Pat Kenny investigates the rapidly emerging 'Boot Boy' movement that was appearing around Ireland in the 1970s, looking at how they are perceived by the public along with the reality of belonging to the subculture (Broadcast 1975)
In the fifties, the rumour spread that England was spawning a race of hoodlums called Teddy Boys and, come Christmas, matters took a new turn when some of them turned up on the street corners of Limerick and Ballina, home for the holiday.
They came unto their own, and their own were astonished to recognise them. Since then, we have come to accept the fact that movements in other countries are bound to have their counterparts here; in part imitation, in part response to like circumstances.
The boot boy phenomenon was long established in 1975, when this documentary was first aired, and its native provenance was well attested on the walls of Dublin.
In this documentary, Pat Kenny reports on the origins and present state of the movement.
Movements of this kind seemed to swing between rather sophisticated tendencies (e.g. the Mods or to some extend 'flower power') and reactions to them (e.g. the Rockers, Punks etc). The Boot Boys belonged unmistakably to the latter category. Again, most such movements were basically working class, and the Boot Boys were more clearly so than any other.
No one can truly explain a Boot Boy except for a Boot Boy himself, and the makers of the programme had this in mind. But the reactions of other people are of interest too. One is simply: 'how ugly!'.
The shaved heads (or 'suede' if you let it grow a bit); the floppy trousers at half mast; those boots! And the girls - the straight hair, the baggy skirts, the blazers. Was it a conscious rejection of the concept of beauty seen through the eye of the middle class beholder?
And the dogs, the connotations of violence. Some commentators have seen in the Boot Boys more of embryonic Fascism than of anything else. Unfortunately for their image among non practitioners, they seemed the embodiment of already existing fears of hostile thugs, socially deprived and indiscriminately resentful. Opponents of Communism had sometimes reported similar visions of their bete noires. But these are all thoughts from outside. To discover the reality, listen to the documentary.
Produced by Kieran Sheedy
Presented by Pat Kenny
First Broadcast 20th April 1975
Text adapted from John Walshs article in the RTE Guide, 18th April 1975.
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries