In the UK, we are a breeding ground for subcultures. Especially during times of change like the 60s and 70s. One of the most popular subcultures also probably has the worst reputation. It’s the Football Casual. A lot of people will think of them as Football hooligans, but that’s only part of the story.There is far more to the culture, especially these days when hooliganism has been pushed to the margins. These days it’s very much about the fashion and the love of the game.
The subculture started way back in the 1950s, and even back then, it was as much about the threads as anything else. It started when the boys and men on the football terraces started to embrace the Teddy Boy fashion of the time. They were very much anti-establishment, and that sense of “fighting the establishment” has been a recurring theme, with the introduction of the skinhead in the 60s.
But the football casuals didn’t enjoy being associated with the skinheads. For a start, they didn’t really share their political views, they were not racists, and the clothing made them really easy to spot. They became targets for the Police, and at the time the Police were allowed to act first and ask questions later. You could get into trouble with the law even if you were doing nothing more than going to watch your favourite team.
Moving into the 70s, the football casuals were desperate to form their own identity. Then Liverpool became European champions. They became the best team in Europe and year after year, the team and the fans would travel around Europe taking on all comers.
It was the Liverpool fans that started the football casual fashion we now know. On their travels, they started stopping off at Boutiques in Germany, France and Italy and picking up designer clothes. The brands were not well known in the UK at the time, and the Liverpool fans who went to Europe following the mighty reds wore them almost as a uniform.
Motifs we can now spot at 100 metres were worn as badges of honour. Motifs like the Lacoste crocodile. They were worn to tell other fans that “I follow my club across land and sea”. Very quickly other clubs started mimicking them. Especially fans of northern clubs. Fans would soon head over to mainland Europe, not to follow their clubs, who were not in Europe competitions, but just to pick up the designer brands to wear to the football.
This is the football casual as we now know it. Since then it was all about the football, and it still is. Through the 80s the casuals took it a step further. Each club would identify with different brands. Nothing much changed as the casual swept through the early 90s, but then the Police started to crack down on football violence in a major way, it got pushed further and further to the margins, and more and more fans felt comfortable embracing the casual culture who were never interested in violence, just showing their love for football.
In 2017, there are 13 million people who go to watch football matches live, and the casual culture is as strong as ever. You’ll find brands such as Lacoste and Stone Island, C.P Company and Lyle & Scott in abundance. Fred Perry and Diadora are still cool. But there’s also been some new brands, launched off the back of the culture like Eighties Casuals and Weekend Offender.
Most importantly, young men in the UK feel comfortable being fashion conscious. It’s OK to care about how you look and be “one of the lads”, and no punch needs to be thrown. It’s understandable why the football casual might have a bad reputation, but the culture has moved on, and anyway, it adds to its appeal that the general public doesn’t like it. The casual is here to stay.
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