The Teddy Boy Movement

The Velvet Collar And The Iron Fist

The Teddyboy emerged in the 1950s as Britain was coming to the end of post-war austerity and represented the first face of British youth culture. The consumer boom of the 1950s America did not reach Britain until the 1960s but nevertheless working class teenagers could for the first time afford good clothes, a bicycle or motorcycle and entertainment. The clothing that the Teddyboys wore was designed to shock their parents' generation. It consisted of an Edwardian style drape jacket, much too 'camp' for a working class man, suede Gibson shoes with thick crepe soles, narrow 'drainpipe' trousers, a smart shirt and a loud tie - usually of the 'Slim Jim' or bootlace type. The trademark drape jacket was not as impractical as it seems. Not only did it act as a badge of recognition but, as it was made of woollen cloth with lots of pockets, its kept it's owner warm as he hung around in the street and was also good at concealing weapons and alcohol. The Teddygirls adopted American fashions such as toreador pants and circle skirts, although they tended to wear low cut tops to make themselves look less prissy. Girls wore ponytails and the boys tried a number of experimental hairstyles, the most favourite being the overblown quiff with a DA (ducks arse) at the back.

The Teds fully embraced the American Rock and Roll music that hit Britain and the British bands that adopted the same style. The Teds were, however, shadowy figures at the dancehalls, lurking around the bars, bopping around and drinking. They formed gangs who sometimes had a common uniform like a particular colour of jacket or socks. For the most part, violence and vandalism was not too serious by modern standards, and exaggerated by the media, but there were instances of serious gang warfare with razors and knives. Some Teddyboys had fascist tendencies and were involved with gangs of youths that attacked the West Indians that emigrated to Britain in the mid Fifties. This racism was the most unfortunate of the Teddyboy's tendencies and it closed off much American Rock and Roll to them. This was their loss as a lot of white covers of Afro-American songs were very poor by comparison with the originals.

The British pop boom of the 1960s brought new music and new youth culture. The Teddyboys that remained began to devote more attention to Rock and Roll music, which they at first took for granted. The first Rock and Roll pubs appeared as did the Rockers who liked the same music and rode powerful British motorcycles. Teds and Rockers got on well with each other and the leather motorbike jacket became the normal wear for many Teddyboys and Teddygirls for daytime use and for rough pubs. The bike jacket could protect against motorcycle accidents, razor attacks and spilt beer in a way that the drape jacket never could.

The 1970s saw Glam Rock and Rockabilly styled bands appear in Britain and, although the Teds despised most of this music, it brought a resurgence of interest in Rock and Roll and new venues appeared. Many teenagers bought second hand drape jackets, hid the moth holes with badges and became the new generation of Teddyboys and Teddygirls. British Rock and Roll bands developed their own style, using guitar blues and rockabilly to give their music more bite. Rock and Roll pubs would put on bands of this type and also play original 1950s records. This, the dancing and the beer created an unique entertainment experience. The Seventies also saw the appearance of the Rockabilly. Basing their look on poor white boys from the American South, they adopted the Confederate Flag as their emblem, usually shown alone and without flag poles, and avoided rock and roll that was based on blues sounds or performed by black artists. Rock and Roll disk jockeys stopped playing music that Rockabillies didn't like and the Teds realised that they had new rivals for their Rock and Roll venues. There were a lot of fights and many Rock and Roll venues closed.

The 1980s were a lean time for Teds, who carried on much as they had in the Seventies. However the difficulty of finding venues led to British bands sharpening up their act and some of the new bands produced the best British Rock and Roll music ever. The Thatcher regime was an enemy of creativity, and youth cults of all types faded in the mid Eighties as low working class employment and wages led to teenage apathy and pointless riots.

