Chronicling the Fashions and Fables Surrounding Britain’s Football Fanatics
By Alfred Branch, Jr.
Close your eyes and think back to the late 1970s and 1980s in the U.K. Punk and New Wave ruled the music scene, Margaret Thatcher ruled the Parliament and hooligans ruled the streets.
At the flash-point of this confluence of culture was football — soccer in the U.S. — and it represented the hopes, the dreams, the fashions, the commerce and the social life of thousands of lads throughout the country. These young men lived, drank, cheered, fought, bled and obsessed over their favorite football teams, never wavering for a moment in their devotion and dedication. . .
Ian Hough, a 41-year-old Massachusetts resident by way of Manchester, England, was one of them.
Hough, a content and link developer for TicketLiquidator.com, recently published a book under the Milo Books imprint about his experiences called Perry Boys, where he writes about growing up a Manchester United football fan. The book is not yet available in the U.S., but can be purchased on Amazon’s U.K. site.
In addition to recounting the exploits of the some of the hooligans and ticket “touts,” aka scalpers, of time, the book also details the emergence of the Perry Boys movement, named after the Fred Perry tennis shirts its members obsessed over wearing. Fashion, it turns out, can be a funny thing, especially among fans pledging allegiance to their favorite teams.
In U.S., such fandom usually means wearing the jersey or t-shirt, the hat and maybe a pair of boxer shorts of your favorite team. It’s occasionally accompanied by garish face paint or other wild accessories to show your devotion. Think of the “Hogs,” those overweight, dress-wearing, pig-snout sporting fans of the Washington Redskins, or the menacing members of the “Black Hole,” sporting the castoff costumes of the latest Mad Max movie, who pledge their dedication to the Oakland Raiders.
Leave it to the English to offer something a bit more sublime.
“I came of age right at the epicenter of this movement, but I couldn’t find anything on the web about it,” Hough said. “I’d had the idea for a book since the ‘80s and finally was able to put it on paper.”
The book looks at several aspects of the Perry Boys movement, concentrating on the particular fashions of the day, such as the shirts, the track suits, the sneakers and the jeans. According to Hough, unlike many fads, the movement never died out, spawning websites and retro clothing stores that continue to flourish throughout Manchester, Liverpool and other U.K. cities with popular football teams. Some of the shirts, for example, that might have gone for $7 20 years ago are now selling for more than $80, Hough said. Used.
“Not only are there still guys in the 40s still dressing like this, but many kids under 30 years old are trying to emulate that style from 1979,” Hough said.
Part of the reason behind the sporty attire was to mask who the fans were representing, Hough said. Many hooligans were easy to spot by authorities because they wore scarves and other team-colored accessories, but the Perry Boys looked like ordinary fans.
“We often went undetected,” Hough said.