U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Skinheads: A Three Nation Comparison

NCJ Number
Journal of Gang Research Volume: 11 Issue: 2 Dated: Winter 2004 Pages: 51-73
Wendy L. Hicks
Date Published
23 pages
This study of the Skinhead Nation -- a violent, right-wing youth gang -- focuses on its manifestations in Great Britain, America, and France in terms of the motivation of a youth in joining the gang and the process of becoming a member.
Research has found that the Skinhead Nation is highly organized, shares common political viewpoints, and works in concert with other right-wing hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nation, and the neo-Nazi Party on an international scale. The earliest "skinheads" in Great Britain were working-class youths from the poorer strata of society, who were concentrated in the East End of London. The skinhead appearance consisted of short hair, work jeans, or stay-pressed trousers, plain button-down Ben Sherman or Fred Perry shirts, black felt "donkey jackets," "Blue Beat" hats, and high dockworker boots. The violence of the skinheads reflected the ideals of super masculinity and machismo. The primary target for skinhead violence in England was the Pakistanis, who were sharply differentiated in British society by racial characteristics, religious rituals, food taboos, and a value system that encouraged deference, frugality, and the profit motive. In America the skinheads are basically a youth movement. Joining the skinheads is the first step in recruitment of a young person interested in becoming involved in the white supremacy movement. Unlike Britain and Europe, American skinheads are a "suburban and small-town phenomenon" (Ridgeway, 1990). American skinheads are also more violent when confronted by minorities than are their European counterparts. In America the single most stated reason for joining the Skinhead Nation is to fight for the survival of the White race. Skinhead violence in America was once random and impulsive, but recently the violence has become more organized and planned. In examining the socioeconomic conditions that tend to increase the motivation among youth to join the skinheads, this paper considers the economic situations of both France and Great Britain, two countries with significantly different situations regarding white supremacist organizations. It notes that one of the primary factors in the creation of a hostile climate toward ethnic-minority groups is the political reaction of the government to newly arrived immigrants and how those governmental policies are interpreted by the native citizenry. The economic analysis of Britain and France concludes that the underlying mechanisms of skinhead recruitment fail when the feelings of abandonment by the governmental system are absent. In France there is an institutionalized front that maintains the subservience of immigrants, such that French workers need not be worried about being replaced by an immigrant worker. In Britain and the United States the situation is reversed. Working-class people fear the possibility that their job will be taken by a foreigner or a Black, further eroding their quality of life and socioeconomic status. Such a climate provides ample opportunity and motivation for racist hate groups to thrive. 44 references