“Crusties,” we called them. You don’t see them around today as much as you did in the 1990s and early 2000s. Back then they were a familiar sight on the streets of Britain’s cities. The term evokes white, matted dreadlocks; drab combat fatigues; and a mangy-looking dog on a string traipsing behind. “Crusty” as in encrusted dirt, dirt as a deliberate embrace of grotesquerie, a statement of resistance against society, proof of nomadic hardship. You’d often see them begging in the centers of small cities, drinking, perhaps the more enterprising of them trying to earn a few quid doing street performances, selling woven bracelets, or giving henna tattoos to teenage German tourists. Substance abuse, homelessness, poverty, and trouble with the law were rife among members of the community. In the minds of mainstream society, they were simply a bunch of dropouts in need...

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