Book Review: Perry Boys
(Note: I incorrectly quoted a passage from the book that made it seem like the author had made light of a stabbing/slashing incident. It was my misreading of the passage. I’ve since re-written that section of the review. My sincerent apologies to Ian Hough and to you readers for my oversight.)
Perry Boys is a memoir written by Ian Hough and covers the ‘Casual’ gangs of Manchester and Salford. However, if you’re thinking that this is simply another book on hooligan culture, you’re quite wrong. Hough takes the reader on a journey into the subculture of fashion that defined many of the soccer gangs of the 80s as well as covering many other aspects of life in Britain at that time.
I’m not much of a fashion follower so this book was more than perhaps I had ever wanted to know about Fred Perry polo shirts (hence the Perry Boys name), Adidas runners (known in the UK as trainers) and all manner of hairstyles. At times I found it stupid that these “boys” would fight over what each other were wearing. I thanked my lucky stars that I grew up in a community where that did not happen. However, human nature being what it is, people always find something to disagree about so why not clothes?
Despite my lack of real interest in the fashion subject matter, Hough does a great job of keeping the book from droning on like a retro catalog or fashion mag. For example, Hough takes the reader on a hometown boy tour of the Greater Manchester area, giving an honest view of places like Salford, Oldham and Rochdale. He also gives some excellent background information on the cultural details behind the Manc-Scouse rivalry.
For me, the fashion was sort of a subplot (Manchester has a long history in the textile industry so it’s understandable that its citizens would be hyper-sensitive to fashion) and what keeps the core story (Perry Boy culture) going is not just the stories of drugs, or reminiscences of trips abroad to track down the latest designer duds but the fact that it became a movement and a cultural force.
Underneath the seeming shallow surface details of clothes and drugs, Hough reveals that a lot of the people involved in the Perry movement received a boost of self-confidence from creating their own scene rather than adopting something from TV. That aspect of the story I can and do respect.
Yes, let’s address what’s on your mind….there were gang/hooligan fights and Hough refers to “knockin about with nutters”. Some hooligans started to carry utility knives (box cutters) and would slash up their opponents. Other weapons would also be used but Hough does not glamorize the subject or actions even if he does look back at that era with fondness. Hough addresses some of the stabbing/slashing incidents in more detail during an interview conducted by the Gaffer (EPL Talk Podcast 90).
Eventually, like a lot of cultural movements the Perry scene splintered and the people involved faded into normal lives though a number of them became gangsters or drug dealers that supplied the budding Manchester rave scene.
The book only uses football as a background color but it is a great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who has an interest in cultural movements or just wants to learn a bit more about the history of the Manchester area and some of its famous subculture.