Ford Focus, skinhead car of choice?

Pattern recognition, anthropology style, consists of watching for things that make you go “hmm.”  A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a kid drive past me.  He was wearing a hard expression and a very short haircut.  The car was a Ford Focus.  And not just any Ford Focus.  It was impeccable.

Hmm.  An impeccable Ford Focus.  And a kid who looked quite a lot like a skinhead. 

What might me go hmm was the anomaly.  After all, a Ford Focus seems to me (without the benefit of anthropological investigation) a bland little car, vehicle of choice for baby sitters, clergymen, and elementary school teachers…kind and gentle souls, all.  Not tough guys.

Yesterday, I was out for a walk and who should zip past me, but another kid with short hair and a tough expression.  The car?  An immaculate Ford Focus. 

I came home with two questions: 1) were these kids skinheads?  2) Is the Ford Focus a skinhead car of choice?

Short of running after the next Ford Focus that whistles past me, shouting, “Hey, are you a Skinhead?” there really isn’t any way to answer the first question.  (I think of skinhead as an English invention, and I know they exist in America because I say the movie with Edward Norton.  Shockingly limited knowledge, really.) 

The second question is a little easier to investigate and I did a Google search with the words “skinhead” and “Ford Focus.”   They did not coincide in any illuminating way. 

But of course, I may be really barking at the moon.  There may not be any “skinhead” car.  I mean, why would someone’s politics specify their choice of automobile?  On the other hand, it is usually just when I am talking myself down in this way that someone says to me, “Ford Focus?  Skinheads?  Everyone knows that!” 

I am deputizing you, dear reader.  Place your hand on the screen and repeat after me: “I do solemnly swear to keep an eye out for Ford Focuses and the people who drive them.”  I do not advise running after them shouting questions.  That’s my job. 

18 thoughts on “Ford Focus, skinhead car of choice?”

  1. I live in southern California and drive a 2002 Ford Focus. I am not a skinhead.

    But I am a law student, so that may put me uncomfortably close to the skinhead end of the spectrum.

  2. Grant –
    What if the Ford Focus is actually the car of choice for parents of Skinheads? That “tough” or “hard” look might have been: teenaged angst, ennui or plain and simple embarrassment.

  3. I love it! Glad to know others notice these things, too. You have my pledge. Next time I see one I’ll take a snapshot. Although I am in Texas, and that may not have hit here, yet… However, we do have a similar pattern with white, Chevy Suburbans and soccer moms, which can be quite a force on the road in the early morning and after school. Think Female Roller Derby! I particularly enjoy the stickers on the back window with the soccer or volleyball, and their kids’ name and jersey number. Quite a status symbol, and perhaps more menacing than skinheads.

  4. Is it possible that many who identify with such philosophies also have a strong nationalistic bent, which would also translate into “buy American”? Which would in turn lead to driving more Ford Focuses.

    An interesting side note–just as the housing market was beginning to turn, a new neighborhood near me started offering a new car with the purchase of a home in the community. The car they were offering was a Ford Focus. Makes me wonder about the neighbors.

  5. I have a shaved head. And just sold a 2003 Ford Focus to a man with a shaved head. Why would “hard” kids drive one? They are fast and fun and to drive. Relatively inexpensive. (Thanks to being made in Mexico.) Easy to work on and modify. And at least prior to current version — they were tuned to European standards, tight and good pick up with a slightly hard ride. If you those kids had an SVT version, they were even faster and responsive. (It’s definitely part of the whole sport-comment scene — and what makes that scene click? Affordable speed. Which of course is what made the classic muscle cars work so well too — affordable, fast, and easy to tune to your liking.

    The problem with the current muscle car revival is they aren’t made for kids — they are nostalgia wagons, designed to appeal to middle aged men recapturing their glory days.

  6. “why would someone’s politics specify their choice of automobile?”

