There have been many clearly distinct youth cultures in Britain with fashion statements, musical tastes and attitudes that define an era. From Punk to New Romantic, from Mod to Emo, each decade has spawned a movement of young revolutionaries trying to put their own stamp on the world whilst ironically only managing to create a culture in which everyone looks pretty much the same! But where did it all start?Edwardian FashionThe first youth group that clearly differentiated themselves were the Teddy Boys of the 1950s.
Their look, in common with all others since, was designed to shock their parents and was an evolution of an upper class trend started in the late 1940′s. In a reaction to the austerity of post war Britain a group of Saville Row tailors promoted a revival of Edwardian style to their wealthy and middle class clients. The dandy style of the clothing was then adapted by working class teenagers who created a look that acquired the name Teddy following a 1953 newspaper article which ran with a headline that shortened Edwardian to Teddy.
The ClothesThe fashion essential of the Teddy Boy style was a drape jacket, usually in a dark colour, and often with velvet collar and pocket flaps. These were worn with high necked white shirts accompanied by a thin tie, high waisted drainpipe trousers, braces and shoes with thick crepe soles, known as brothel creepers. The new dandies sported quiff hairstyles and associated themselves with the American rock and roll music of Elvis and Eddie Cochran.
GangsA gang culture of sorts emerged with regular reports of fights between rival groups. Mostly the troubles were not too serious by today’s standards but did sometimes involve knives and razors. Some of the gangs wore what almost amounted to a uniform, all wearing the same colour jacket or tie.
Unfortunately the movement also developed racist overtones with many Teds holding fascist ideals and being implicated in attacks on West Indian immigrants.RevivalThe Teddy Boy culture began to fade away towards the 1960′s and the new Mod and Rocker groups developed. The movement did experience a resurgence in the late 1970′s with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Mclaren selling Ted influenced clothing in their shop, ”Let it Rock”.
The new Ted fashion was also influenced by the glam rock scene and featured brighter coloured jackets, satin shirts and bootlace ties. This time the music was more rockabilly than rock and roll with bands like the Stray Cats becoming popular. The emerging Punk scene with its deliberately scruffy, unkempt look moved in the opposite direction to the dandy Teds.
LegacyThe look of the New Romantics in the 1980′s took some influence from the Teds in the use of period style dress and a rather dandy image. Adam Ant even proclaimed “I’m a dandy highwayman!” Even today elements of the Teddy Boy fashion statement are reappearing. There seems to be a genuine taste for 50’s style creeper shoes at the moment with many celebrities sporting them.
Get the LookIf you feel the urge to wear the Teddy style you can source authentic 1950′s garments at vintage fashion retailers.
There are also specialist labels like Rockit that offer retro style garments at reasonable prices. Failing that the charity shops are a good starting point. The footwear is easy with many footwear brands like Truffle and Ocean now offering their own take on the creeper style and even specialist brands like T.U.K shoes with whole ranges devoted to them!