The Teddy Boy Attitude
The Teddy Boy subculture started in London in the 1950s and rapidly spread across the UK, becoming strongly associated with the American rock ‘n’ roll music of the day. It was an adventurous time as the Teds were the first youth group in England to differentiate themselves as teenagers, creating an entirely new vibrant youth market. Being smartly turned-out was essential to the Teddy boy style, it was a gang led philosophy and some groups were involved in violent clashes with rival subcultures such as the Mods. There was an overtly aggressive overtone to the Teddy boy look and many carried a flick knife as a fashion accessory. The most violent episode the Teddy boys were involved in was the Notting Hill Riot of 1958 in which Teddy boys were conspicuous in racial attacks.
During the 1960s the look evolved and many Teddy boys turned in to rockers or more insultingly, “greasers”. As the effect of post-World War II rationing lessened there was increased affluence; young people could buy motorbikes and were heavily influenced by the influx of music and film from America.
By the 1970s the look had been revived again by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in their Kings Road boutique, Let It Rock. However, this time the look brought in more glam rock elements influenced by the music of the day such as David Bowie, Marc Bolan, T. Rex and Lou Reed.
The Teddy Boy look
Teddy Boys were the first young generation to create their own teenage style. They made it acceptable to dress up and make an effort with their clothes at all times, rather than being limited to a work / school uniform and Sunday best. Teddy Boys were certainly distinctive, and their outfits often comprised:
- Dark long drape jackets, sometimes with a velvet trim and pocket flaps – which came in handy when concealing weapons and alcohol.
- Classic high-waisted ‘drainpipe’ trousers often revealed brightly coloured socks
- Chunky brogues or large crepe soled shoes (known as brothel creepers), often made in suede.
- To complete the look a high-necked loose-collared white shirt was favoured, with a narrow ‘slim Jim’ tie and a brocade waistcoat.
These clothes came with a hefty price tag as they were often tailor made and were mostly paid for in weekly instalments by the new fashion conscious crowd.
Experimental hairstyles were just as important as clothes for Teddy Boys. The preferred hairstyles included long, strongly-moulded greased-up hair with a quiff at the front and the side hair combed back to form a ‘Duck’s Arse’ – commonly known as a DA – shape at the back of the head. Another hairstyle was the Boston, in which the hair was greased straight back and cut square across at the nape. The Teddy Girls adopted American fashions such as toreador pants and circle skirts, although they tended to wear low-cut tops to make themselves look less prissy.