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.
- Teddy Boys – Portraits by Ben Watts
- Teddy Boys – A gallery from the 1950s
- Teddy Girls
- Video Documentary on British Style Genius