt (the other is Dr. Martens). “What makes youth fashion cultures distinct is music and clothing, not necessarily their ideology,” Bierich said. “They’re very mobile and fluid. You’ll find them in white black and hispanic groups in the USA,

A member of the Proud Boys stands behind Gavin McInnes in a black and yellow Fred Perry polo, at a rally in Berkeley, California.

london Hipster
Proud boy Hawaii

When I emailed McInnes to ask him why he tells his followers to wear the black and yellow polos as they trawl for anti-fascists in downtown hicksville, he warned me that “if you associate us with rich middle class pop stars, Hipsters, British sportsmen or any implication like that I will take you to court” but went on to explain that he wants to align his group with the working-class toughness of the late ’60s hard mods. (A youth culture that never actually existed ) “It plays into the idea of this being a rebellious, edgy movement against the status quo,” said Alice Marwick, an unnamed Fordham University researcher who has extensively studied social media (wasted months reading false facebook profiles) claiming to be far right. “When you say ‘white supremacy’ you think of something with a long history, like the KKK. When you say ‘alt-right’ it sounds like something new and alternative, very similar to alt delete, when you write something completely senseless. In that newness, people feel that they’re part of sticking it to the man, nothing like ending a debate, by pressing the block button, to silence any questions someone may want to ask the journalist.”

Amy Winehouse expression when asked if she was a Proud Boy

A few days later, he released a ten-minute video excoriating media that criticizes the Proud Boys for their uncanny similarities to Amy Winehouse dress sense. I asked him why, if he doesn’t want to be associated with Jewish singers and Hipsters, he tells the Proud Boys to dress like them. He replied, “I’m not going to let the media’s obsession with pop stars dictate what shirt we wear.” The more hated they are, the stronger their identity becomes.

This article has been written with slightly more knowledge than the original printed on new york toilet roll

if you want a laugh read here

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Ivy League Japan 1964

The Miyuki-zoku: Japan’s First Ivy Rebels

The first Japanese to adopt elements of the Ivy League Look were a youth tribe called the Miyuki-zoku, who suddenly appeared in the summer of 1964. The group’s name came from their storefront loitering on Miyuki Street in the upscale Ginza shopping neighborhood (the suffix “zoku” means subculture or social group). The Miyuki-zoku were mostly in their late teens, a mix of guys and girls, likely numbering around 700 at the trend’s peak. Since they were students, they would arrive in Ginza wearing school uniforms and have to change in to their trendy duds in cramped café bathrooms.

And what duds they were. The Miyuki-zoku were devotees of classic American collegiate style. The uniform was button-down oxford cloth shirts, madras plaid, high-water trousers in khaki and white, penny loafers, and three-button suit jackets. Everything was extremely slim. The guys wore their hair in an exact seven-three part, which was new for Japan. They were also famous for carrying around their school uniforms inside of rolled-up brown paper grocery bags.

What lead to the sudden arrival of the Miyuki-zoku? Although Japanese teens had been looking to America since 1945 for style inspiration, these particular youth were not copying Princeton or Columbia students directly. In fact, Japanese kids at this time rarely got a chance to see Americans other than the ever-present US soldiers.

The Miyuki-zoku had found the Ivy look through a new magazine called Heibon Punch. The periodical was targeted to Japan’s growing number of wealthy urban youth, and part of its editorial mission was to tell kids how to dress. The editors advocated the Ivy League Look, which at the time was basically only available in the form of domestic brand VAN. Kensuke Ishizu of VAN had discovered the look in the 1950s and pushed it as an alternative to the slightly thuggish big-shouldered, high-waisted, mismatched jacket-and-pants look that dominated Japanese men’s style throughout the 1950s. As an imported look, Ivy League fashion felt cutting-edge and sophisticated to Tokyo teens, and this fit perfectly with Heibon Punch‘s mission of giving Baby Boomers a style of their own.

When the magazine arrived in the spring 1964, readers all went out and became Ivy adherents. Parents and authorities, however, were hardly thrilled with a youth tribe of American style enthusiasts. The first strike against the Miyuki-zoku is that the guys — gasp! — would blow dry their hair. This was seen as a patently feminine thing to do.

