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CASUALS: THE LOST TRIBE OF BRITAIN They dressed cool and fought(eng)

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).

His 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 cultural examination.

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.

As with 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.

From 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.

In 1981, 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.

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