    Any form of consumption is an opportunity to define who we are and what groups we are in merely by the context wrapped up in the item, whether it’s recognized by a small or large group of people. Automobiles are very recognizable, and can create a strong impression on the vast number of people that will never see us again; while there isn’t enough variation of automobiles to define us (too many false positives to make it a strong signal), customization or other attributes (cleanliness, perhaps) offers us more ways to use an automobile to define us.

    And to prove the link, it’s only necessary to show that skinheads drive Ford Focus, not that Ford Focus drivers are skinheads; an item can mean different things to different groups.

  7. What about Scion and the hip hop overs/rappers?
    Did that strategy really work in America? Do hip hoppers drive round town in a Scion?

    Do enlight cause I’m from Malaysia and work on regional Asia for Toyota.

  8. There are a couple other cases of particular demographic groups favoring particular car brands: black and Nissans (especially Maximas), lesbians and Subarus.

  9. I drive a Ford Focus, but am not a skinhead. And at my office, there are two women who also drive Ford Focus (Foci?), but have full heads of hair also. That doesn’t disprove anything though.

    I think a crucial distinction when studying the Focus is hatchback vs. sedan. I drive a hatchback. Does anyone remember one of those first Ford Focus commercials, when a group of young people in the focus hatchback fit into a parking garage space too tight for any other car, and then they all get out through the hatchback because the doors can’t open? Classic, that image stuck in my head and I began to think of the Focus as the car for, maybe not the most precise term here, bricoleurs.

  10. It’s interesting that someone else has noted the connection between Maximas and African-Americans. I find that nearly every time I see a Maxima the driver is black. Is there any explanation here?

  11. A friend of my neighbor’s kid drives a Maxima. His dad bought it for him after he totaled two BMWs. That kid looks like a skinhead, but is actually a rock musician (with gigs at clubs that even I’ve heard of).

    A coworker bought a Ford Focus for his daughter, a PhD candidate at UCSD. She is definitely not a skinhead.

    Perhaps the men with short hair you saw were wearing military crew cuts?

  12. I’ve had a shaved head a few times, but I’m not a skinhead — and, I used to drive a Yellow Festiva in high school, the dorky, feminine predecessor to the Focus (but damn, it got good gas mileage and never broke down). The more likely explanation of your spotting was that the guy was driving his parents’ Focus. Importantly, I believe car-as-critical-style accessory does emit signals about who you are, however the tight adherence to car and image is less than it was in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

  13. Great title :D!

    Interesting how to avoid being labeled by a car/brand. The stronger the image of a car, the stronger the inclusion/exclusion from owners?
    Funny how some brands manage to have contrasting groups – Cola drinks going for the cool kids, and loved by programmers/nerds etc.

  14. It’s interesting that someone else has noted the connection between Maximas and African-Americans. I find that nearly every time I see a Maxima the driver is black. Is there any explanation here?

  15. I love it! Glad to know others notice these things, too. You have my pledge. Next time I see one I’ll take a snapshot. Although I am in Texas, and that may not have hit here. The more likely explanation of your spotting was that the guy was driving his parents’ Focus.

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  17. Ha ha… don’t know how I found this, but I figured I’d chime in…

    I have a 2004 Ford Focus ZX3. Gotta sell it, but it’s been the only car I’ve ever really dug driving. I’ve been a skinhead for 16 years. Really more of a Herbert in the last 8 or so. But I keep the hair pretty short. I’m a traditional skin and lean pretty far left in my own political opinion, which has nothing to do with my subculture of choice. (hit wikipedia if yer confused… not that that’ll really straighten it out)

    Regardless, this is the goofiest correlation that I have ever heard. Because I know no other skin or punk or what-have you that owns one. I do know several other tattoo artists that own them though. And, like Vespas and Lambrettas, we tend to sit and around and talk about how awesome our focuses are and how we’d love to upgrade them. Once you own one, it’s hard to go to anything else.

    And it ain’t a patriotic thing b/c mine was made in a factory in mexico. Plus, I always thought of myself as a chevy man until now.

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