Skins ‘n’ Sharps–original, tough, colourful and at times controversial. A Melbourne-based youth culture in the 70s like no other. Skins ‘n’ Sharps symbolised an exciting time for me as a teenager growing up in suburban Melbourne. Youth in the early 70s began to create their own significant look. They designed their own tailor-made clothes and handmade shoes, then combined them with off-the-shelf clothing to create their own individual look.

These were everyday kids, and they knew how to separate themselves from the masses. But as their numbers grew, so did the demand for their fashion. It was only a matter of time before local retailers and manufacturers caught on and started to capitalise.

It is interesting to note, without information overload like today, they could create their styles from their own insights–everything was done with passion and a strong young spirit which was the backbone of Skins ‘n’ Sharps fashion.

Coloured Balls, Buster Brown, AC/DC, Skyhooks and Hush…local music played a big part in the Skins ‘n’ Sharps lifestyle. In the 70s, I played in local bands that supported acts like Rabbit, Supernaut, Taste and Fat Daddy, at dances loaded with Skins ‘n’ Sharps. All doing their own style of dance in their “dress-up” clothes, getting into a scuffle or two between drinks. It was pure magic.

I grew up in Chadstone, but I went to school at Jordanville Tech, which was totally surrounded by housing commission, the breeding ground for “Jordy Skins”. However, Skins ‘n’ Sharps were common to most suburbs across Melbourne. Each having its own local gang-related stories passed on from schoolyards, to local hangouts, to, finally, the media. The stories, both good and not so good, often became bigger than the truth. It was all part of growing up in Melbourne during the 1970s.

And now credit is due. After more than 30 years, Skins ‘n’ Sharps will be recognised as an important part of Australian youth culture and social history.

Sam Biondo, 2006

Melbourne Sharpies

A rare 1974 insight to Sharpies in Melbourne. By Greg Macainsh. This was filmed at the Lobby Lloyd and Billy Thorpe concert at the Melbourne Showgrounds. This clip would have to be the best footage of Sharpie culture of it’s time. Thanks to Greg Macainsh’s forsight.

The exhibition

Sam Biondo in association with Rohan Pugh presents the Skins ‘n’ Sharps exhibition in August 2006, held at Dante’s Gallery in Fitzroy, Melbourne