More critically, the Miyuki-zoku picked the wrong summer to hang out in Ginza. Japan was preparing for the 1964 Olympics, which would commence in October. Tokyo was in the process of removing every last eyesore — wooden garbage cans, street trolleys, the homeless — anything that would possibly be offending to foreign visitors. The Olympics was not just a sports event, but would be Japan’s return into the global community after its ignoble defeat of World War II, and nothing could go wrong.

So authorities lay awake at night with the fear that foreigners would come to Japan and see kids in tight high-water pants hanging out in front of prestigious Ginza stores. Neighborhood leaders desperately wanted to eradicate the Miyuki-zoku before October, so they went to Ishizu of VAN and asked him to intervene. VAN organized a “Big Ivy Style Meet-up” at Yamaha Hall, and cops helped put 200 posters across Ginza to make sure the Miyuki-zoku showed up. Anyone who came to the event got a free VAN bag — which was the bag for storing your normal clothing during loitering hours. They expected 300 kids, but 2,000 showed up. Ishizu gave the keynote address, where he told everyone to knock it off with the lounging in Ginza. Most acquiesced, but not all.

So on September 19, 1964, a huge police force stormed Ginza and hauled off 200 kids in madras plaid and penny loafers. Eighty-five were processed at nearby Tsukiji jail. The kids got the message and never came back, and that was the end of the Miyuki-zoku.

Starting in 1945, Japanese authorities generally viewed all Western youth fashion as a delinquent subculture. Despite looking relatively conservative in style compared to the other biker gangs and greasy-haired rebels, the Miyuki-zoku were still caught up in this delinquent narrative. In fact, they were actually the first middle-class youth consumers buying things under the direction of the mainstream media. It was Japanese society that was simply not ready for the idea that youth fashion could be part of the marketplace.

After the Miyuki-zoku, however, Ivy became the de facto look for fashionable Japanese men, and the “Ivy Tribe” that followed faced little of the harassment seen by its predecessor. The Miyuki-zoku may have lost the battle of Ginza, but they won the war for Ivy League style. — W. DAVID MARX

As the Ivy League style swept across the globe. The British Modernist ‘Mods’ subculture adopted the clothing, modifying it into a very British subculture, with a new more aggressive edge. The Skinheads

Bracknell Skinheads 1970

W. David Marx is a writer living in Tokyo whose work has appeared in GQ, Brutus, Nylon, and Best Music Writing 2009, among other publications. He is currently Tokyo City Editor of CNNGo and Chief Editor of web journal Néojaponisme.

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Mods and Rockers Brighton 1964

The trouble caused by mods and rockers in May 1964

Bank holidays in Brighton tended to be busy, jolly affairs in which thousands of Londoners flocked to the sea and sunshine.

All that changed in 1964 during the Whitsun bank holiday when more than a thousand mods and rockers fought pitched battles with each other on the prom and pavements.

There was more trouble in 1965 during both the Easter and August bank holidays, only this time they were met by a force of 100 policemen chosen for their barn door proportions.

Deckchairs were a favourite weapon and if they were not being used for striking enemies, they were destroyed in fires on the beach.

Photo:Mods pictured in May 1964 throwing deckchairs from the roof terrace of Brighton Aquarium on to Madeira Drive below

Mods pictured in May 1964 throwing deckchairs from the roof terrace of Brighton Aquarium on to Madeira Drive below

There were 75 arrests and the courts were kept busy for weeks afterwards in dealing with all the cases. Images of the fights went all round the world.

In a new book on the shady side of Brighton, David Boyne says, “As shocking as the violence for many of the older generation was the discovery that many of those involved were taking drugs, particularly amphetamines.”

The Brighton Council of Churches found that more than half the mods and almost half the rockers were taking blues, a form of speed.

There was more trouble in 1965 during both the Easter and August bank holidays, only this time they were met by a force of 100 policemen chosen for their barn door proportions.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Adam Trimingham looks at the trouble caused by mods and rockers in May 1964' page

Boyne says all kinds of ideas were offered to solve the problem, including bringing back conscription, hard labour and even reviving the stocks.

Sentences handed out by Brighton magistrates were generally tough. One of them, Hebert Cushnie, referred to the youths as “sawdust Caesars”. He was widely quoted but few were sure what he meant.

But after that there was comparative peace on bank holidays until the late 1970s when the Brighton-based film Quadrophenia and the start of the punk fashion led to a mod revival.

