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Football Casual culture is one engrained within football fans in Britain. No matter your age, if you've grown up in Britain over the past few decades you'll have been exposed to it in some way, whether first hand on a match day, or through the films and books dedicated to the subject in recent years.
The argument as to where it all started has been raging on for a long time. Those North of the Watford Gap will say the thing people now know as 'Casual' began life as a Liverpool thing.
According to VIVID RIOT BLOG, in the late 70’s, as you may know, Everton and Liverpool football clubs were both taking part in European cup competitions. The fans from the Mersey travelled everywhere to follow their teams and on these travels the opportunity came to literally smash, grab and steal whatever goods were available on the continent. This usually meant exclusive designer clothing.
However, when it comes to the casuals, Liverpool North West rivals in Manchester will tell you their homegrown 'PERRY BOYS' were the trailblazers, while down South, the London dressers claim the look was merely a continuation of the Soul Boy scene.
There's probably an element of truth to all their claims.
Below you can watch Football's Top Boys, a short documentary which shows those who were part of this Casual culture in Britain.
First of all, rewind back to the seventies when football hooliganism was at epidemic levels, with beered up bovver boys in their overcoats terrorising the terraces, creating clashing stampedes of young working class frustration. It wasn't until a new generation of kids came along, peacocks dressed in sportswear and trainers with their hair grown out, that the thing we know as 'Casual' started to take shape.
The way they looked, like a Grand Slam finalist fresh off of Centre Court, made them pretty much invisible to police on the hunt for traditional 'troublemakers' - the skinheads in red braces. Perfect for causing havoc in someone else's town on a Saturday afternoon.
The skinheads that attended football matches in the late 60’s and early 70’s started to get their steel toe-capped Doctor Marten boots taken away as a safety measure and at some grounds and the laces were removed by the Police at others.
Skinhead fashion was always aggressively working class and the Police now had an easily recognizable target for trouble started at football. A movement to supersede the ‘boot boys’ was hiding just around the corner.
The sportswear get-up soon took on around the country, with the likes of Liverpool and Aberdeen's success in Europe during the 80s meaning local lads could go on the rob across the continent at away games, kitting out their firms with gear that just simply wasn't available to your average chap back home. Exotic names like Lacoste, Fila, Diadora and Gabbicci, were disappearing off the shelves quicker than you could say 'jib'. The violence was still a major aspect of a match day, but out-dressing your opposing firm became another way to get one up on your rivals.
As the '90s arrived the Casual style continued to evolve in the same way it had begun, seeking new ways to look smart and stay a step ahead. Borrowing ideas from the Italian Paninaro subculture, labels like Stone Island, Armani and CP Company became synonymous with a new generation of lads, who also paid tribute to Britain's tailoring heritage with the likes of Burberry, Aquascutum and Hackett gaining popularity. However, classic favourites such as Lacoste, Paul & Shark and Pharabouth. In the late 1990s, many football supporters began to move away from the brands that were considered the casual uniform, because of the police attention that the casual styles attracted; several designer labels also withdrew designs from sale after they became common casual uniforms.
The biggest change came within the game itself, however. Big businesses caught on to the loyalty of fans and saw potential in football as a money-making enterprise. First, the game had to be re-branded, and the idea of mobs of young lads from the rough parts of town didn't wash well with the new Middle Class money the clubs were trying to attract. As prices were hiked up and stadiums made more 'family friendly', the police cracked down. The firms still went about their business, but in smaller groups, away from the stadiums, and in the face of harsh judicial consequences.
The relationship between football and style continued to flourish however. The tracksuit tops and cords of the '80s had been replaced by technically engineered jackets and denim, but the lads took just as much care over their match day outfits as ever before.
The drug ecstasy started a new wide-eyed revolution and the thought of getting up for a football match after dancing for ten hours or more was becoming less appealing for most. Dropping an’E’ and raving to acid house music became the craze of the 90’s and again the police got involved.
20,000 people dancing to thumping music in a field, whilst taking drugs was too much again for those in power. Add a sleepy farmer waking up to bass and bleeps at three in the morning, co-operation was thin on the ground. Middle England was up in arms, yet again.
Much discussion goes on these days as to what it really means to be a true 'Casual’, especially in this day and age, where a Football Banning Orders, CCTV and eye-wateringly long jail terms for minor offences have all but stubbed out the violent part of the Casual lifestyle.
Below you can watch The Stone Roses highlights at Spike Island 1990.
One aspect that refuses to die however is the style. Through the films like The Business and The Firm which saw a renewed interest in the clothing worldwide, to brands like Pretty Green and their Casual range, influenced by the Casual ethos throughout the ages, it’s clear that this particular bastion of British street style will strut into the future undeterred.
The English are usually given credit for bringing hooliganism to football grounds, but recently it has spread to all corners of Europe and even Down Unda where football is a big thing now and there has been outbreaks of violence in and around Sydney and Melbourne. The majority of teams have "firms" or "ultras;" gangs of fans with an almost tribal mentality. Organized fights after games are frequent and even seen by some as an integral part of the sport.
Check out our movie section for some football related films.
We recently interviewed Aitor Throup (Stone Island - Kasabian designer) and discussed his collection "WHEN FOOTBALL HOOLIGANS BECOME HINDU GODS" and we also interviewed Adidas Spezial curator Gary Aspden.