# 43024

BIONDO, Sam and PUGH, Rohan

Skins ‘n’ Sharps. The forgotten subculture Melbourne 1971 to 1979.

$60.00 AUD

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Melbourne : Skins ‘n’ Sharps, 2006. Quarto (295 x 210 mm), pictorial wrappers, staple bound, 14 pp (including wrappers), b/w and colour illustrations throughout; an as new copy.

Superbly illustrated catalogue produced to accompany a low-key Melbourne exhibition staged in 2006, Skins ‘n’ Sharps. The catalogue contains many original photographs, previously unpublished, documenting the unique youth subculture of 1970s Melbourne known as Sharpies. Sharpiedom was a heavy rock ‘n’ roll-based movement characterized by its distinctive haircuts and dress code and its terrifying spontaneous violence (think Ziggy Stardust meets A Clockwork Orange).

The confrontational attitude and lurking danger that was associated with sharpies is immortalized in Carol Jerrems’s iconic 1975 photograph, Vale Street.

‘With their tight-fitting cardies, blunt-toed boots, hip-hugging jeans and close-cropped heads, sharpies stalked 1970s Melbourne like androgynous bovver boys. A uniquely Australian youth movement, giving sidelong nods to mod and glam but beholden to neither, sharpies were as tough as they were pretty – both the boys and the girls. They may have worn earrings and platform boots, but as former sharpie and current Oz rock legend Angry Anderson puts it, “they were tough kids from tough f—ing areas”.

The term sharp, or sharpie, was coined in Australia in the 1950s to describe well-dressed, working-class, mostly immigrant troublemakers. By the ’60s a new kind of sharp was frequenting Melbourne nightspots – kids in baggie woollen pants, V-neck jumpers and Cuban heels, dancing to the Purple Hearts (who featured sharpie hero guitarist Lobby Loyde​). It wasn’t until the early 1970s that sharpies became a mass movement. The haircuts got wilder, the trousers both tighter and more flared, the knitwear tighter, and sharpies multiplied by the thousands.

Still, they were maniacally precise about their dress code. In Melbourne, striped cardigans were made to order by Conti’s in Thornbury, while chisel-toed shoes came from Acropolis in Richmond. In Sydney it was Zink’s in Darlinghurst for custom-made trousers. This dedication didn’t come cheap – a Conti cardigan cost about $30, two weeks’ wages for a teenage apprentice.

Sharpies’ taste in music was equally single-minded. It had to be rough, it had to be rocking, and for the most part it had to be local. They enjoyed imported glam such as Slade and Sweet, and didn’t mind a bit of Bowie and Bolan, but sharpies loved loud, riff-heavy Aussie boogie rock.’ (Guy Blackman, SMH, 7 August 2015).

Trove locates only two copies of this catalogue (SLV; RHSV).