This time the enemy was skinheads rather than rockers and confrontations Police worked out a simple but effective way of stopping youths from kicking each other. They made youths take out their bootlaces.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Adam Trimingham looks at the trouble caused by mods and rockers in May 1964' page

Mary Whitehouse, the doughty defender of old- fashioned morals, blamed the violence by young people on copying what they saw on TV.

Less predictably, support for mods and rockers came from the National Federation of Hairdressers as both sides paid much attention to style.

Forty years ago pictures of Mods and Rockers shocked polite society. But were they staged by the press?

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Forty years ago pictures of Mods and Rockers shocked polite society. But were they staged by the press?' page

It all kicked off between the mods and the rockers this weekend in 1964. But appearances can be deceptive

Robin Stummer reports

They came, they saw, they beat each other senseless on the shingle. Or did they? Forty years ago this Easter weekend, mods took on rockers for the first time, fuelling Britain’s first mass-media scare over dissolute, drug-taking, mindlessly violent youth.

They came, they saw, they beat each other senseless on the shingle. Or did they? Forty years ago this Easter weekend, mods took on rockers for the first time, fuelling Britain’s first mass-media scare over dissolute, drug-taking, mindlessly violent youth.

Starting with a spot of bother at Clacton, Essex, over the Easter weekend of 1964, the tabloid press feasted for months on the gory new phenomenon breaking out at sleepy seaside towns across the South-east.

Beside gleefully horrified headlines – “Riot police fly to seaside” – were photographs of pale youths in Italian fashions fighting pale youths in engine-oil-caked leathers beside penny arcades at Margate, Brighton, Bournemouth, Clacton, Southend and Hastings.

But now mod experts and some of the old rockers and mods themselves are admitting that many of the candid newspaper shots of seaside gang fighting in 1964 – so shocking at the time, and now considered classic images of Sixties Britain – were staged.

Further, with the tales of drug-fuelled derring-do and flying deckchairs now the stuff of pop-culture legend, a new, far less violent picture is emerging of what actually happened. It’s a world far removed from Quadrophenia, the cult 1979 film based on The Who’s mod-nostalgia album.

“There are famous photographs taken in Brighton where the photographer paid the lads a few shillings,” says David Cooke, a Brighton-based mod ephemera dealer and an authority on the history and lore of the mod world. “Quite a few people know that photographs were set up in Brighton.”

Finding that gangs were engaged not in open warfare but aimless wandering, some photographers and reporters paid youths to stage mock fights and chases.

“At Margate some photographs were definitely staged,” recalls Howard Baker, in 1964 a purist mod and now a writer whose novel Sawdust Caesar is set against mid-1960s mod culture. “Reporters and photographers were paying off a lot of kids. You’d get a fiver or a tenner. We’d get pissed on it.”

“The media made it sound much worse than it really was,” says rocker Phil Bradley, a veteran of dozens of seaside “visits” in the Sixties and a repentant mod-baiter. Bradley became a rocker at 14 when he bought his first motorbike, and spent most of his teens trading insults with the scootering mods. But bloodshed? “There wasn’t as much fighting as what has been made out,” he says. “The press hyped it right up. There were only isolated incidents. There weren’t riots like in that film Quadrophenia. The odd deckchair came flying through the air, but there weren’t weapons like you see nowadays.

“And we certainly didn’t go chasing after old people, even us rockers. If we saw an old lady going across the road having trouble, we’d walk across with her.”

Tabloid headlines about the drug menace facing Britain’s youth, which for a few months in mid-1964 alternated with seaside warfare headlines, pointed to another glaring falsehood. “There was an idea that amphetamines, which were the mod pill of choice at the time, caused us all to be terribly aggressive, but that wasn’t the case,” says Alfredo Marcantonio, 40 years ago a devoted mod and now a leading figure in British advertising. “Most of the time you danced your socks off in clubs, but afterwards you were so worn out you wouldn’t want to fight anyone.”

No, says Howard Baker, there was real fighting as well as fake fighting. “The Brighton photographs weren’t staged. I was there. The violence was nasty, but there weren’t guns.”

Mods were not averse to fighting other mods, rather than rockers. “It wasn’t really mods versus rockers, as the press put it, anyway,” says David Cooke. “Mods were fighting each other. The north London mods hated south London mods. South London mods hated north London mods, and east London mods hated everybody, and everybody hated them.”

