Teddy Boys 1950’s
History of the British Teddy Boy and Culture
A group of Teddy Boys admire the passing Teddy Girls on Clapham Common 1954.
History of the British Teddy Boy Movement
Teddy Boy Mike waits for his friend Pat on a cleared Bombsite, London 1955.
The origins of the Teddy Boys go back to the late 1940’s when Saville Row Tailor’s attempted to revive the styles of the reign of King Edward VII, 1901-1910, known as the Edwardian era, into men’s fashions. The Teddy Boy fashion of the fifties has its origins in what was an upper class reaction to the austerity imposed by the socialist government in the years following the World War II.
EDWARDIAN STYLE – a photograph from the Tailor and Cutter & Women’s Wear, June 23, 1950 with the accompanying text:
“Following on our article concerning the dress of the students up at Oxford, which we printed in our June 9th issue, we show on the right(above) a photograph of Mr. Hugh Street, an Oxford undergraduate who favors the individual in single breasted suits.”
“His jacket is generously skirted and button-four with a very short lapel and squarely-cut fronts. Jacket pockets are slanted and are offset by narrow trousers (narrow all the way – not pegged topped) and double breasted waistcoat. The Oxford breeze obliginly blows the left trouser against the Street leg and reveals a fashionable half boot.”
Wealthy young men, especially Guards officers adopted, the style of the Edwardian era. At that point in history, the Edwardian era was then just over forty years previous and their grandparents, if not their parents, wore the style the first time around.
Young Oxford undergraduates wearing elements of the neo-Edwardian style in the early 1950’s.
The original Edwardian revival was actually far more historically accurate in terms of replicating the original Edwardian era style than the later Teddy Boy style which was a fusion of British Edwardian and American Western styles. Although there had been youth groups with their own dress codes called ‘Scuttlers’ in 19th century Manchester and Liverpool, Teddy Boys were the first youth group in England to differentiate themselves as teenagers, helping create a youth market.
The neo-Edwardian look worn by an off-duty Guards Officer creted by Saville row Tailors in 1948.
“Originally, the Edwardian suit was introduced in 1950 by a group of Saville Row tailors who were attempting to initiate a new style. It was addressed, primarily, to the young aristocratic men about town. Essentially the dress consisted of a long narrow lapelled, waisted jacket, narrow trousers (but without being ‘drainpipes’), ordinary toe-capped shoes, and a fancy waistcoat. Shirts were white with cut-away collars and ties were tied with a ‘windsor’ knot. Headwear, if worn, was a trilby hat. The essential changes from conventional dress were the cut of the jacket and the dandy waistcoat. Additionally, barbers began offering individual styling, and hair-length was generally longer than conventional short back and sides.”
The description above was obtained from the typeset of a picture of the ‘authentic’ Edwardian dress which was put out by the Tailor and Cutter and printed in the Daily Sketch, 14th November 1953, in order to dissociate the ‘authentic’ from the working class adoption of the style.
TEDDY BOYS – the real thing- who visited “The Post” to demonstrate the authentic version of this youthful London craze. David Kelly (left) is in “Mississippi gambler style” Tony Griffith (middle) is true to the trend though in no particular style, and Ronald Bunting is in exact replica of Edwardian Fashion.
The principal features are the long coats with fur trimmings (velvet) the drainpipe trousers short of the ankles, the “Slim Jim” ties, fancy waistcoats and gaudy socks. Dressy materials like barathea and gabardine are essential. Between them, they have 10 other similar costumes.
The three youths, all 18 are native Londoners and of the opinion that Wellington’s “Teddy Boys” are not really that because they don’t dress as well.
Wellington Evening Post (New Zealand) Monday May 30th 7th 1955.
The emergence of the Working Class Edwardian
The ‘Edwardian’s’ or a least ‘The Working Class Edwardian’ emerged without much warning ……. There was little preparation for his appearance as a fully fledged deviant, ( a person defined as a social problem) …. He had curious parents; one was the upper-class Edwardian dandy, the other the older delinquent subculture of South London …. his clothes were originally worn by the middle and upper classes, but this was only for a short period.
Swindon Teddy Boys at the Hammersmith Palais, London 1955.
