Exploring Indonesia’s skinhead subculture

Here being a skinhead is challenging notions about what the culture is all about.


Jumat, 19 Feb 2016 16:38 WIB


Asia Taylor

Skinhead in Indonesia. (Photo: Asia Taylor)

Skinhead in Indonesia. (Photo: Asia Taylor)

With a culture defined by racism and troublemaking, you might not think that people in Asia would identify with skinheads.

But in the Indonesian capital there is a thriving skinhead subculture – but it’s not what you might expect.

Here being a skinhead is challenging notions about what the culture is all about.

From Jakarta, Asia Taylor explores the scene. 

Utay is one of Indonesia’s first skinheads. And this is a song by his band, The End.

Skinheads are normally seen as swastika-wearing, neo-Nazis that yell racist abuse on the street.

But the scene here is pretty different.

Indonesian skinheads like Utay stand for equality and working class values.

“Skinhead is different with Nazi skinhead is a bonehead – skinhead is a way of life it’s a working class hero,” he says.

Since the early 90’s Utay has pioneered the skinhead scene in Jakarta, beginning with a skinhead record label and clothing store, both named the ‘Warriors.’  He’s got a song about that too.

Utay explains how he got into skinhead culture in the first place.

“I came here before no skinhead at all before I studied in Singapore and got a skinhead bible in Singapore and brought it to my friend in Jakarta and we talked about this book and it got bigger and bigger,” he explains, “The skinhead bible Utay found described how the skinhead scene has been appropriated by racism and intolerance.”

He brought it back to Indonesia and introduced it to the punk scene. 

And the skinhead subculture has grown since, but with an Indonesian twist. 

“It’s like a mixed culture with Indonesian culture we adopt fashion we adopt ideology we adopt way of life but we still have Indonesian traditions,” he says, “and we mix up with western tradition. Its like in UK they mix with Jamaican culture and become a skinhead.”

In Indonesia the skinhead scene seems to be more about brotherhood, the music and the fashion.

At this concert in the capital, the room is filled with guys in Mohawks and denim jackets with silver studs. 

A punk band from Texas, ‘The Elected Officials’ is headlining the event, playing alongside other punk and skinhead bands. 

Vocalist of the band, Texan Sophie Rousmaniere, shared her thoughts of the scene before getting up on stage.

She talks about the ‘Oi’ subculture, which is a mixture of punk and skinhead music.

“A lot of the oi skinhead culture here is more kind of a brotherhood and a camaraderie, and loving the music,” she says. “A lot of ideology and less about exclusion or violence or nationalism, which you see in other parts of the world.”

The skinhead scene first emerged in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s. 

Most people don’t know, but it was actually Jamaican immigrants who played a big role in the early beginnings of the scene. 

The Jamaicans were known as the ‘Rude Boys’.

There was also the working-class ‘mods’ that rode scooters, wore Dr. Martins boots, and listened to punk rock. 

These groups joined together to become skinheads. 

But declining economic conditions in the 1970’s meant less jobs and the white, working class man blamed this on immigrants.

So the fusion of cultures and races that first inspired the skinhead movement is at odds with what the movement later became.

By the late 70’s the Neo-nazi skinhead movement had spread throughout Europe and North America. 

But Utay says Indonesian skinheads have nearly nothing in common with these groups. 

“Being racist is not cool because we humans are like equal humans are the same in my religion,” he says, “It’s a statement of law.”

Indonesian skinheads identify with the origins of the movement, like when the Jamaicans were heavily involved. 

Dessy is Indonesian but she married a Canadian skinhead, and is back visiting Jakarta. 

For more than a decade she has called herself a skinhead and even has the words ‘skingirl pride’ tattooed across her chest.

“The first time I met a punk I was still a teenager,” she says, “I hang out with the punk, the skinhead. I met a man and they taught me about the bible skinhead, the book, and I think I chose the skinhead. I don’t know why but I like the skinhead more then punk they’re working they’re not lazy, they’re clean, smart.”

Like skinheads around the world, Indonesian skinheads stand for their country and sing about political issues. 

“My band is about having a loud having a say sing about pride for my country sing about unity brotherhood sing about working class community its live its something like that,” he says.

Here in Indonesia, the skinhead community focuses their energy on music and their community.

Don’t be frightened of the name, these skinheads are just here to have fun.



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