Female football Casual and writer Roo Oxley is preparing to launch her debut novel in September. ‘Clobber!’ is a searing no-holds-barred insight into Casuals and their consumption of brands then and now. It’s a novel crafted with her deft sense of humour, intelligence, articulate observations, and razor-sharp tongue which takes no prisoners.
The book is not only an ode to her love of football and terrace culture, but an in-depth investigation, exploring the thinking behind Casuals as seen through the eyes and perspective of a female football Casual.
Throughout the book, Roo talks with key individuals and protagonists involved with terrace culture, as she looks at the future of brands for football casuals today and reminisces of its golden age and demise.
The book combines primary sources, joint memories, experiences, real-life knowledge and scholarly research and each chapter takes you deeper into the rich history of terrace culture, its heyday, the brands that defined it and the effects of modern-day football. It is a dance through the different eras that have helped to define terrace culture.
What truly brings the book to life is Roo’s unique personality and perspective and her love of terrace culture which is etched on every single page. Ahead of the release of Clobber! we take you into Roo’s world of terrace culture to bring you a preview of what to expect.
What Does She Know About Terrace Culture?!
Supporting Stoke City is shit. Proper wank. A thankless task that us chosen ones were unfortunately born into. A lifetime of cold, wet misery; flashes of wins here and there, a trip to the premier league if we are lucky, but predominantly following mediocre Championship football in the coldest, windiest ground in the Midlands. Neat.
My family has always had a deep connection to Stoke City Football Club. They established Hanley Glass & China in the Potteries, which was a successful business distributing our wares to the region and beyond, with all of us having a stint selling seconds at Stockport market every Saturday. Hanley Glass & China sponsored the Victoria Ground (Stoke’s first ground and spiritual home), with my nana, Pa, and uncle all attending every game in suites at the ground. I used to go often with them, Pa letting me have a bet first and generally being spoiled rotten. The seeds of this lifelong love affair were being planted. Add this initial interest in football and the local club to teenage passion and a perfect storm of club/football/lads/clobber began to develop.
My enduring love-in with the 90s terrace label stalwarts Stone Island and C.P. Company started early doors, and soon, trips to Life in Manchester and Tessuti in Chester would become the hunting ground for new pieces. Henri-Lloyd was a big staple in my early Casual wardrobe too, along with Napapijri, Thomas Burberry, Paul & Shark and Aquascutum, which luckily local shops like (Infinities, Terraces, Review and even Gemini) could provide. The big hitters, these Casual brands, were in my opinion, at the top of their game during these years, epitomising the Casual scene of the late nineties. An era where we earned our stripes, saving up to buy a big thick knit green label Stoney, the same as I would save up to buy albums from Portishead, The Verve, and Oasis from Mike Lloyd Music.
These carefree days would soon be ending, and along with the vibrant club scene such as Golden in Stoke, I just about managed to cling onto and experience the last of the decent subcultures. These days, seeing the snides, the pretenders, the wannabes wearing my regalia, with no thought to its heritage makes my toes curl. It’s not living in the past, it’s a lifestyle, a way of life. You’ve either got it or you don’t. You can either wear the labels or let the labels wear you. And if you’re not game as fuck, then don’t even bother.
Can she do it on a cold Wednesday night at The Brittania Stadium? Course she can! It’s where it all started. Against the mighty Chesterfield. Walking up the concrete steps with my brother who took me, I inhaled the atmosphere; not crackling due to any tension or fighting, but an air of anticipation. This is where I would sit and watch, fixated by the waves of Burberry and Aquascutum caps, the lads, the coats, the camaraderie, the clobber.
Notts County away would be my next game, aged approximately 15. This is where I saw some of the lads flexing. Loved it. I had by now started to go out in town (Newcastle-under-Lyme), so I was starting to mix with people (boys) other than the ones at my school. I was in the mix, starting to know and be known. Notts County was a step up and most definitely in the right direction.
Late nineties, Stoke lads were already infamous from the earlier Naughty Forty firm, but even the younger lot that I knew and was knocking around with, was making a name for themselves.
