THEY were the days when a thirst for violence merged with a love of
fashion, days when rival football fans turned on each other in bloody
battles, days which forged one of Britain's most controversial youth
movements, whose lasting impact has been airbrushed out of history by
social commentators unable to make sense if it.
The height of the casual movement . . . and its effect on Scotland,
particularly Aberdeen . . . is recalled in Congratulations, You Have
Just Met The Casuals, a new tome that tries to shed light on the
phenomenon, even if it's unlikely to rewrite the history books.
Its author, Dan Rivers, is a former member of the notorious Aberdeen Soccer Casuals (or the ASC as they became known).
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blow-by-blow accounts of street and terrace battles are unlikely to
change the minds of those who long ago decided casuals were unworthy of
Yet there is
a small but growing number of voices who believe the legacy of the
casual cannot be so easily dismissed, who argue that it can be found on
every street in every town and city in Britain; that its impact on
popular consciousness still affects the way society perceives young
men; and that its influence can be felt on the music young people
listen to and on the clothes they wear.
For Stuart Cosgrove - television executive, broadcaster and devoted
football fan - casuals are the great hidden subculture of British life,
unloved by virtually everyone.
"Mainstream football fans resent their violence, sociology lecturers
can't think of anything interesting to say about them and even the
companies whose labels they sport, such as Burberry and Stone Island,
just wish they would go away, " he says. "Unlike the punks and the
mods, they have nobody theorising on their behalf.
Academia should learn to love casuals."
The movement began in the late 1970s, ostensibly when Liverpool fans
followed their team to Europe and were exposed to fashions not widely
available in Britain.
Take labels such as Fila, Lacoste, Burberry and Kappa, add a taste for serious fighting and a new youth culture was born.
It was, according to cultural commentator, former NME journalist and
Oasis biographer Paolo Hewitt: "One of the biggest workingclass youth
cults ever, " but because its home was the football terraces [which at
that time were entirely the preserve of the working class] rather than
universities or art schools, it went largely unexplored by the media.
Author Phil Thornton, a former Manchester United casual, grew so sick
of reading books about British youth culture and British dress sense
that relegated casuals to a sentence or a paragraph that he wrote his
own account of the movement, called simply, Casuals. "You get a lot
written about punk and mod but there was nothing there that addressed
casuals at all, " he says.
every youth movement before and since, it was the clothes that marked
the casuals out. "It wasn't even being covered by the fashion
magazines, " says Peter Hooton, the former frontman of indie group The
Farm, who was editing an influential football fanzine called The End in
Liverpool as the 1980s began.
its pages, Hooton derided the violence that was becoming such an
integral part of British football, but in every other respect he was a
fully paid-up member of the casual army. He didn't start The End to
chart a subculture - he was a football fan first and foremost - but he
grew increasingly annoyed at what he saw as a metropolitan dismissal of
a genuine working-class movement.
"I remember Kevin Sampson [later The Farm's manager and now an author]
writing to The Face in the early 1980s with a piece about casuals and
they rejected it. They said there is absolutely no interest in that
subject. That was their attitude."
Hooton remembers his first brush with casualdom. "This lad came into a
pub in Liverpool, must have been 1978 or 1979, and he had a pair of
strapover training shoes on. Everyone was amazed. They said, 'Where did
you get them from?' and he just went, 'Switzerland.' And that was it."
It's generally accepted that the casual has "Made in Merseyside"
stamped indelibly in his DNA. Easily the most successful team in
Britain throughout the 1970s, Liverpool FC were also dominating
European competitions from 1977 onwards. And where the team went -
Rome, Paris, Madrid - significant numbers of fans followed, picking up
items of sportswear unavailable in the UK. By the late 1970s, away fans
visiting Liverpool's Anfield ground would have noticed clusters of
outlandishly dressed young men in exotic-looking tracksuit tops and
shiny new trainers. Later these same fans would adopt tweed jackets,
deerstalkers, even tennis and cricket gear, as terrace fashions changed
with the seasons.
Liverpool won their third European Cup Final in five years, beating
Real Madrid in Paris. Hooton was at the midweek game and, like
thousands of other fans, travelled over on the ferry the weekend
before. As well as football, he had training shoes on his mind: a
rumour had spread about a shop in Paris called The Adidas Centre which
sold trainers unavailable anywhere else. It was the Holy Grail as far
as Hooton and hundreds of other Scouse soccer casuals were concerned.
They spent all weekend scouring the city looking for it.