On Being Skux

A nostalgic recap of a national subculture.

A nostalgic recap of a national subculture.

Roughly from the years 2007 to 2012, New Zealand was to be shocked by a new wave of subculture, that was to quickly become known as The Era of the Skux. Skux culture, like all important cultural movements, was born out of rebellion. Skux culture was a pūkuna-eyes-wide-fuck-you to the white, heteronormative and manly stylistic norms of Canterbury pants, gumboots and Swanndris. Skux culture was proud, brown and metrosexual. Most importantly, it was swag.

In my fashionable opinion, 2007 to 2012 should be considered a fashion decade all of its own. By 2007 we had moved away from the Mariah Carey honey blonde and JLo glow glamour of the early Paris Hilton 2000s. The early 2000s were a very prescriptive period for fashion. To inaccurately quote German-American model, television personality and Halloween enthusiast Heidi Klum, if you weren’t in, you were out. But in the later part of the decade, an emergence of multiple mainstream fashion scenes would appear. Suddenly emo was in. Scene was in. Gossip Girl x Ascot Park Avenue Princess was in if you were me or a bitchy nerd. Trash glam was in if you were Lady Gaga, or lived in a loft in Brooklyn, New York. wanted futuristic robots to be in, but I never really saw anyone rocking heavy metallics. LMFAO was in, in their black-rimmed glasses and printed leggings, which will always be regarded as the worst of the worst sartorial moments ever. But if you attended a multicultural intermediate or high school in New Zealand, and maybe even on the Gold Coast, one scene would dominate them all during this time, and that, of course, was skux.

To be a skux, you had to be, well, skux

To be a skux, you had to be, well, skux. If you were skux, you were most likely a Māori or Islander boy between the ages of 12 and possibly 20. Some white guys could be skux too, but most of them just looked emo. It was necessary for you at any skux age to already possess a tā moko, a six pack, and a hair straightener (and I’m talking a ghd, these boys were bougie before bougie was bougie). To be skux you had to be committed to the skux movement. Skux was more than just a fashion trend, it was a lifestyle.

You had to play a sport. How else where you going to keep up those abs? Rugby definitely. That’s where all the skuxes seemed to congregate in packs. The skuxest one was usually the fast guy on the wing who scored the tries in next to the ever-admiring girls giggling on the sidelines. Basketballers could also be skux, as long as they weren’t too lanky. Soccer? A hesitant maybe? Cricket? I don’t think so.

If they weren’t playing sports they were probably in your maths class being the class clown to your beauty queen in tears. You had to be funny. Skuxes were more than just abdominal muscles, they were personalities and phenomena. You could usually find a skux sitting in the back of the classroom, swinging on his chair and making wisecracks at his flustered fresh-out-of-university 22-year-old teacher. It was part of their charm. And to be a skux you had to have a way with ladies. Having a way with the ladies was practically the definition of skux!

It was almost mandatory, if you were skux, to have a hot girlfriend from another school. Preferably from a school far, far away to avoid having to like, actually meet them. The hot girlfriend of a skux was usually Māori or a Polynesian Princess, but in a white way, with green eyes, or a penchant for Cosmic Corner contact lenses, and highlighted hair. Alternatively a skux’s ‘missus’ could also be a very popular rich white girl with a fat ass and overbearing parents. Whoever she was, it was important that you have her photo saved on your prehistoric non-iPhone phone, so you could show your mates. How else were you going to legitimise your relationship and take it to the next level if not by sharing her personal pictures with your posse of horny boiz?

Skuxes essentially operated from a higher place of freedom. You couldn’t hold it against them. In fact there’s even an ancient saying, a whakatauki that says, If you love a skux, let him go and if he returns to you, he’s your skux forever

If you were an evolved skux, and I’m talking like, an 18-year-old skux, it wasn't uncommon for you to have two or more girlfriends. You could witness a skux at his peak skuxness if you knew where to look, and approached quietly with caution. You might have been able to find one in action in a backroom at a party. If his friends were guarding the door and wouldn't let you pass, that was a good clue. Tears would ensue. Skuxes had that effect on women. But a real skux could talk their way out of anything. Skuxes essentially operated from a higher place of freedom. You couldn’t hold it against them. In fact there’s even an ancient saying, a whakatauki that says, If you love a skux, let him go and if he returns to you, he’s your skux forever.

And they probably would return, with flowers, chocolates and gifts. If you were a baby girl who snagged yourself a skux, your birthday and Christmas were gonna be lit. A skux knew how to treat women some of the time, and weirdly had a lot of disposable income for an unemployed teenager. And although skuxes are immediately associated with the reputation of being playas, in actuality many skuxes were keen on commitment. Deep down, beneath all their layers of emotional avoidance and Clearasil acne cream, they only really desired the heart of one woman. One woman to mess around with for multiple years before, eventually, reining it in and settling down. At their emotional core all skuxes just wanted to start a little skux family where everyone wore matching high tops and snapbacks. Look up the most notorious skux from your high school on Facebook, and tell me I’m wrong.