….Indeed the style was worn throughout the 1950’s, but its meaning changed dramatically over the decade …. When the long jackets and tight trousers covered the middle class, the fashion was proclaimed a pleasing innovation, but it was rapidly re-appraised when it spread to young working-class males in 1952. It seems that these new ‘Edwardians’ were ‘Spivs’ not the ‘respectable’ working class …. as a result, the middle class felt that they could no longer share the style with its new adherents.
Teddy Boys and Girls at The Locarno, Swindon, Wiltshire in 1954
In 1948 Saville Row Tailors got together to push the style on to the young Mayfair bloods, the Guardees, and onto the Businessmen, they pushed it so successfully that it then became the uniform of the dance hall creepers.
“It means” explained a disconsolate young ex-Guardee over a champange coctail, “That absolutely the whole of one’s wardrobe immediately becomes unwearable” Those who now wore Edwardian dress were described as delinquents …. Unfavorable social types were summoned forth to define them as, ‘zoot-suiters’, ‘hooligans’ and ‘spivs’ …. The newspaper that these comments appeared in did not hesitate to award them an unambiguous identity …. The clothing was unchanged, but its wearers had translated it into a stigma.
Teddy Boys at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in 1957.
Knowing the ingrown conservatism of any English working-class community and its opposition to dandyism and any hint of effeminacy, it must have taken a special boldness for the first Teddy Boys of South London to swagger along their drab streets in their exaggerated outfits.
Teddy Boys Tony Ackrill, Tony Bond and Bill Ferris at Faringdon Road Park, Rodbourne, Swindon, Wiltshire in 1954.
The question which has to be asked is how had this style managed to cross the River Thames? It could hardly have come direct from Savile Row. The general explanation is that it reached South London via Soho. It was a new post-war development that young manual labourers from South London, especially those who had seen military service, went far more readily than before for their evening’s entertainment to “the other side”, that is, the West end, the square mile of large cinemas and little clubs, jazz haunts and juke box cafe’s, which around Soho abut on theatre land and fashionable restaurants.
Teenagers at the Corbett Hospital Fete, Stourbridge, Worcestershire in August 1957 – note the Teddy Boy on the right with the drape with the half-moon pockets.
It was Soho that the Elephant Boys were said to have encountered the new fashion of dressing eccentrically, through meetings either with young Mayfair Edwardians or the latter’s Soho imitators. Anyhow, the novel fact was that they picked up the fashion and imitated it, perhaps because its look appealed to them, but probably also because its exaggeration corresponded to something in their own outlook, a nagging dissatisfaction, a compelling demand to draw attention to themselves.
Some young Edwardian’s form Wolverhampton around 1955.
Spivs, Cosh Boys or Creepers
Richard Attenborough plays ‘Pinkie’, a typical ‘Spiv’ dressed in a long double-breasted suit with a Trilby Hat in the 1947 film, ‘Brighton Rock’ alongside Hermoine Braddely. The long jacket can be seen to have been heavily influenced by the American Zoot Suit and is regarded as the precursor style to the Edwardian look.
During the second World War, the ‘Spiv’ was born and originated in the ‘Borough’ of Southwark in South London. Spiv’s were a particular type of petty criminal who dealt in illicit, typically black market goods of questionable authenticity.
The image of the Spiv was a slickly-dressed man offering goods at bargain prices. The goods that Spiv’s offered were generally not what they seemed or had been obtained illegally. The term Spiv was widely used during the Second World War and in the post-war rationing period of the late 1940’s and 1950’s. Spiv’s however by contrast to the Teddy Boys were much older men in their thirties, forties and fifties and although they adopted a certain dress style, they were clearly not teenagers. Nevertheless, the image and style of the Spiv is generally accepted by historians a precursor style to that of the Teddy Boy.
A spiv in 1945 with a Voigtlander camera for sale on the blackmarket in London.
Cosh Boys in Notting Hill, London in 1954 wearing finger-tip length jackets of a style which immediately preceded Teddy Boy style. Note the chain attached to the belt loop, which was a direct influence from the Zoot Suit.
Following on from the Spiv’s and during the early 1950’s some teenage gangs started to appear in the East End of London and they became known as Cosh Boys. The fundamental differences between the Cosh Boys and the Spiv’s was that Cosh Boys were much younger that the Spiv’s. Cosh Boys were also violent, but probably the most important element was that they were youths who had adopted the Edwardian fashion as part of their identity. It was therefore very easy to recognise them as they had started to adopt the long drape jacket with velvet collar and cuffs narrower trousers and a Slim Jim tie. Their hair was “long” and greased. These Cosh Boys terrified London society with stories of razor attacks, robberies, fights between gangs and assaults against the police.
