Although brands like Stone Island and Burberry are beloved by some in mainstream society today, they in fact once served as a type of uniform for a notoriously violent subculture; that of football hooligans. Dave Jeal, a former football hooligan turned ordained minister, reflects on ditching one uniform for another and the symbolic power of clothes.
Where did your love for football come from originally?
My dad was a pro football player; he left when I was 1, but I suppose all my family loved it. My grandpa used to go with my mum and then I got taken to a game when I was 7, after that I was hooked.
When did you say you first became involved in football violence?
I started getting involved 16, 17, I left school at 15. It started by just going to football in Bristol, which is where I grew up, but then we’d get used by the older kids as spotters, we’d have to try to find what pubs they were in. (the opposing sides firms) Back then people used to travel around in transit vans, so we’d have to go around looking at the tax stickers, to see where they were from. Then we’d say to the older kids, this is where they are, they’re in this pub, we’d run in and start trouble and then the older lads would get involved. We were used as cannon fodder really.
How fashion conscious were you when you were involved?
Massively. I was more interested in the fashion than the actual fighting. It was so fast moving, there was new stuff every couple of weeks, I liked all the Stone Island gear. It was very military like, I loved all the buttons and zips. Also, Travelling around for football, you got to see what people were wearing in different parts of the country. The casual scene was different all over, the cockneys wore different stuff to people up north and in the south west. I was really fascinated by that side of things. Looking back we were almost like peacocks. For example, say we got something like playing Chelsea in the cup, we’d wanna get something really smart, and try and look really cool which was fairly stupid but it’s what we did.
Would you have described it as a uniform?
Yea, you could tell if someone was involved by what they got on. My daughter for the last few years has been wearing Stone Island. At first I was telling her, “You can’t wear that! You can’t be wearing that people will be thinking you’re involved!” And she was telling me “no no dad everyone wears it”, and I do see it everywhere now and I’m thinking how did that happen!
How did religion become a focal point in your life? Did becoming chaplain to Bristol Rovers give you a new sense of belonging to the football scene?
Everyone wants to belong to something, we need to, it’s the way we’re programmed, everyone needs to be part of a community. If you don’t have that, if you don’t get it from your family or relationships, you’re gonna get it from somewhere else. So when I was chaplain it was brilliant. I absolutely loved it.
How do you feel about the terrace casual fashion becoming mainstream today? Was it mostly through your daughter?
Pretty much, well my son as well. They started wearing bits and pieces and I was going, “You gotta be careful because if people see you they’ll think you’re involved, and they were saying “nah Dad everyones wearing that”, I’d still say, you have to be careful because people where I’m from (Bristol) will still think you’re involved; because you’re wearing gear. I mean I think it’s become so mainstream now that they wouldn’t, But probably because you can tell the mainstream studenty people even if they have a Stone Island jacket or a Burberry scarf, they’d have on what we’d call fairly ‘mickey mouse’ trainers; which we would never wear. You’d think nah they’re not where we’re from.
What is your most memorable/favourite piece or brand?
There’s just so much. I suppose some of the early stuff that we sorta wore, the stone Island stuff when it came in was kind of really exciting. But I suppose in the early 80s we wore a lot of sports stuff. My first thing that I had was this Tacchini tracksuit, sky blue, and that i absolutely loved, it was all very new and that was quite exciting. Because; before that we were skinheads, so going from wearing martins and flight jackets, and fred perrys to sort of a powder blue tracksuit was quite different. And the trainers of course, we wore pumas back then. And then I’d wear a type of White fila roll neck, I must have looked absolutely ridiculous.
What would you say to people getting involved in football violence or firms today?
You can end up ruining your life and end up ruining other people’s lives. Happy people don’t want to hurt people, you need to look at why you’re doing this. Cause you’re not happy and it’s not gonna make you happy, it’s gonna be different for everyone but in the city that i came from in Bristol we had 2 clubs and i was always looking over my shoulder. I could not go south of the river, I couldn’t go to certain pubs, certain clubs. I’d have to be very very careful where I went because as it got hold of me I could be in bad shape. The glamour side of it is very short lived.