Boots and Braces: Punk and Hardcore Books

Publish date:

If you like looking at skinheads–and really, who doesn’t?–then you will get a thrill from Skins & Punks: Lost Archives 1978-1985 (Vice Books; hardcover, $40), a compendium of personal photographs by British photographer Gavin Watson. Shot in London and Watson’s working-class hometown of High Wycombe, the photos of Watson’s friends and family combine to form a touching document of a life lived in skinny suspenders and carefully laced combat boots (especially riveting are childhood photos of Watson’s brother Neville who, as a 10-year-old in full two-tone attire, appears to have been cool since birth). While you’ll find plenty of subtext and sartorial inspiration here–these photos were a large part of the inspiration for Shane Meadows’ film This Is England–there is little in the way of actual text; those expecting titillating stories should look elsewhere.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Nathan Nedorostek and Anthony Pappalardo have cooked up the latest love letter to the American hardcore movement with Radio Silence: A Selected Visual History of American Hardcore Music (MTV Press; softcover, $29.95). Following in the footsteps of American Hardcore, which documented the beginnings of the scene in the early ’80s, and Out of Step, Raymond McCrea Jones’ 2007 photo book on straight-edgers, Radio Silence views the homegrown punk movement from a historical and aesthetic perspective, using artifacts and anecdotes as a way to tell the story of bands as diverse as Minor Threat and The Necros, Sick of It All and Suicidal Tendencies, The Cro-Mags and Crucifix.

The tome takes a meandering scrapbook approach, but it works, giving more space to photos and behind-the-scenes stories than boring history lessons. If you’ve got your own relationship to hardcore, this collection of letters, t-shirts, old flyers, and more will send you spiraling back to memories of your first Agnostic Front show or Youth of Today album; if you don’t, there’s enough style details and graphic design inspiration to send your brain into mosh mode.