This post is part of “Required Viewing” a series on TV shows & movies every leather-clad rebel should see before they ride off into the sunset like a badass. An archive of the series can be found here.
Skinheads are one of the more complicated groups in 20th century history. Generally associated with nationalism, racism and other radical views skinheads actually began as a non-political, music and fashion based, cultural group in the United Kingdom during the 1970’s and 80’s. Director Shane Meadows grew up in these groups during the period, and based his film This is England on his experiences coming-of-age as cultural outcast. This is England is a dramatic look at how culture can be co-opted by political movements, and the repercussions this can have on everyone involved.
Set in 1983, This is England has some of the best period fashion we’ve ever seen, representing a number of trends that ought to look familiar, since they’ve all resurfaced in Western fashion over the last few years. Not only do a number of characters rock stellar leather jackets (Stephen Graham’s Woody in particular), they also have some of the best punk hair and accessories on the silver screen, ever. Nearly every piece is period accurate as well; in fact, the only exception we found was a character wearing a Smiths shirt that wouldn’t have been released until 1985 or 1986. And since it was still a Smiths shirt (which is awesome) we’ll let it slide.
The film’s main character, Shaun Fields, is based on director Meadows at 12-years-old. Bullied at school for his mother’s low income and his father’s death in the Falklands War, Shaun befriends an older teenager (Woody) who mentors him and allows him to join up with his posse of skinheads. Shaun shaves his heads, dons some excellent suspenders and loiters around the Midlands with his newfound friends. As nationalists begin to splinter their social group into factions, Shaun and his friends are forced to decide between radical politics and careless teenage rebellion. Shaun sides with nationalist Combo and soon looses touch with the friends who saved him from his previous life, leading to a climax in which the two groups clash over their differing values.
The 80’s aren’t often thought of as a prime time for grunge-y work-inspired fashion, or for reggae blasting teenagers for that matter. However, This is England is all about documenting often overlooked parts of cultural history, and the groups of outcasts who loved them. The film was so successful in the UK that it has spawned two follow-up TV series, with a third slated for release late in 2015. See the trailer for This is England after the jump.