In the 1990s the Teds and Rockabillies buried the hatchet, and any remaining racism amongst Teddyboys evaporated, leading to the emergence of Teddyboys in the rest of Europe where Rock and Roll has always been popular. The original Teddyboys were by now too old for violence and those that appeared in the 1980s were not interested in fighting. This led to a new type of safer Rock and Roll event where people could feel comfortable without Rock and Roll clothes or leathers. However, it would be wrong to assume that all modern Rock and Roll venues are glorified dance clubs. Many a night of drunken fun can be still be had dancing to Rock and Roll and the music is better than ever. Records sell on merit rather than star quality, and disk jockeys play CDs and vinyl disks of 1950s piano boogie , 1990s German rockabilly and Elvis back to back. Mention has to be made of 'The Flying Saucers' 'Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers' 'Lucas and the Dynamos' 'Jive Street', and Pollytone Records who organise the Teddyboy Weekenders.

The sight of children and teenagers in drape jackets and circle skirts suggests that Teddyboys and Teddygirls will still be seen for a long time yet.  (By Rocking Pete)


The Story Of The Teddy Boy Movement

All began in the early 1950's in England. Some teenagers gangs appeared in the East End of London; they were called the Cosh boys. It was very easy to recognise them. They wore a very special rig : long jacket with velvet collar and cuffs drain-pipe trousers like under the reign of Edward VII (1901-1910), bright ankle socks and slim Jim tie. There hair were "long" and greased. These Cosh boys terrified the English society : razor attacks, fights between gangs but also against the police, robberies ... After the Second World War England woke up with an headache ! Press needed a new term to describe these gangs which number increased each day? The word chosen was Teddy Boy(s) and Teddy Girl(s), Ted(s)

It seems that the first newspaper that used the term Teddy Boy was the Daily Express on September 23rd 1953. At this epoch, Elvis Presley was just a truck-driver!

And then, came Rock'n'Roll immediately adopted by the young generation and of course by the Teds. Bill Haley, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and British artists like Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard and the Drifters (then the Shadows), Billy Fury, Marty Wilde (and many many others ... ) became the teenagers' idols. It was the beginning of something new, a wind of freedom. In Britain, in September 1956, Bill Haley had 5 records in the 'Top 20' and the film Rock Around The Clock was shown at 300 cinemas, but, in the early 60's, the tastes of the public changed and many Teds, after the military service in the British Army, put away their finger-tip drapes, their tightly fitting trousers and cut their hair. Was it the end of the Teds' culture ? Not at all ladies and gents!

50's R'N'R still had many fans in Great Britain ; many of them, the (Ton-Up) Rockers wore the "uniform" of the "American bad boys" : black leather jackets, T-shirts, jeans and motorcycle boots.

In 1967, Bill Haley's Shake, Rattle and Roll crept into the British charts again. At the end of the 60's, some bands played authentic R'N'R for a new generation of Teds which joined the original ones . Bands like the Wild Angels, the Houseshakers, the R'N'R Gang (in France), Shakin' Stevens & the Sunsets, the R'NR Allstars recreated the true spirit of R'N'R ; they rendered the big success of the 50's (',Johnny B. Goode',' Little Queenie'. 'Tutti Frutti','Peggy Sue', 'Be Bop A Lula, 'C'mon Everybody', 'Summertime Blues', 'Great Balls Of Fire', ...). This return to the traditional R'N'R was called Rock'n'Roll Revival.

In the 70's, the new generation of Teds developed a strong identity : hair lacquer started to replace grease, the drapes were brighter and, sometimes, the drain-pipes were tighter. Gradually , this new generation discovered one of the roots of R'N'R : Rockabilly and Country Music. Remember, Mr. Presley started off on Rockabilly! People like Carl Perkins, Johnny & Dorsey Burnette, Charlie Feathers, Hank Mizell, Warren Smith, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Rich, George Jones, Carl Mann, Hayden Thomson, Janis Martin, Wanda Jackson, Sleepy Labeef (and many many other artists) became suddenly famous in England then soon after in the rest of Europe. In the same time, in the U.S.A., the great label Rollin' Rock recorded brilliant artists as Ray Campi, Mac Curtis ...

The main adepts of Rockabilly founded a new movement called Rockabilly Rebels (Rockabilly Rebs). Some of them embraced the politics of the British National Front and of racial segregation. They wore the Confederate flag. Teds News do not support this "movement" which is nearly dead ! Artists as Matchbox and Ray Campi, musical leaders of the Rockabilly Rebels were not at all racialist.