But all of this ‘way with the ladies’ meant a focus on appearance was a primary preoccupation. Being a skux required a high degree of personal maintenance, similar to that of societally pressured girl. Skuxes spent hours every morning getting ready for school or sports or church. The ghd hair straightener was the sharpest tool in the Skux’s arsenal, hair gel was second and hairspray third. A Schwarzkopf half-and-half black and blonde dye-job was a classic and quintessential skux haircut, but not as quintessential as the skux bang; emo-esque, but side-swept with more swag. As well as haircare, Skuxes were also committed to a beauty regime of hair removal. Shaved legs made you run faster. I don’t know what shaved armpits assisted with but they must have done something. A touch of eyeliner never went unnoticed, though always applied with a light hand. Mistaking a skux for a tanned emo or scene-kid was big no-no. A canful of Lynx per day definitely didn't go unnoticed. You could smell a skux from a mile away. Clothing included the skinniest skinny jeans they could get into. Women’s jeans generally had a wider range of colours. Ten-dollar t-shirts from JayJays were common, as were those singlets with enormous armpits that swooped down to like, mid thigh. In terms of footwear, white-on-whites were where it was at, but any branded high-top sneaker could work, though it was also common to spot a skux rocking a white sock and jandal combo with casual nonchalance. Classic skux accessories? The jaw of a whale and a drawstring bag.

Dancing would also make you a skux with the ladies, as well as assist with your abdominal upkeep. Skuxes were more than just pretty boys, they were artists and creatives with soft and electric souls. If you were skux it was important that you kept up with the latest dance trends. Krumping was the first movement, but actually might have been too aggressive for the average skux, who was generally more softboi than killer klown. Shuffling was huge. Tektonik was huge. Jerking was huge. Geeking was huge. The dougie was huge. A real Skux could do them all, transitioning from each to each with fluidity and dynamism.

I had a skux in my life once. He had a quintessential two-letter acronym for a name

I had a skux in my life once. He had a quintessential two-letter acronym for a name. He showed me my first porno on his phone. He had light gang affiliations. Once he spat a piece of gum in my hair during an asTTle reading test. Once he grabbed my ass in art class and I slapped him across the face. We did a social studies project on the Maori Battalion together. He dated my best friend for three days and didn’t speak to her once. He was fine af. I hated him. I thought he was very misunderstood. I thought he was so cute. Even I, an intellectual, had to admit I wasn’t immune to that classic skux charm.

And how could I be? Skux permeated right throughout New Zealand’s culture. The entire country smelt of aerosol sprays. It was dangerous time to light a durry. New Zealand even had our very own skux boy band, JGeek and the Geeks. They delivered dated hits such as Maori Boy and Icky Sticky, the latter being an absolutely disgusting song which I narked on my sister for listening to to my Mum, and my Mum confiscated her phone. The face of the group, Jermaine Leef, who was also, like, Cleo magazine’s runner-up eligible bachelor of the year one time, was a total skux. He was so committed to the skux lifestyle that he left his cushy family-friendlyish job as a C4 host to pursue his real dream of being the world's first skux superstar! There were multiple skux boys skuxing their way to the top during this time. You could see them on TV, on the Vodafone red carpets. J Williams was skux until he pulled a Chris Brown, which is NEVER a skux thing to do, and so got stripped of his skux status. Sonny Bill Williams was the skuxest of them all, and most young skuxes regarded him as the number one skux idol. Personally I found him especially skux when he was dating skux-loving socialite Jamie Ridge. But they broke up in 2012, around the time that skux culture started petering out.

But what happened? Where did it all go? I wouldn’t know. I stopped paying attention once I left high school. Does the skux still exist or is it dead, like Jeffrey Campbell Lita boots with studs died for girls of that era? Or has it evolved? Do they dab, whip and nae nae instead of the skux classics dougie and cat daddy? Do they still take that long in the mirror? Do some, at least somewhere, perhaps in remote areas of New Zealand, still self-identify as skux? Or has the skux been renamed? Are skuxes now fuckbois? Softbois? Or just boys?

I was walking through town recently with my friends and we stopped at Pigeon Park to share a cheeky spicy cigarette when a young boy, freshly 14, approached us and asked to bum a smoke off my friend in exchange for a crip walk and I thought, omg there’s still traces. My brother came home recently with a suspiciously skux-looking haircut and I thought, omg there’s still traces. My brother is 11, in his first year of intermediate, the ripe age for when the first signs of skuxness would have normally started appearing. So I asked him if he considered himself “a skux, with that haircut” and he looked at me like I was an idiot. I asked him for his associations on the word ‘swag’ and he said “old” and “people who wear their hats backwards.” I tried not to fall off my chair backwards and I was a bit disheartened, I admit. His fresh ancient cut was making me nostalgic for those simpler, swaggier times. I looked him in the eye and told him seriously that he never had to be ashamed of being skux in our household. He told me to leave him alone, but I meant it. I’m proud of those boys. Those boys who normalised boys in women’s jeans, who spent hours in the mirror, who cried over girls, who at lunchtimes danced in the quad without shame, who could wear traces of eyeliner and pink without shame. The most unlikely demographic became fashion innovators and influencers, creating a unique and distinctive subculture for the country, but especially for our young brown men.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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