Female casuals are a rarity and are not always welcomed, particularly on away days when the lads would have to babysit or keep an extra eye out or get stuck into any other lads who started being a bit fiendish towards us. Let’s just say West Hams fans had a delightful chant they sang at me when Stoke played them at the Olympic Stadium.
I drag my arse up to most home games, but definitely prefer the away days, with more recent fixtures even enticing some of the older lot to come out of retirement. I want to be where the action is. Cap on, head down, come on Stoke let’s have it. Casual. Clobber!
THE DEATH OF MODERN FOOTBALL: PART ONE
Apparently, it’s not just me who is in the school of thought that football is a working class game for working class people; this apparently Marxist belief has only been heightened by the absolute commercialism of modern football. Leon Davis writes: ‘The sociology of football until the 1990s tacitly assumed that football was a working-class game, however, this position became principally untenable, with the advent of the FA Premier League in 1992. With the new formation, football gained a new consistency thanks to high-priced entrance fees to stadia; stricter policing; how the ground is managed as a venue; also the emergence of middle-class survalliance.’
Is nothing sacred anymore!! Why does everything have to be monetised, stripped of genuineness? Why do the middle class have to take anything ours, authentic (cool) and make it mediocre and mainstream? This was our last respite in this world of false advertising and consumption. This class struggle is also recognised by Millwall fan and author Gary Robson, that it was at these working class, local football grounds where you learned the values of being a white working class ‘deviant’ male. This was their coming of age, their true and authentic fandom that was inextricably linked to the ground and their match day rituals with elder, working-class males.
Many believe that the whole concept of football fandom had changed by the nineties and noughties, and why wouldn’t it have with so much change and obliteration of the football game experience? Italia 90 was the crux of this seismic shift (opera at the footy anyone?) leading to the opinion that Steve Redhead has that, ‘we are all post fans now.’ This bourgeoisification of not just football but society in general, the taking away of the terraces, the outpricing of the tickets, the advent of the ‘event’ experience, and the decrease of football hooliganism, has created the advent of the post-fandom.
‘Within post-modern football, there has been a blurring of social classes which has taken the central working class aspect away from the terraces to the extent that all classes, in a post-modern stadium, integrate,’ states Davis. Hmmm, debatable, from my experience but we go again.
Perhaps our Noveaux Casual’s view of football was/is shaped by historical folklore combined with this new easy come, easy go consumer world order and their own, new football lite experience down the match.
And that’s exactly the point. We hate, we moan, we praise and we grumble, that there is no genuine or authentic football fan experience but we still go! Most of the time! If it’s not slatting it down.
Note: Stoke City’s Bet 365 Stadium is on top of a hill, dead hard to get to, miles away from the city centre of the traditional working-class streets and backsies, and it is the coldest, wettest place on earth. They sure don’t make it easy.
These soulless ‘venues’ are symbolic of the move of the grounds from the heart of the local working communities to harder-to-reach (need transport) middle-class leisure hot spots. Under the premise and pressure of the Hillsborough/Hooligan (false) connection authorities and football club management have succeeded in creating vast shells minus the camaraderie of the terraces, restricting, as Davis notes, ‘the original fan practices of vastly itinerant celebration and carnivalesque rituals.’
Interestingly, our more hard-line European Ultras do have wild and dazzling displays of rituals including pyrotechnics and coordinated chanting and choreography within their grounds, but more of that later. Within his paper, Davis believes the different categories of fandom really emphasise the authenticity of a fan; for example, with the advent of Sky, pubs showing football, armchair fans, London/Asian-based Manchester United fans, glory hunters etc, these variations go some way to show post fandom and how levels of authenticity have been diluted by such changes in how we support a team. As football is no longer a regional game; just a commercial, privatised enterprise. Paradoxically it can be said that those fans who travel to away games are at the top of the authenticity hierarchy; arguably more passionate, vocal, and clobbered upright. Not as shirters, but to symbolise from which city they are from, or more often than not, what firm they represent by their choice of clobber and the brands they identify with.
CLOBBER! Is a book written by female casual and writer Roo Oxley.
It is available to pre-order on Amazon