Football Casuals on the Big Screen
Back in the mid naughties the dreaded thing happened for footy lads....the Dressers really did hit the big screen. Hooligan films weren't exactly a new phenomenon, what with Gary Oldman's portrayal of the psychopathic top-boy Bexie in Alan Clarkes The Firm and the dark yet comical undercover hooligan flick ID, with its funny yet tragic characters. This time though, it was different. Nick Love's The Football Factory was a more modern commercial Britflick with much more focus put on the scene itself, almost exposing it to the mainstream and putting an emphasis on the intricacies of what it meant to be a football lad at that time. For this reason, I hated it. They even outed the fashion at the time and shortly after the film was released I predictably recall seeing people on nights out wearing fake Stone Island and even had wannabes approaching us asking what team we followed. You always had the Jonny-come-lately gang, like chavs in fake Burberry caps and Rockport boots but this felt like the underbelly had been exposed by one of your own and it was no longer the underground movement that only those that were signed up members really understood. If you ever read the Football Factory book you'd know that the film wasn't the same animal, the book was a much darker affair and didn't really care much for the clothing and culture. Our thing had been commercially hijacked.
From here on things just got worse. Along came Frodo as The Yank in the shape of Green Street Hooligans. I couldn't even critique this one has I didn't get past the 30 minute mark. It was an utter cringe fest with some of the worst ever accents and acting ever witnessed on screen. It made Rise of the Footsoldier look like it was owed an Academy Award (Ok,ok..joke).
Nick Love Later followed up with a remake of The Firm which focused on the 80's Sportswear era of the casual movement and was even sponsored by JD and pushed re-issues of Adidas Originals like the yellow/gold Forest Hills and Tachhini tracksuits which were sported by the upgraded on-screen Bexie. And whilst some of the aggro scenes were'nt all too bad in this film, with the shaky cameras and tense confrontations, it was still lacking in many ways. Aside from the usual cheesy cockney one-liners that feature in all of Love's films it was clear that unlike The Football Factory this was more about commercially ramming the directors version of a culture down the throats of the mainstream and in the process selling products for the sponsors.
And it most certainly worked. Around 2009 for a few years every man and his dog were overnight Adidas connoisseurs and we even had a surge of new youth mobs straight out of the British 80's football casual zeitgeist. Only this time, just like the film it was like the 80's on steroids with these young'uns coming across almost caricature like donning a bright fancy-dress version of the 80s casual for the football away day.
As time moves on I feel less grumpy about it, plus nothing is really sacred anymore and there's no doubt that regardless of the hoolie films influence, social media would've eventually exposed the scene to the mainstream in one way or another. And hey, we're selling a lot of terrace and British Subculture themed clothing so I suppose it'd be a tad hypocritical to still be too hung up on it. I even rewatched The Football Factory on Netflix last week and actually enjoyed it. It was a kind of breath of fresh air watch in terms of todays standards of box-ticking, overly PC TV.