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Alex wears t-shirt Under Armour, jumper worn around waist Nike, shorts Karrimor, hat Wales Bonner, eyewear Oakley, backpack The North Face, watch his ownPhotography Ewen Spencer, styling Gary David Moore

Ewen Spencer and the Liverpool FC casuals

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When Liverpool’s young football fans are turfed out of the stadium, they hike Snowdonia – cult photographer Ewen Spencer finds out why

Taken from the summer 2018 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here.

For many young Liverpool FC fans, getting dressed isn’t just preparation for the day ahead, it’s a protest. Tracing back decades, ‘casual’ fashion has been considered the adopted uniform of the left-leaning working classes – both a reaction to Thatcher’s neoliberal paradigm shift in the 1980s, and suitable storm-proofing for the harsher conditions of the north.

For as long as the scene has thrived, Liverpool clothing shop Adapt has been its engine-room, a wellspring of cut-price designer sportswear and storable waterproofs, from Stone Island polos to Peter Storm jackets. In conversation here, Liverpool fans Joe Connolly, Joe McDonald and Alex Mills are regulars at Adapt, but not necessarily for reasons you’d assume.

Like many of their friends, they’re patrons of a newer tradition of scallies, who make regular excursions far away from the collective roar of Anfield stadium. For the group and their scene – many of whom are banned from Anfield for antisocial behaviour – a weekend is filled on the doons and glaciers of Snowdonia. 

Youth culture photographer Ewen Spencer has spent years with this particular friendship circle, documenting their road trips and fell walks, and the ways they’re mixing casual codes with practical high-tech gear. ‘Clean living under difficult circumstances’ may be a phrase that dates back to the 1960s mod scene but now, somehow, it feels absolutely vital.

Ewen Spencer: I want to talk to you about Liverpool and its links to music and style. It’s famous for being built on a port, like Marseille and Naples, which also have great football heritages with stylish fans.

Alex Mills: I think (smart dressing at football matches) kinda goes hand-inhand. There’s a culture of going out after big matches: some of our mates sing and there are always music events on. We’ve always gone to concerts with lads from the match.

Joe McDonald: And Easter clothes…

Ewen Spencer: Can you describe Easter clothes?

Alex Mills: Yeah, we used to get Lacoste trackies every Easter.

Joe Connolly: That was like a scouse thing.

Alex Mills: Christmas Day clothes, too: I’d get a new outfit for Christmas Day.

Joe Connolly: I remember being on holiday one Easter – I had Easter clothes on, and it was a concept which was completely alien to the kids we were hanging out with. I was around ten; Easter clothes were a big thing for me. Then, when I was 14 or 15, I went to a match with some mates from school – we saw a group of lads in Barbour coats, and I just did not understand it. We immediately went to that shit store in town; it had a Barbour section for, like, country people. I literally went there the weekend after that with Mum.

Ewen Spencer: Are Liverpool kids wearing tech and outdoor gear around town at the moment?

Alex Mills:: When you see kids out, everyone’s got North Face or sports gear on. It’s just comfy, isn’t it? And practical.

Joe McDonald: I think that’s it for me – it’s just comfier. At festivals, people just have comfier clothes on; they don’t sweat as much and everything just looks more practical.

Joe Connolly: Even when people started wearing shotter bags, I can remember thinking, ‘That’s actually just a lot easier, innit.’ It became more about practicality and functionality. It links with style across the Atlantic – like the big gangsters in LA wearing comfier shoes ’cos they are stood on the street corner. I think it’s sort of similar to that: it’s absolutely practical, it makes sense. Status can be attached to them ’cos they’re expensive, but they are also functional. 

Ewen Spencer: Where does your interest in walking and mountaineering come from, do you think?

Alex Mills: (Joe McDonald) has got his match bans, so he’s got nothing else to do on the weekend…

Joe McDonald: I think I’ve just always enjoyed being outdoors. It doesn’t cost nothing to be outdoors, you can have a laugh, as you saw last week (at the shoot). I think we’ve always just done that.

Ewen Spencer: Which bans have you got at the minute?

Joe McDonald: They’re like a joint suit. I got one after the fighting with Everton fans ’cos we beat them four-nil and they got upset. And then I got the other one going in the Man United end and getting the old flag out and hanging it over there. It caused a bit of a riot. 

Ewen Spencer: So you got banged up for ten weeks? What did it say on the flag?

Joe McDonald: ‘Scousers conquering again’, with a massive liver bird on it and five stars for our European cups. I was dressed like the rest of the Liverpool fans – we had 110s (Nike trainers), jeans, a bubble North Face coat and an Inter Milan cap on. With Liverpool fans, whenever we go abroad, we tend to buy the (hosting) team’s cap and wear it, or a scarf.

Ewen Spencer: That made the news! I think your cap got punched off your head, didn’t it?

Joe McDonald: Yeah!

Ewen Spencer: Tell us a bit more about the climbing and hiking you do in Snowdonia. You do look like people who go hiking, and you do some extreme stuff as well. The garments you’re wearing – they need to be practical because you walk on the ice.

Joe McDonald: Yeah, and like we were saying before, it’s the comfort aspect as well. I think that’s a scouse thing: we just have the jacket tied around us with no interest in wearing them. Or other times, like on the mountains, we’ll take them just in case it gets cold towards the top.

Ewen Spencer: You often go up in the middle of the night, when the mountains are thick with snow. Tell us about some of the adventures you’ve had up there.

Joe McDonald: I like to go up in the winter, to be honest, when it’s colder – it feels more like a day out. We’ve done a couple at night as well, in Snowdonia. Once, we grounded at about twelve o’clock at night and decided to get a good spot at sunrise – to make it something a little bit different, to make an adventure out of it. 

Ewen Spencer: For me, growing up in the north east of England, I was inherently political. What was refreshing for me, when I went to Liverpool last year, with Joe Connolly and a few of the lads he knows, was that they were all very political. How political are you all?

Joe Connolly: Liverpool, as a fanbase, is all Labour. I think that’s another scouse thing, because Labour obviously like looking after everyone and the way I think, that is definitely what me and all the lads are. We just like to look after each other. 

Ewen Spencer: What about your interest in the city’s musical heritage? Have you ever heard of The La’s?

Joe McDonald: Yeah, yeah. I like them. They live in Huyton – their lead singer, Lee, lives about two minutes from my house. I think he has wasted a lot of his money... He looks rough now, rough as toast. He’s got a big yellow Range Rover and a big Everton badge on his window. So I got no sympathy for the lad.

Joe Connolly: Music-wise, I go to Glastonbury every year. I like DJs, and I like disco music, to be honest. I think it’s probably fair to say there’s quite a big techno and house music scene in Liverpool, and there has been for the past ten years. 

Ewen Spencer: Thanks for the conversation, lads. I’ll let you go.

Alex Mills: No problem… With the name for this story, Joe Connolly came up with a good one: ‘0151 into the Hills’. (0151 is Liverpool’s area code.)

Talent Gary McDonald, Joe McDonald, Alex Mills, styling assistants Florence Armstrong, Lucy Martin, special thanks Joe Connolly and Ellen at Castell Cottage