Interview – Original Scouse Football Casual

I’ve known Nick O’Neil for several years when he was actually a client of mine at a previous job and both being reds we immediately got on well, aside from the fact he is a lovely fella. It wasn’t long before we realised we both shared a passion for not only the football, but the fashion of football. Nick won’t mind me saying (I hope) that he is a little older than me, so he was around in the Liverpool heyday of the 80s… not only for football, but for when the football casual culture as we know it today was born. So I thought I would have a little chat to him about those days… 

So Nick, tell us a bit about yourself and your background – you grew up in Liverpool right? And still live there now?

I have always lived in Liverpool, save for a couple of periods away at Uni. I was brought up in Allerton but was randomly sent to school in Everton (don’t ask) I’ve now settled in Woolton with my wife Helen and our two kids.

And can you try and explain why and how clothing, trainers and sports wear was such a big deal in Liverpool in the 80s and 90s?

I don’t really recall when I became aware of sportswear being such a big deal but suddenly it went from meaning nothing to meaning everything.

You noticed gradually that your mates and everyone around you had become absorbed by fashion and particularly sportswear.


What were your favourite brands of the time? And did you have any favourite items?

My Dad was a teacher at SFX in Liverpool and took a school trip to Rome. I immediately put my order in for an Australian Alpina tracky.

Mum and dad were big travellers and camping in Europe was a 6 week holiday each year. I viewed this as simply a shopping trip for whatever exotic gear that I could get my hands on. I bought a Lacoste tracky in Lyon, that had a massive croc badge. I remember walking into school when I returned and my mates were drooling.

There is always a massive focus on sportswear but jeans were equally important, with the jeans of choice being Pace, 2nd Image and FU’s.

Kickers, Pod, searchers, kios…………………the list of shoes were equally as lengthy.

Israeli parkas in the early 80’s were the staple school and terrace wear in the winter, green or blue (but blue was the one and incredibly warm)

So you followed Liverpool all over the country – did you consider yourself a casual at the time? Or do you think it is a term that was coined after the fact?

I am a lifelong red and stood on the Kop since I was 14.

I never actually heard or considered myself a “casual”. What we wore was more about the excitement of the latest fashion, be it dictated by schoolmates, the youth club or the match. The term casual was undoubtedly coined after the fact and I still actually find it a bizarre term to what I always related to as scally culture.

I think the term “casual” is not really a Northern term and has always been more discussed and quoted by the London fans.

What were your favourite brands of the time? And did you have any favourite items?

My favourite brand is probably Lacoste and I have owned numerous polo shirts in an array of colours. The tennis green always a go to piece.

I additionally loved the blue Patrick cagoule which, whilst not recognised as a leading brand was a terrace staple in the mid 80’s.

I never owned a Benneton rugby top and to this day would give my right arm for one. I actually wrote to Benneton asking them to reissue it but never got a reply. I saw a cockney with one away at Spurs last season…..sacrilege…

What do you think of Liverpool’s young, scouse support now? Do you see them still trailblazing from a fashion perspective and doing their own thing?

Nowadays the young scallys are worshipping at the altar of mountain wear. North Face, Patagonia (which I was wearing in the hills 20 years ago), Mammut……the list goes on.

It is additionally great to see that the hair cuts have gone full circle. With the feather cut and wedge making a comeback.

Image result for young liverpool away fans

You still follow Liverpool, so football is obviously still important – are clothes as important to you now as they always were?

Nowadays I always find myself hunting for retro pieces. Competing with our kid on ebay to locate the rarest bargain.

I picked up an 80’s Saint Etienne Le Coq Sportif tracky top for £12 and wear it like I am 15 again (I’m 50)

I have an array of Patagonia and North Face kit from my hiking days, so can certainly slot straight back into scally culture like I was never away.

Tell us a few stories from your heyday – any particularly favourite memories?

My favourite moments at the match were being on the Kop for Molby’s double against the Mancs and Jim Beglin’s goal against Panathanikos. I thought “bloody hell here comes Beglin” and boom!! Mayhem ensued.

The energy on the Kop as kid was insane and you mixed fear and excitement with pure adrenalin of being surrounded by older lads and men, so emotional over a game of football that they might explode.

Kids have no concept of this feeling these days, unless of course you travel away….

Away days are still the best, with memories of “them against us” and the tribal energy still at it’s most infectious. I was in the thick of it away at Spurs last season with flares going off. The buzz is incredible.

European nights at Anfield are special but away in league is unbeatable.

And music played a big part of the casual culture right? What were your favourite bands or DJs of the time?

Music and the rave culture arrived at a time when Liverpool’s fortunes had taken a dramatic downward turn. Paul Oakenfold and Weatherall were the DJ’s for me at that time. Screamadelica at the Mountford Hall being one of the great gigs. Krarftwerk and De La Soul at the Royal Court in the late eighties, were additional highlights.

And finally, what do you think of the redmen at the moment? Can you see them winning the league again any time soon?

Th reds chances of finally bringing the big one home? I think that this time is a great opportunity but you are going to be reliant on teams taking points from Citeh.

I still feel we lack creativity through the middle and that ironically Coutinho could have been that player.

We are a little one dimensional up top but that still isn’t preventing us winning games, playing similar football to the great Barca teams of the last decade.

Cheers Nick, absolute pleasure speaking to you. True scouser. And true football casual.

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