Here we have the recent French 'Spray' Magazine interview with Phil Thornton of the 'Casuals' Book fame plus author Cass Pennant. When did you start going football?
Cass: Aged 8 when a neighbour took me to Upton Park and the Boleyn Ground to watch West Ham United in 1966 after England had won the World Cup in a side featuring Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Bobby Moore.
Phil: My dad was a big Liverpool fan and began taking me to Anfield when I was 6 which was about 1971. Liverpool in those days was a very poor city and still is but Anfield was a spectacular place for a young kid. The kop was at its height and the sight of them singing 'You'll never walk alone' from the Anfield Road end is still ingrained in my mind. I remember the smells as much as the sounds, the vinegar from the chip shops, the horse shit from the police horses, the onions from the hotdog sellers, the beer from the pubs and ofcourse the piss from 20,000 men crammed into the kop. Even though I was only small and when Liverpool scored you could end up 50 feet away from your 'spec' on the kop, I never felt frightened and no-one ever really got seriously hurt. There was lots of violence inside the grounds during those days and I remember vividly Chelsea fans below us in the Main Stand throwing slings into the kop and then my dad leaving early and going through all these Chelsea fans in the corridors who were begging the stewards not to throw them out because outside in the car park behind the stand was a mob of about 1000 scousers baying for their blood. This was the glory days for the old 'bootboy' movement which came after the skinheads and suedehead sof the late 60s and early 70s. There was a skinhead revival in the late 70s along with punk and I stopped going to Anfield around 75 when my dad's car got stolen. I got more into music especially punk around this time and football became less important to me but I still went to the odd game and also followed my local non-league team Runcorn AFC 'The Linnets' who were in the old Northern Premier League which was the top non-league competition. Runocrn won it in 1976 but didn't get into the old 4th division because their ground wasn't good enough. Wimbledon won the Southern premier league the same year, got promoted and a decade later beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final whereas Runcorn went worse and eventually sold the ground to housing developers. Some of the worst violence I've seen and been involved in was actually at Runcorn games rather than at big clubs because there was only ever a few police and the stewards were old men
Did you notice the 'casual thing' right on?
Cass: I first noticed the Liverpool and Everton youngsters around 1979 liked to wear Adidas Samba with straight-legged Lois jeans and Adidas cagoules but it was the hair, styled kind of effeminate which later got called the flick or wedge haircut. I thought it was a weedy look and not as stylish as the Soul boy and Brian Ferry influenced dressers amongst the rough and mean looking West Ham firm. The name casual was not a name anyone as a firm really called themselves as yet but what became known as casuals arrived with the youngest members of the ICF, known as the Under 5s because of their age. It was this youth that started to add a bit of colour to this trend and give it a distinctive London look. The sportswear look mixture of tennis, ski and golf wear was replacing the London spiv look of Gabicci, Pierre Cardin and Farahs. On the terraces the east Enders still looked like an army in wearing Fred Perry polo, MA1 flight jacket, Lois jeans and Lonsdale London T-shirts so these younger ICF members really stood out as a group on their own. In 1980 we had Everton in the semi-final of the FA Cup and the youth of both clubs between the ages of 15-20 looked dressed in a distinct style to what became known later as the casual movement.
Phil: The casual style only really started to creep in after the mod revival of 79. I'm not saying there weren't 'scallies' around as there were kids who dressed in that style who were more into electronic music but the mod revival was massive and I remember we used to shop in Liverpool city centre around Button Street and even in 1980 there was still plenty of punks, skins, mods, rockabillies around. The scally look only became massive around 1980, 81 and seemed to tie in more with the new electronic and synth pop bands around like OMD, Human League, Kraftwerk. That was definately the way in went where I lived. I live in a town about 15 miles from Liverpool but it is split into the Old Town which is more allied to Manchester in accent and new town which was an overspill new town where people from Liverpool moved to in the 60s and 70s. There was a lot of hostility and violence between the two communities and this was when I started to follow Manchester United because I was out fighting scousers every night and it didn't seem right to be supporting Liverpool. Having said that there were lots of Liverpool and Everton fans in our gang too. A couple of our lads began dressing 'smooth' as we called it around 1980 and it was felt to be a kind of betrayal at first because most of our gang were skinheads and smoothies were regarded as scousers only. At the time there was only the scousers dressing like this as far as we knew until one pre-season friendly game at Runcorn around 200 Wigan lads came over dressed in classic scally clothing. When we went to Man United games we also noticed that the mancs were dressed the same and so within a few months maybe from the end of 79 to the summer of 1980, it had completely taken over the north west. At this time I wasn't dressing like that because I was still into punk and Oi music and then got into rockabilly and northern soul and funk but by the time I left school in 1982, I had converted and remember on my 17th birthday buying a Dubon 'Israeli parka' and a pair of Adidas shoes (Tenerifes). That was me hooked from that moment on. Infact I remember wearing these items on a college trip to Paris in early 83 and was surprised to see that most Parisians were dressed like they were in a photo shoot for The Face.
