Bootboys

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Skinheads and Bootboys at a Flesh D-Vice concert (Mick, Marc, Wayne, Spud and Mark). (From the ‘Up The Punks’ exhibition in Wellington).

In mid-1980 the punk scene in New Zealand changed. Influenced by the skinheads in the UK, a group of punks in Auckland started wearing Doc Martens boots and calling themselves Bootboys.

There was quite a gang culture in New Zealand at the time with gangs such as the Black Power, Mongrel Mob and various motorcycle gangs grabbing the headlines. According to some sources New Zealand had more gangs per head then any other country in the world.

By the beginning of 1981 the idea of wearing boots and presenting a more tough image spread throughout New Zealand and more groups of punks started calling themselves bootboys. In Wellington groups of bootboys formed according to which suburb their members came from – Tawa Bootboys, Wainui Bootboys etc.

At first you couldn’t buy DM’s in New Zealand so we used to wear combat boots or steel-capped work boots. Some of us used to wear coloured boot laces to denote which bootboy group you belonged to. I ordered some DM’s through an ad in the NME – 14 eyelet cherry reds. Everyone was very jealous.

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Richard Watts from the Resurrectionists – boots and braces.

Like the punks, the Bootboys supported local bands (Neoteric Tribesmen being one). Violence at concerts had always been there but the aggressive nature of the bootboys meant that it started to occur more often.

In Wellington a lot of bands played at pubs and there was always friction between people drinking in the public bars and the punks/bootboys. Violence between the Bootboys and the other gangs didn’t happen that often.

Sometimes we used to run into the Black Power or Mongrel Mob but most of violence tended to be with male members of the public – such as rugby players – or with other punks. There were certain areas of Wellington that you couldn’t walk down without being involved in something. Wellington is a pretty small city and there used to be loads of parties going on. We used to jump in our cars and cruise around the suburbs looking for parties to crash. Most of the time it would end up in a brawl or the police coming and kicking us out.

Also around that time a few youth/street gangs formed in central Wellington. Most were made up of young maoris or Polynesians who had some affiliation with gangs like the Black Power or Mongrel Mob. Occasionally these gangs and the bootboys would fight each other or raid each other flats.

Once we were drinking in one of the pubs in Courtney Place and a friend of mine, Sandy, went for a leak and just disappeared. When we eventually found him he was wandering around outside with a swollen jaw not knowing where he was. Evidently he had wandered into the wrong bar which was full of Samoan gang members and got a good kicking. His jaw had been broken and he spent several months with it wired up.

In late 1982 the ‘Oi’ scene started to make an appearance in New Zealand and most bootboys started to shave their heads and call themselves skinheads. ‘Oi’ was a more aggressive form of punk music and included UK bands like The Exploited, Angelic Upstarts etc. Today the term skinhead tends to mean Neo-Nazi but at that time in New Zealand it was all about the image and the music not right-wing politics. Most skinhead groups were made up of both maori and white members.

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Skinheads at a Party (Paddy in centre of photo). (From the ‘Up The Punks’ exhibition in Wellington)

A car load of Auckland Skins came down once. About ten of them had driven down in a big old Chrysler. When they opened up the boot of the car there were another four of them crammed in there. It was one those ‘I can’t believe it moments’. The Auckland Skins had a more gang-like structure with a gang leader. We didn’t have anything like that.

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Richard’s bootboy tattoo.

Bands like Wellington’s Flesh D-Vice and Auckland’s No Tag had a loyal skinhead following even though not all band members were skinheads.

There were rivalries between skinhead groups from different cities and occasionally they fought each other.

Things started to get a little ‘silly’ in 1985 and I decided to hang up my boots. A couple of friends had been killed – one thrown off a wall and the other knifed.