The “old skinhead from High Wycombe” on youth culture, politics and Dr. Martens
During the 1970s, Gavin Watson began documenting the codes and rituals of those around him. His photographs offered a candid snapshot into the emergence of a radical and new youth culture, later dubbed as the skinhead movement. A long-term collaborator of Dr. Martens, Watson has just released a limited edition series of four t-shirts baring his own compelling photographs. With Dr Martens “an intrinsic part” of his youth, Watson struggled to select just four images out of his extensive archive for the capsule collection. Describing it as the “natural step” between himself and brand, Watson’s collaboration feels as real as his own photographic approach.
Dazed Digital: Skinhead culture is often associated with politics and race, has this been true to your experiences?
Gavin Watson: It started out not being political at all. It was all about the music.
DD: What did it mean to you when you were growing up?
Gavin Watson: It was the impact it had on the outside world when that little kid, who didn't feel like he existed until he shaved his head. I went from literally just not being seen to becoming a different human being. It was about the impact that had on the outside world. It was amazing to be a part of something.
I was the only fucking bloke that wasn't apologetic for it and that said: "I was a fucking skinhead and this is what we created and its quite beautiful and you didn't expect that did ya?!'
DD: Why did now feel like the right time to collaborate again with Dr. Martens?
Gavin Watson: After the Shane Meadows film came out it just went fucking mental, I mean it opened up the floodgates and I realised everyone except my parents knew who I was. I had been shooting various Dr. Martens campaigns since 2011 and this collaboration felt like the next, natural step in our relationship. The boots were such an intrinsic part of my youth. They feature so deeply in my personal photography archive, we were spoilt for choice when narrowing it down to only 4 images!
DD: How do you think the Skinhead movement would have developed if things like the Internet and Instagram had been around?
Gavin Watson: Back then we had telephone boxes and that was it! You know, that was our reality. We got our information through the music papers that came out once a week. We had to wait for that, and in a way that was all part of what made us who we were because we had to go further afield to find our brothers, to find our music. Now the Internet had deeply affected the movement by taking it to India, Malaysia, Thailand and further afield
DD: Skinheads have received a lot of bad press and sold plenty of newspapers in Britain, how does it feel to now see this movement celebrated and often imitated?
Gavin Watson: Makes my fucking job easier! I had the feeling that I was the only fucking bloke that wasn't apologetic for it, that said: "I was a fucking skinhead and this is what we created and its quite beautiful and you didn't expect that did ya?!'
DD: What do you stand for?
Gavin Watson: Well I find that a really hard question to answer but If I stood for anything, I would stand for not compromising and for following that creative spark in you. It can raise you up out of the circumstances you started in. Following that saved my life. I would stand behind anyone that follows that creative spark and doesn't let the outside world grind it down.