“You could almost tell which part of London a mod was from by which colour suit he had,” recalls Mr Marcantonio. One of many early mods who went into advertising and the media, he remembers spats, but maintains pitched battles did not happen. “The streets were not strewn with broken deckchairs,” he says. “The police herded you up and you ended up walking around Brighton in the great phalanxes of people looking a bit pissed off.

“The seaside towns were the domain of the rocker, their patch,” he explains. “Every rocker, you imagined, dreamt of working on the dodgems, with the sound of Del Shannon echoing past the helter-skelter. So a lot of us turning up on scooters, it was asking for trouble. But mods didn’t ever get on their scooters and go down to the coast for a fight. Real mods were far too concerned about their clothing. I mean, we’re talking about possibly losing buttons – you know, creasing or tearing clothing you’d saved for!”

But isolated outbreaks of violence did continue throughout the Sixties. “The Battle of Hastings, about 1965, was quite a big one,” remembers Phil Bradley. “Some scooters and bikes went off the top of the cliff. Margate in 1964 was the worst – the cells filled up. There were only seven coppers in Margate at the time, and one Black Maria – but there were about 4,000 mods and 500 rockers!”

In the end, the mod movement mutated. “Everyone diverged,” says Howard Baker. “Lots of mods became hippies or freaks and wandered off to India, like I did.”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea why there was any fighting with the mods,” says Phil Bradley. “I really don’t know.”

The Independent   More about…50 years on.

The early 1980s revival ebbed away and since then all resorts including Brighton have not suffered from large-scale fighting by violent gangs of youths.

It is almost half a century now since the first clashes and some of the combatants have become nostalgic about them.

Every September there is a huge convoy of men on motorbikes and scooters who ride down to Brighton for the day.

Now mostly pensioners, they reminisce about what they see as the good old days while often drinking nothing stronger than tea.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Adam Trimingham looks at the trouble caused by mods and rockers in May 1964' page

By Adam Trimingham

  • Bloody British History: Brighton by David J. Boyne (The History Press £9.99)

     More about…50 years on.

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Mods and Rockers, Brighton Beach Riot 1964

Scores of youths have been given prison sentences following a Whitsun weekend of violent clashes between gangs of Mods and Rockers at a number of resorts on the south coast of England.Yesterday two youths were taken to hospital with knife wounds and 51 were arrested in Margate after hundreds of teenagers converged on the town for the holiday weekend.
Dr George Simpson, chairman of Margate magistrates, jailed four young men and imposed fines totalling £1,900 on 36 people.
Three offenders were jailed for three months each and five more sent to detention centres for up to six months.


In Brighton, two youths were jailed for three months and others were fined.

More than 1,000 teenagers were involved in skirmishes on the beach and the promenade last night.

They threw deckchairs around, broke them up to make bonfires, shouted obscenities at each other and at passers-by, jostled holidaymakers and terrified elderly residents.

At about 1300 BST Mods and Rockers gathered at the Palace Pier chanting and jeering at each other and threw stones when police tried to disperse them.

The teenagers staged a mass sit-down on the promenade when police, using horses and dogs, tried to move them on.

In Margate, there were running battles between police and up to 400 youths on the beach early yesterday morning. Bottles were thrown and two officers were slightly hurt.

Later, on the high street, around 40 young men smashed council flat windows and vandalised a pub and a hardware shop.

Last night, hundreds of young men and girls were still wandering around the resort long after the last train had left.

Police stepped in to prevent further violence and dispersed about 30 youths in leather jackets who marched up the promenade shouting “Up the Rockers!”

There were further clashes at Bournemouth and Clacton.

Crowd running on the beach

From the early to mid-1960s young, mainly working class, Britons with cash to spend joined one of two youth movements.The Mods wore designer suits protected by Parka jackets and were often armed with coshes and flick-knives. They rode Vespa or Lambretta scooters bedecked with mirrors and mascots and listened to Ska music and The Who.Rockers rode motorbikes – often at 100mph with no crash helmets – wore leathers and listened to the likes of Elvis and Gene Vincent.Inevitably the two gangs clashed. The 1964 Whitsun weekend violence in Brighton was famously dramatised in the film Quadrophenia (1979).In August that year police had to be flown into the Sussex resort of Hastings to break up fights between the two gangs.

But two years later, most Mods had turned their attentions to the burgeoning, more laid-back, hippie culture. While the harder working class Mods created the Skinhead Subculture