Teddy Boys

The British Teddy Boy subculture is typified by young men wearing clothes inspired by the styles of the Edwardian period, which Savile Row tailors had tried to re-introduce after World War II. The group got its name after a 1953 newspaper headline shortened Edward to Teddy and coined the term Teddy Boy (also known as Ted).

So sayeth the neck-beards at Wikipedia in the entry for Teddy Boy, a sub-culture heretofore unknown to me. The article goes on to credit the Teddy Boys with helping to create a youth market in England, having been one of the first groups to identify as teenagers with a specific code of dress, perhaps only predated by the Scuttlers of mid 19th century Liverpool and Manchester. Scuttlers, as an interesting aside, were identified as wearing an eclectic get-up of:

[...] brass-tipped pointed clogs, bell-bottomed trousers, cut like a sailor’s (“bells” that measured fourteen inches round the knee and twenty-one inches round the foot) and “flashy” silk scarves. Their hair was cut short at the back and sides, but they grew long fringes, known as “donkey fringes”, that were longer on the left side and plastered down on the forehead over the left eye with oil or soap. Peaked caps were also worn tilted to the left to display the fringe.


This isn’t about Scuttlers, however. No, we are discussing Teddy Boys who, as is fairly typical among the uniformed youth, were in many ways more akin to a gang then, say, I don’t know, Goths.* Much of the violence was between rival gangs, which brings to mind pompadoured youths engaging in back alley, Bartitsu brawls with their cacophony of grunts, yelps, and the clack clack of clashing canes. However, they are also known for rioting after a showing of Blackboard Jungle in London in 1956, thereby starting a trend in England of rioting during showings of the film. Perhaps most infamously, they were also implicated in attacks in the West Indian community during the Notting Hill riots of 1958; partaking in a little good old-fashioned xenophobia which seems to have come back into vogue in the UK recently.

Still, virulent racism aside, they do at the very least make for interesting portraiture like that on display in the work of one Ben Watts. At one time these men had faces unlined; devoid of such craggy features. At one time these men were the bad crowd. These were the boys who your mother warned you about, ladies, with their cigarettes, and their rebellion, and their hardcore, Edwardian tattoos. These were boys who listened to Rock and Roll and ran with the devil. These boys were dangerous.

*Note: if you purport to possess evidence of violent clashes between rival Goth gangs I will give you a cookie, then call you a liar.

[via Monoscope]

13 Responses to “Teddy Boys”

  1. Beetleginny Says:

    one of my most favorite men’s fashion movements. When John Lydon was somewhere between the sex pistols and P.I.L. He rocked a fantastic teddyboy look.

  2. Jerem Morrow Says:

    I want The Rev, one Horton Heat, to chime in here. Hehe. Someone get him on the badass phone.

  3. Grizzlefur Says:

    Fabulous photos. I spent a few years in the seventies doing the rockabilly thing,and these are the elder statesmen of my youth. Not the kind of guys you should look up to, maybe, but when did that ever matter?

  4. Camilla Says:

    I attended an event in which a brawl brok out between the goths and the death metal fans. They two groups were virtually indistinguishable from each other, the majority of both clad in black band t-shirts and black illfitting jeans.

  5. Nadya Says:

    Love is a thug in a suit.

  6. frightful_elk Says:

    You may also be intrested in Mods http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mod_(lifestyle) who grew out of the teddy boys and beat up the rockers instead of each other. And cult film Quadrophenia which is about them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadrophenia_(film)

  7. Tequila Says:

    I dig that first pic…mainly cause it has that vibe of an old world master villain…um…I mean villian. Plus he actually looks comfortable. The photography is stellar…subject matter doesn’t seem all that different than the Pachuco era & subculture really. Different cuts to the suits of course but the over all mood seems the same.

    Violent Rival Goth Gangs…sounds like that should be the title to some strange experimental band. Though in a more literal sense…I wonder what that would even be? Now I’m curious if there are violent rival Steampunk gangs…I’m sure if they exist they have some of the most beautifully overdecorated weaponry around. Kinda like those decorated AK-47’s you see in Afghanistan…only in this case with more brass I’d imagine.

  8. BigJonno Says:

    I can’t say I’ve heard anything about Goth on Goth fights, but in my lovely burg of Peterborough there have been a series of fairly well-documented (at least in the local press) clashes between goths/metallers and chavs, to the point where the local council organised paintballing events and the like in an effort to help the two groups find common ground.

    I’ve had to aid in the defence of my local (now sadly closed down and turned into another Italian restaurant) when it suffered from a chav invasion. A group of lads took offence to one of the punkier patrons and attacked him, in the pub, at about seven in the evening. He was pulled into the back by some friends and I stood in the narrow corridor that led into the back room, pulled myself up to my full six feet, five and half inches and fended off the unwashed, Burberry-wearing hordes until a sufficiently large group of long-haired metalheads dragged them out. I even managed to lift one by the throat and throw him back at his sub-literate bretheren.

    Suffice to say, I did not pay for my own drinks for a while. Good times.

  9. Jani Says:

    Tequila,
    The man in first picture lives in Finland I think. He was interviewed shortly for street-style site, where he told he has been like that all the way from 50’s. And how he uses only tailormade clothes and if he can, only shoes made in fifties.

    He looks even more menacing in these pictures.

  10. Jani Says:

    Well… I digged sometime to find link of that streetstyle-spot for all of you:
    http://www.hel-looks.com/?p=image/archives/30/20080605_01/
    Okay, it wasn’t from fifties but still long enough for man of his age.

  11. Shay Says:

    @frightful_elk – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq9S9YnK2rY ;)

  12. R. Says:

    @Nadya: you are so right.

  13. laurie Says:

    one of my dads freinds was a teddie boy in dundee uk in his day he was a tough cunt even the crays would of thaugh twice about fighting him he used to carry open razors but was a jentleman but if you were a cunt you got cut lol