Rare 1974 insight to Sharpies in Melbourne. By Greg Macainsh.
Lobby Lloyd and Billy Thorpe concert at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
Sharpies (also known as Sharps) were members of suburban youth gangs in Australia mainly from the 1960s to 1980s, particularly in Melbourne, but also in Sydney and Perth to a lesser extent.
The term comes from their focus on looking sharp. The dress and dance styles were strongly influenced by the British ska, mod and skinhead subcultures, and many of the Sharpies were British immigrants, recently arrived as "Ten Pound Poms". Common clothing items included Lee or Levi's jeans, sweaters and T-shirts (often designed by individual members). Sharpies would try to outdo fellow sharpies by creating the best patterns, colours and detail. Sharpies were known for being violent, although a strict moral code was also evident.
Sharpies gangs in Melbourne included Prahran Sharps, Melbourne Sharps and the A.N.A. Sharps and Anderson Rd Sharpies, from the Broadmeadows region in the mid 1970s. It wasn't unusual for there to be hundreds of Sharpies milling about. They often went to dances and early discos, and because of sheer numbers, they were almost untouchable by the police. This led to excessive violence on behalf of the Sharpies, who would basically fight who they wanted, and take beer and money from who they wanted. The Sharpies subculture faded out due to mistrust between gangs and excessive violence.
In Sydney Sharpie gangs included the "Town Hall Sharps" who congregated in hotels around the Sydney Town Hall notably the Town Hall Hotel and the Macquarie Hotel on the corner of Goulburn Street and Wentworth Avenue. Town Hall Sharps frequented dances at the Wesley Mission Centre in Pitt Street, which also were attended by gangs from Liverpool, Bankstown and Blacktown. In south-east Sydney a gang from the La Perouse area (called La Pa by the locals) were known as the Lapa Sharpies. Lapa Sharpies were atypical as they were largely made up of young Indigenous youth from around La Perouse and did not mix much with the other sharpie gangs.
Typical dress of the Sydney sharpies was running shoes or shoes with a white leather upper and no socks, jeans or straight legged, high-waisted trousers, La Coste style collared t-shirts and braces. Female sharpies or sharpie chicks tended to wear shoes with long socks, short skirts, and collared t-shirts with braces.
Sydney sharpies despised the Sydney surf culture and the focus of their violence was directed towards "Hairs", which referred to surfers, hippies or anyone with long hair.
In Perth, youths in areas such as Medina, Rockingham, Armadale, Kelmscott, Lynwood and Thornlie joined skinhead/Sharpie gangs. Many of these young people were children of recently arrived British migrants who built and ran the BP Kwinana Oil Refinery.