The band are supporters of Earth First! and uses the motto "No Compromise in Defence of Our Earth," which is an adaptation of Earth First!'s motto. They support direct action in defence of the environment, hunt sabotage, and resistance against racialism, sexism, homophobia, fascism and imperialism. They have recently started singing in Scottish Gaelic and use the language in day to day communications. They see the use of Gaelic and other endangered languages as important to maintaining the biocultural diversity of life. They recently toured Europe with Seattle-based punk band Mill a h-Uile Rud who sing entirely in Scots Gaelic. Singer Ruairidh has recently become involved in Gaelic television and has appeared as Moses on a Gaelic comedy programme. Despite what some believe, the band did not start out as a "skinhead band" but was in fact formed by a bunch of teenage schoolkids who played their first gig at Stewarts Melville College in Edinburgh in late 1981.
Oi Polloi's was originally founded by Deek Allen and other friends from school. Their name Oi Polloi and their album Unite and Win (Punks and Skins) often gave the impression that they were a group of skinheads, or even anarchist skinheads. The band has never been a "skinhead band," but has had both skinhead and punk members who have emphasized unity between the two groups.
After numerous other gigs in the Edinburgh area and the recording of the group's first cassette demo "Last of the Mohicans" on a home hi-fi, drummer Stu "Doccy" Dunn left to become a karate instructor and was replaced by Muz who later recorded with the Apostles. Apostles and Political Asylum original drummer Chris Low also did a stint on the kit for a time while various other one time Oi Polloi members went on to play in such varied bands as Disorder_(band), Exploited, Kling Klang, Aberfeldy, Bus Station Loonies, Gin Goblins, Newtown Grunts, Divide & Conquer, Moniack, In Decades Decline, and Rocka Ragnarok. Drummer Murray Briggs who played on several of the band's 7" records as well as the "Fuaim Catha" LP now plays in Scottish Indie band Aberfeldy along with brother Riley who himself had a brief spell as Oi Polloi guitarist back in the '90s. Brian Tipa was instrumental in writing a great deal of material for the band in the mid-1990s. He was a member of the American band Blownapart Bastards, who later formed Uwharria, and now plays in Robotnicka. David 'Rat' Connolly was the guitarist through much of the early years, playing his last gig and album in 1991. Rat wrote the music for classic songs such as Pigs for Slaughter and Boot down the Door, he went on to become an archaeologist and Middle Eastern adventurer. Former bass player Calum Mckenzie (92-99) has since relocated to the US and now plays in the NYC based thrash/punk band Death Mold. On the "Omnicide" 7" bass and some vocals were by Morag Cruickshank from Aberdeen grindcore band Grunge.
The name Oi Polloi is a pun on the English loan of the Greek phrase hoi polloi (Greek: Οἱ πολλοί) which means literally "the many", but is extended to mean "the masses" or "the common people". Oi! refers to a form of punk music.