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] and early discos; due to their sheer numbers, they were often perceived as being untouchable by the police. Sharpies were sometimes associated with excessive violence,[1] regularly taking part in fights.

Common clothing items included Lee or Levi jeans, cardigans, jumpers, and T-shirts—often individually designed by group members[1]—with which they would try to outdo other sharpies by creating the best patterns, colours, and detail.[citation needed]

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 in popular culture[edit]

  • Sharpies (1974) is a film by Greg Macainsh
  • Photographer Rennie Ellis has included portraits of sharpies in his works[3]
  • Magda Szubanski, in her early years as a comedian on The D-Generation and Fast Forward, played a character who dressed in sharpie style, and performed a sharpie dance which bears a strong resemblance to skanking
  • Queeny (1994), Deep (1997), and Suburban Warriors (2003) are short films by Rebecca McLean related to sharpies
  • Blackburn South Sharpies' member Greg 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[4]
  • The Australian Broadcasting Corporation featured sharpies in a 2002 episode of George Negus' New Dimensions In Time[1]
  • Photographer Carol Jerrems studied the sharpie subculture
  • Levi released "Levi's Black Sharps", a denim range inspired by sharpies[5]
  • Top Fellas: The Story of Melbourne's Sharpie Cult is a 2004 book by Tadhg Taylor on Melbourne's sharpies[6]
  • Rage: A Sharpie's Journal Melbourne 1974–1980 is a 2010 book by Julie Mac on Melbourne's sharpies[7]
  • "Out With The Boys: The Sharpie Days" is a 2011 book by the Seagull about the Sydney Sharpies of the 1960s
  • Once Were Sharps: The colourful life and times of the Thomastown Sharps is a book by Nick Tolewski, written by Dean Crozier
  • 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[8]


External links[edit]

  • Deep - short film by Rebecca McLean that features sharpies