Was violence the main goal at the beginning?
Cass: Violence was a central part of your going football days because the modern time football hooligan was originally a skinhead which first emerged in 1967 and had spread it’s reputation as being a violent subculture nationwide by 1969, this quote ‘Spirit of 69’ is a reference to this. It is also true that the majority of lads throughout the 70s and 80s were also supporters just following their peers on the terraces in an atmosphere and arena where football violence had become the norm.
Phil: I don't think violence was the main goal but the two things went hand in hand. Every team had its own mob, every town has its own mob, violence is endemic in British culture because we are very protective of our own territories and because there are so many towns and cities, there is rivalry everywhere and because Britain is relatively small compared to say france or Spain, then each club only has to travel a few miles before it hits a rival mob. Where I live, there is only a mile between Runcorn on the south shore of the Mersey and Widnes on the other side of the river but each town has it's own accent, its own culture, they play rugby league for instance, and ofcourse there's always rivalry between both towns and I remember getting beaten up over there a few times. If you look at the away mobs of that time, the early to mid 80s, it was almost entirely made up of lads in their late teens to mid 20s and you had to stick together because you knew there would another mob waiting for you. I suppose the main mobs at the time were Liverpool and Everton, Man United, Leeds, Chelsea, West Ham. They had the numbers and reputations but most clubs could pull a decent firm together like Boro, Birmingham, Villa, Spurs, Arsenal. Millwall were always feared but as they were rarely in the first division you never really met them. They got promoted in 88and it was fun to see them all for that season and the odd cup game. West Ham really set the trend for the smaller groups of travelling fans, rather than turning up en masse on football specials and being herded into the away end, they began making their own travel arrangements and began to go in the stands rather than the away terraces. This was unheard of at the time as stands were felt to be for those who couldn't cut it on the terraces, the posh people and coward.
What were the criteria to wear a brand? What was the stuff to avoid?
Cass: The criteria in wearing the uniform of a casual was one you had to be a lad with a certain attitude that stood out from the crowd and two, you had to go football. This was instantly recognizable as a fact with other subcultures when on the street, club, pub or gig, others would know they had come across a football lad and it is something people would think straight away like a health warning. The trends of the casuals changed fast with different look for spring, summer and winter. So what was in as the right look varied region to region and firm by firm but whatever group you was in it was important to avoid ridicule from your peers so most knew what gear to avoid. Even if your brand was right the style still had to be right too so jeans had to be straight legged and no flares or baggies. There was a period where cockney Londoners liked to fray and split seam the bottom of their Lois jeans to flare out over your trainers, which meant your feet caught the eye, so this meant you had to wear the best style trainers. Forest Hills, Stan Smiths, Nike Wimbledon’s all passed but the gold Borg Elite surpassed them all. This fraying of the jean bottoms was wiped out as a look on the terraces the moment Indian and Asian market traders stated to wholesale jeans with this look already manufactured. Nobody would buy them in this way as nobody entertained it as cool anymore. Other terrace no no’s were anything fake that you could see the fake motif or label, and it would be funny when you see them deny they had fake brand because people would make them show where the original label was cut out from inside the back of the collar neck. They would also check the buttons and zips and see if the brand name wasn’t engraved. It was not just about having the right brand as style was just as important and also to mix and match ideas to be creative and stay original. To wear a complete Lacoste tracksuit was uncool as was Burberry check trousers when the Burberry check was in fashion with the lads. It was no good going over the top as in wearing the right brands you had to be subtle in what item of clothing was chosen and way you wore it, remember the casual was interested in supporting a look that would keep him undetected with the football police and stewards.