In the early 70's, a lot of Teds (particularly, the old generation) didn't care about Rockabilly, they asked for Rock'N'Roll. Nowadays, it's different : Rockabilly (with 50's R'N'R, instrumentals of the early 60's, Jumpin' Jive, Country Music) belongs to the Teds' culture.

The interest for Rockabilly coincided with the internationalisation of the Teddy Boy's tradition. New bands like Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers, the Flying Saucers, the Riot Rockers (...) exported all over Europe their own songs, their own music. They created a new sound that we 're still calling British Rockabilly. Some Teds prefer to use the term (Rockabilly) Revival. Teds News would like to promote this European sound also called Teddy Boy Rock'n'Roll, which had many supporters in the 70's and still have many fans in Europe even if a lot of (pseudo) purists hate this style that is not enough 50's for them. British Rockabilly can be played with an electric bass. The purists abhor this instrument, they prefer the double-bass ("slap bass").

Teds News decided to support Teddy Boy R'N'R (even is this music is often underestimated), British R'N'R and bands that try to revive the early 60's instrumentals.

It seems that some Teds today return to the roots of their movement. They give up the 70's style for the 50's one. Nobody knows what the future will be. But we are sure that Rock'n'Roll will never die.  (Unknown author)


Coshes, Chains and Razors

Early in the decade, Britain produced the first Teddy Boys, regarded as the urban, unskilled working class boys, looking for an identity through the clothes they wore. They pursued gang warfare and vandalism in both the streets and the dance halls, carrying coshes, bicycle chains, razors and flick-knives beneath their fine Edwardian style clothes. The 50's was the first decade to produce teenage fashions, before this they were expected to dress similar to their parents. Following the war, when prosperity hit Britain, these working class teenagers could afford to buy their own clothes, although most shops only offered 'off the peg' conventional styles and many tailors refused to make up these 'new' fashions. The teenagers were now a marketing target that made 50's fashion a symbol of a whole new lifestyle.

The association between these youths, their dance music, their clothes and crime, had become a major source of concern well before 1954 when a gang of Teds murdered a youth on Clapham Common.

The teddy boy uniform was originally copied from the smart Edwardian gentleman - their 'social superiors'. The style was tailored, and featured long high necked jackets, sometimes of velvet, or velvet trimmed collar and cuffs, and were lined in either floral or bright colours. This was worn with brocade waistcoats, bootlace or slim jim tie, narrow 'drainpipe' trousers, wing-collared shirts and suede shoes, which were originally regarded as 'gay men's shoes' or 'nancy boy shoes'. An essential accessory, along with the cycle chain was the comb. These new 'Edwardians' were not the respectable working class, and as a result the middle class who had pioneered the style, felt that their wardrobe had now become unwearable. Those who now wore the style were described as 'delinquents', 'zoot-suiters' and 'spivs'.

In the States, following Brando, in case you don't know who he is you could try downloading this app, in the film 'The Wild One' the teenagers adapted their fashions accordingly, buying leather bomber jackets from War Surplus stores. As this film was banned in most towns in Britain at the time, the British missed out on this style until Gene Vincent, who already had a conviction for Public Lewdness and Obscenity in the States, flew over for a British TV show.

All teddy boys went to great pain to keep their hair in place. Fighting messed up the hair - hence the ever present metal comb. The DA was the main style although there were many variations such as 'the bop', 'the Tony Curtis', 'the be-bop', 'the tevee', 'the panama' or the 'back sweep and crest'. It was greased and usually accompanied by sideboards.

As the fifties went on the urban working class association with the 'Teddy Boy' dress spread further a field and with the commercial success of films like 'Rock Around The Clock' and resultant media attention it became the style of the fifties for not just the working class. Anyone causing trouble of any kind was blamed on Teddy Boys. Just as all health problems today are blamed on 'smokers', it became almost fashionable (and it sold papers) to blame any unsocial crime on 'Teddy Boys'. A youth only had to have a Tony Curtis haircut and he was instantly labelled 'a Teddy Boy'.

(Unknown author)