Sharpies (Australian subculture)

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Sharpies, or Sharps, were members of suburban youth gangs in Australia, most significantly from the 1960s and 1970s.[1] They were particularly prominent in Melbourne, but were also found in Sydney and Perth to lesser extents. Sharpies were known for being violent, although a strict moral code was also evident. The name comes from their focus on looking and dressing "sharp".[1]

Sharpie culture[edit]

Sharpies would often congregate in large numbers, regularly attending live bands at town hall and high school dances[1]

Common clothing items included Lee or Levi jeans, cardigans, jumpers, and T-shirts—often individually designed by group members.[1]

Mods were an enemy of sharpies, and their gang brawls were reported in the newspapers during 1966.[2] In a 2002 interview, a former sharpie stated that despite the sharpie culture being quite violent – especially as they crossed other gangs' territories on the public transport network – the altercations were restricted to inter-gang rivalries.[1]

Sharpies were particularly fond of Australian pub rock and hard rock groups such as Rose Tattoo, Lobby Lloyde and the Coloured Balls and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.[3]

Sharpies in popular culture[edit]

  • Photographer Rennie Ellis has included portraits of sharpies in his works[4]
  • Queeny (1994), Deep (1997), and Suburban Warriors (2003) are short films by Rebecca McLean related to sharpies[citation needed]
  • Blackburn South Sharpies' member Peter Robertson curated Sharpies, a photographic exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in 2001–02, and also as part of the 2002 Melbourne International Fashion Festival[1]
  • Blackburn South Sharpies' member Larry Jenkins also photographically documented this gang[5]
  • The Australian Broadcasting Corporation featured sharpies in a 2002 episode of George Negus' New Dimensions in Time[1]
  • Comedian Magda Szubanski was a sharpie in her youth and parodied the subculture on Fast Forward.[6]
  • Levi released "Levi's Black Sharps", a denim range inspired by sharpies[7]
  • Top Fellas: The Story of Melbourne's Sharpie Cult is a 2004 book by Tadhg Taylor on Melbourne's sharpies[8]
  • Rage: A Sharpie's Journal Melbourne 1974–1980 is a 2010 book by Julie Mac on Melbourne's sharpies[9]
  • Out with the Boys: The Sharpie Days is a 2011 book by the Seagull about the Sydney Sharpies of the 1960s[citation needed]
  • Once Were Sharps: The colourful life and times of the Thomastown Sharps is a book by Nick Tolewski, written by Dean Crozier[citation needed]
  • A resurgence of interest in the Sharpie sub-culture in recent times included Skins'n'Sharps Exhibitions in 2006 (Dante's Gallery, Fitzroy) and 2010 (Kustom Lane Gallery, Hawthorn) and a dedicated website Skins'n'Sharps[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Negus, George (18 March 2002). "The Sharpies – Cult Gangs of the Sixties and Seventies". New Dimensions in Time. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  2. ^ "The Age - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  3. ^ Blackman, Guy (7 August 2015). "When Sharpies ruled: CD celebrates a homegrown sound of the '70s", The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  4. ^ Ellis, Rennie (2008). "Sharpies, Melbourne 1973". Official website – Portraits. Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  5. ^ "Explore our online galleries". Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Reckoning review: How Magda Szubanski became the comic genius she is today". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Look Sharp! - With Levi's Black Sharps this summer - Scoop News". Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  8. ^ Taylor, Tadhg. Top Fellas. Catalogue. National Library of Australia. ISBN 9780980759488. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  9. ^ Mac, Julie. Rage: A Sharpie's Journal Melbourne 1974–1980. Catalogue. National Library of Australia. ISBN 9780646534800. OCLC 646288393. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  10. ^ "Skins 'n' Sharps". Retrieved 24 August 2018.

External links[edit]

  • Deep – short film by Rebecca McLean that features sharpies