Phil: In the beginning it was never about brands really. There were many diiferent looks that came and went within months, baseball gear, American football shirts, jogging suits, tennis outfits, Adidas was always the main footwear but there was Pods, Kickers, Keos too, cord hjackets, hunter leathers, box leathers, sheepskin jackets, bubble jackets, all kinds of different things not associated with labels but by 81, when the likes of lacoste, Ellesse, tacchini, Fila, Pringle and Lyle & Scott jumpers and the sportswear look came in, then it became far more about outdoing eachother with rarer brands like Munsingwear and Braemar, Jaegar and so on. We wer eonly used to what we get hold of in Britain and no-one was selling this stuff so shoplifitng trips to alpine resorts and germany became important especially with the ski wear and Adidas trainers. Trainers went in and out of fashion all the time; Samba, Stan Smiths, Forest Hills, Trimm Trabs, Munchen and then Nike came along in 82 and then New Balance and Diadora and that broke their monopoly. There was a split around 84 when Mancs began their scruff look which was a reaction against the sportswear look and scousers began wearing more cord and tweed, mountaineering gear and Cockneys went a bit more flash and dressed up with paisley shirts, Farahs, Daks, Aquascutum and classic English labels.
Do you know this dress style, in France, was more popular within the Paris suburbs (and in hip hop)?
Cass: Did not know this but to be truthful in the 70s 80s we had not noticed there was a fashion culture on the terraces of French football or generally throughout Europe. Generally you would always find evidence of fashion interests in nightclubs but never did anyone say the French lads had any fashion movement and thought it was something only for the catwalks. Our evidence of French male fashion with lads would be from what we saw following the music scene to gigs here in London. The French lads that would be influenced by British music bands that through the music got them to check out London and our football clubs. At West Ham we have a strong following of French skinheads from Marseille who dress in great detail wearing brogues, Levi’s , Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, flight jackets etc and this has come from them seeing bands like The Cockney Rejects and Cock Sparer perform at gigs across France and here. The Marseille skins learned these bands supported West Ham and because of this they came, we also have Belgium following from separate cities from the clubs of Anderlecht and Bruges. Its interesting the hip hop link as it was same here when early 80s youngsters in this street beat scene wore body-warmers and sports brand tracksuits to body pop in the high street and clubs. Certainly lads I have interviewed in my books have openly said this is where they got some of their fashion interests and even former Oasis star Liam Gallagher has gone on record to say his fashion influence as a boy living in Manchester was originally hip hop street wear. Freez I.O.U 1983 Beggers Banquet label is footage of soul boy break-dancer influence with casuals as video got teens in frayed jean bottoms with splits, Nike Legend and track tops various brands casuals wore. This what impacted on Riaz Khan an Asian casual with Leicester’s Baby Squad who was interviewed for Casuals film.
Phil: I think there was a definite parallel with hip hop but trust me, no-one knew what hip hop was or what lads in New York were wearing back in 79, 80. We only really got an idea when the Rocksteady Crew video was shown and then there was a split between the scally and hip hop looks. In Manchester the black kids dressed the same as the white kids, even Manchester's Broken Glass breakdance crew were wearing scally clothes when they started and then it went more into that classic hip hop sportswear look in 83, 84 and that's when the hip hop look went international really and when the whole scally/casual look became sidelined and was only really limited to britain with maybe a few mobs in Holland, Belgium and Germany really understanding it. That 'Ultra' look was more like our old skinhead look and even though Italian and French labels became massive in the mid 80s, we never looked at french or Italian fans as being stylish. Germans and Dutch fans were ridiculed also as trying too hard to copy British looks but not getting it right. Even within britain, scousers, mancs and cockneys still like to ridicule each other's dress sense.
Did Casuals die with the 90’s?
Cass: The original casuals had long gone and the Rave and Acid House scene had got a lot of the original lads into the music business. The ICF went heavy into the rave scene even having their own pirate radio station Centre Force for it, later they set up record labels etc. The Acid house scene came at the right time when many showcase hooligan trials involving ring leaders collapsed because of policing methods meant it was debatable if they could gain convictions. The introduction of tough new laws and banning orders together with threat of stiff prison sentences following the Taylor Report the top boys we actually wanting something else to find the buzz they had grown tired of so they switched to the rave scene and often took it over.
Phil: It didn't die just mutated. There has never really been one uniform which is why it's lasted so long, over 30 years and still evolving. The acid house look began really as just the baggy scally look that the Happy Mondays had been wearing in the Hacienda and that went against the more dressy clubber look of the time and the retro 'rare groove' scene. When the hippy look got mixed in, it went a bit silly but none of the main lads were wearing stuff like that anyway and I wore stuff like carpenter jeans, hiking boots, grandad collar shirts and various old skool kagools, not Stone Island but Berghaus or Peter Storm which were the kind of things we wore back in the early 80s. In the clubs, the balearic, acid jazz and garage scenes moved away from acid house and rave, and that became more about smarter labels, Nick Coleman, Duffer, Burro, Koshino and that white jeans, bob haircut look. The britpop look I suppose was a return to the classic casual styles of the 80s. Oasis had that dressed down manc look, plain crew neck jumpers, check shirts, gazelles when they started and Blur were a kind of comedy pastiche of Cockney casual. That's when the casual look really became big again with a new generation of younger kids who followed Liam Gallagher although we regarded him as a prick.
How did you feel with the "new lad" and the democratization of the phenomenon in the press?
Phil: It wasn't a democratisation but a middle class appropriation of working class culture. If you read articles from Liverpool fanzine, The End, they always took the piss out of working class attitudes as much as they celebrated them whereas Loaded was a bunch of university educated posh kids snorting coke and wallowing in the kind of sexist, bigoted behaviour that we were always fighting against. The British media is a middle class ghetto and it was insulting to see these rich kids pretending to be something they weren't because they could always return to their previous lives whereas those stuck on council estates and in shit jobs or no jobs lived that way more to escape the drudgery of their everyday lives.
Some see 'casuals' just as fashion consumers but there was another dimension with it, wasn't it?
Phil: I get annoyed when casual is presented as some kind of right wing, materialistic scene when in fact it's an aesthetic not a musical, political or cultural scene. The one thing that unites casuals or scallies or whatever we get called is a love of great clothing and that surpasses any other consideration. I know some very left wing casuals and some very right wing ones, some who never talk about clothes and others who never stop talking about them. it trascends even language, especially in the north west of England where it's ingrained into the fabric of life, it just 'is.' The myth that casuals tried to diguise themselves to avoid police attention is a joke. That may have been a by-product but was never a conscious decision and as for being cosumerist, well maybe some were but it was never just about expensive labels for the sake of it, otherwise lads would be walking around in Versace and they're not. None of the looks have come from designers or so-called style gurus telling people what to wear, it's entirely rooted in the shared aesthetic of working class culture.
There's also a kind of resistance against the USA domination with strictly European brands...
Phil: America didn't really register in our world. I suppose once Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger began to come in during the 80s and 90s, we became more aware of those labels but no-one ever really looked at yanks and thought 'they look good, let's copy them.' In global terms, that hip hop look has dominated everythign for the past 20 years or so and I'd look at some groups and see similarities, the likes of the backpack rappers, Pharcyde, Dilated Peoples and even the Wu-Tang, shared a similar approach but both things evolved entirely in isolation. I'm waiting to see the firsr rapper to get into CP.
Do you have already thought to give up?
Cass: Give up being a casual? I think out of all the sub-cultures fashions experienced in my lifetime this one was the best and as it not based on music you can always be a casual at heart, you get older and your own lifestyle dictates less outlandish choices and colours in what you now wear but you don’t ever lose that eye for something of quality and style or just different or new.
Phil: I'm getting older and think that the past 10 years has validated the aim of my book which was to tell the story of perhaps the last great british youth movement and place it into a historical and cultural context. I'm glad that at last people have recognised casual as something that not only existed but that remains stronger than ever 30 years on. I think my book played a part in allowing film makers and documentary makers to realise there was a market and a demand for these things. There's also a younger generation who've become bored with the same old clothes and youth culture options who are now looking around for new and old styles they can identify with and of course there's been massive increase in interest from other countries who maybe never knew anything about the scene. My book has recently been translated into Russian and there has been a definate shift away from that Ultra look by a lot of continental mobs towards the casual look.
You put out your book in the beginning of the 00's, did you feel a real waiting after this?
Phil: I had written articles for The Face and fanzines, I'd also done my own fanzines throughout the 90s and I remember getting on the Hoolifan forum when the internet really began linking people together and asking Martin King when he was going to do a book on the fashion side of football fans rather than the hooliganism. Then I thought, why don't I do it myself? I'd been getting on a site called Terrace Retro and there were lots of very knowledgable and passionate casuals on there and I also chaired an event in 2002 for a Liverpool festival called Writing On The Wall that looked at football hooligan books. We had Cass Pennant from West Ham, Martin King from Chelsea and Tony Rivers from Cardiff and Peter Walsh from Milo Books at the event and I did a proposal for Peter a few months later. It was a risk for him as up till then he'd only published straight out hooligan books and no-one was really talking about the casual scene but I was convinced there'd be a market for it and it's sold over 35,000 copies since 2003.
What has changed since the last ten years ? With Nick Love movies, look books releases, the Casuals dvd, etc. Scallies seem to be hip once again...
Phil: I think the Nick Love films have definately had an impact, my sales increased around the time of The Firm at any rate. People are more aware of the scene and the internet definately had an effect too. There are more specialist shops and neo-casual; and workwear labels these days and that has bred a kind of uniform which has become a bit wearisome. Third Reich Ramblers I call them.
Today, what is a casual? Does it still mean something? Mod-casual means nothing to me...
Cass: Casual still means football lad from back in the heyday of lads causing chaos on the terraces. The term is not used to refer to the lads going football today unless their firm was named casuals example Aberdeen Casuals. It had a certain look and a very happening scene in the 80s so the casual is set in a time period. It is interesting today if you look in Italy where there has been war on the ultras from the authorities their lads have began to refer themselves as casuals rather than ultras and are keen to wear British brands of today like One True Saxon and Peaceful Hooligan. Mod casual is a descriptive term to describe guys out there today in their 40s who had been mods and went casuals in the 80s and today retain an influence from both in what they are wearing or into. Then filming casuals we discovered a new youth culture mainly under 17 who have taken influences from what their parents had been. The main guy we interviewed from Brighton said his mum was a ex-mod and dad was a football casual and he said he was a casual mod because he mixed a bit of both worlds with whatever new labels he liked of his own too.
Phil: I personally have never called myself a casual as it was a term applied by the media but I suppose that's what most people recognise or understand about what has always been a very subtle scene. It's not like skinheads or punks with one set look that stays the same. Mod casual is like saying punk skin, the two things are entirely different - Modules? - but I suppose there is a crossover of approach, an importance on detail and texture. To my mind mod means modernism and so casuals were the true modernists of the 80s and still are today not a retro-revivalist cult looking back to the 60s for their inspiration.
It seems like in a lot of other cultural domains, the time is about vintage nostalgia and not about evolving to a new thing...
Cass: Before we started shooting Casuals I would agree with you, it is a fact. I had the films original subtitle as ‘The Last Ever Working-class subculture’. But when we came across these so-called casual mods I notice a important thing which was they was experimenting with how they wore what they wore, even the hairstyles they were creating, trying different things and using plenty of brands and styles that was not linked with the nostalgic mods and casuals. Then when you discover other youths that all look similar but they are from different regions of the country then you recognize these signs as a new movement and what I like is just like the original football casuals days the press and media are not aware yet of them.
Phil: There's a problem with some casual styles in that they're 30 years old now so there's a temptation to just look back and revise previous looks. The Fila Bj has probably been the most revised item, and I can remember atleast 3 revivals whereas Lacoste went out of fashion in the mid 80s then came back in the 90s and has stayed more or less as a staple ever since. Adidas reussuing classic designs has also fed the demand for vintage nostalgia but i think the past 5 years has moved away from that towards new labels and looks.
Casuals United is now affiliated with the EDL. Is right wing extremism is a new haven for football casuals, as acid house was?
Cass: Football fans in the UK generally like to keep politics outside of the firm or their group at the football, no political party has ever held power on the terraces. There was a brief period in the late 70s the right wing British Movement Party and the National Front tried to gain some influence and failed. Today there is no right wing extremism haven for football casuals but there is personal choice what your political views are outside of football. Casuals Utd and EDL are not political parties but protest groups loosely organised and are free to vote for any political party. Our Tory Party who govern-share the UK and have had similar claims made of them on leaning to the right in the past. There is still a strong loyalist connection with the football hooligan hardcore today at many clubs which has come from the 90s but again it is all active outside of the football arena because it still stands strong as an unwritten rule. Keep politics off the football terraces.
Phil: I think there are a lot of confused people who now associate the CP Mille Miglia and Aquascutum scarf cover of my book with far right groups like the EDL and they have used my book cover on their internet posts which I've tried to stop. CP has always drawn influences from military clothing so I suppose it was always going to appeal to that kind of person but personally I'm very left wing and see everything through the prism of class rather than nationhood. Casual in Britain was always multi-racial and it's pretty dispiriting to see the likes of the EDL and Casuals United adopting the look as a recruiting tool but there's always been a rump of british hooligans who will attach themselves to racist causes even if they're dressed up as anti-terrorist organisations. I'd like to think I have more in common with a working class french, german, turkish, mexican, japanese or nigerian person than a british aristocrat. The rich elite always play the divide and rule card by setting the working classes against each other and it works every time. Now that Europe's in such a financial mess the right wing extremists will blame immigrants for their problems rather than the bankers and aristocrats who have robbed their land and money for centuries.
If you had to sum up Casuals history in five dates.
Cass: - The 1978-79 Football season teenage Liverpool and Everton fans introduced to the terraces a new look of wedge haircut, Adidas cagoule, Lois straight-leg jeans with Adidas trainers. The Stan Smith strap-over trainer banished the bovver boot forever from the terraces. - Borg v McEnroe 1981 Wimbledon tennis final for introducing that classic tennis wear look to the football terraces as Bjorn Borg went with Fila and John McEnroe wore Sergio Tachini. The Fila terrinda and Borg Elite trainer along with Sergio Tachini tracksuit bottoms became stuff of legend with casuals. - The Face magazine 1983 issue feature gave us the term and name Casuals that from then on got picked up on by all media and press. - 1985 Hooligan TV documentary that was a fly-on-wall film of the West Ham’s ICF. When that was aired was the moment everyone over football said we need to become a firm with a name and added style. - Heysel tragedy in 1985 meant it was no longer cool to be a casual and the casual movement from then was on borrowed time.
Phil: 1979 - first mass scally look begins to infiltrate football grounds in liverpool, manchester 1984 - liverpool, manchester and london begin their own individual looks 1986 - chipe, chevignon, ciao and other labels take over 1995 - second wave of casual brands/music scene 2005 - move way from classicism towards new casual/workwear labels
3 fav trainers? Cass: Diadora Borg Elite, Pony Red Trainer, Nike Legend Phil: Adidas VIP, Adidas Jeans, Adidas Gazelle 3 fav brands? Cass: Fila, Burberry, Henri Lloyd Phil: Massimo Osti at CP, Post O'Alls, 6876 3 fav movies? Phil: 400 Blows, Mean Streets, Kes 3 fav music labels? Cass: Motown, Trojan, Two-Tone.
Any last crucial words?
Cass: The most overlooked and under documented youth cult of all time was where working-class kids linked with football hooliganism came to desire clothes that were deliberately marketed at a different social class. It was this age of the football casual that brought a great revolution in men’s clothing that has set the tone for a thriving business in designer clothing today. It continues to evolve and its legacy you can still see the influence whether it be looking at who the brands are marketing to at Stitch Menswear Trade Show or inside the football stadiums across Europe. Ask anyone today what is a casual and they will mention names of designer clothing brands that are the choices of lads who go football.
Phil: It's not what you wear, it's how you wear it! Projects - I edit an ezine/blog Swine which i've been involved with for 6 years - seearchive section for hundreds of pieces about fashion, music, football, etc. I work for a Liverpool based drug treatment project which publishes books, makes films, etc - see showcase section:www.spiderproject.org