A number of quotes from newspaper articles from the early 1950’s discuss the Cosh Boy, the clothes they wore and the fact that the general population regarded them as a menace to society.
The same two Cosh Boys at Notting Hill in 1954.
As early as 1951, Cosh Boys had been wearing finger-tip drapes (so called because they must reach as far as the fingertip when the arm is fully extended) bright ankle socks, fancy shoes with thick crepe rubber wedge soles (which are known to the connoisseurs as “Creepers”). The girls, or so the boys claim, are copying male hairstyles, especially the D.A. (so called because of it’s resemblance to a ducks rear). The costume most in favour now is a black be-bop sweater over a pencil skirt either slit or buttoned, a three-quarter check overcoat and three tier wedge shoes. – Daily Mirror October 28th1951.
The Sunday Graphic reported that the Police Forces of Britain are to “Get the first one in” against the teenage gangs of the big towns. A newly organised Police plan to rid the country of the Cosh Boys, the bicycle-chain thugs and the knuckle-duster gangs. The appointment of Flying Squad Chief Superintendant Chapman to the head of No.3 District Metropolitan Police, which covers the East End of London, is part of the new campaign. Toughness is the key and and the C.I.D. aided by the recent law making it a crime to carry offensive weapons “Without authority or reasonable excuse” – The Sunday Pictorial March 19th 1950.
Four Cosh Boys who robbed an old woman after one of them burned her face with a cigarette were jailed for five years. After hearing what they had done Mr Justice oliver told the prosecuting council ” I wish some of the persons who oppose flogging could have heard your statement” – Daily Mirror October 15th 1952.
James Kenny and Joan Collins in the 1953 Film Cosh Boy.
A British film was released in 1953 called “Cosh Boy” starring James Kenny, Joan Collins, Hermionie Baddeley, Hermioine Gingold, Betty Ann Davis and Robert Ayres. The film was based on an original play by Bruce Walker, and tells of the exploits of 16-year-old delinquent youth Roy Walsh (James Kenney) and his gang in post World War II London. The characters portrayed in the film would later tar all Teddy Boys with the same brush as being juvenille delinquents.
Another nickname which was given to Teddy Boys in the early 1950’s was “Creepers”, this derived from the dance – “The Creep” by Yorkshire Big Band leader, Ken Mackintosh. This was a dance performed by Teddy Boys and Girls before the advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Britain.
A well known dance that the Teddy Boys adopted was ‘The Creep‘, a slow shuffle of a dance so popular with Teddy Boys that it led to their other nickname of ‘creepers’.
The Creep by Ken Macintosh
Writers Paul Rock and Stan Cohen date the crossover from upper-class fashion to working-class youth style at 1953 and they comment that the new Edwardians (Teddy Boys) were ‘lumpenproletarian “creepers” ‘ (a German word literally meaning “raggedy proletarian” which is derived from the Latin proletarius, a citizen of the lowest class) and not of the ‘respectable working class’. Writer T.R. Fyvel’s account explains that the Edwardian fashion was usurped by working-class youths in 1953 after it had been ‘launched from Savile Row … as an answer to American styles’.
10th October 1953: London gang member Colin Donellan dressed in fashionable Edwardian Teddy Boy style outside a Cecil Gee shop.
It was bold and rebellious in its own right before its usurpation by Teddy Boys because it was an extravagant upper-class snub to the post-war Labour Government and its message of austerity. Fyvel claims that, in this form, the fashion was shortlived because, having started in Mayfair, it soon vanished from London and entered the suburbs. In the meantime it was transported and transformed to the South London working-class areas of Elephant and Castle, Lambeth, Vauxhall and Southwark, where it retained its meaning of social revolt but in a new context, that of petty crime and swank, with clear connections to earlier groups like Spivs.
Two smart Teddy Boys pictured in Worthing, Sussex with the Ted on the left wearing a brocade waistcoat with velvet trim.
Edwardian dress began to be taken up by working class youths sometime in 1953 and, in those early days, was often taken over wholesale (The Daily Mirror of 23rd October, 1953, shows a picture of Michael Davies, who was convicted of what later became known as the first ‘Teddy Boy’ killing, which would bear this out. In fact the picture shows him in a three piece matching suit, i.e. without the fancy waistcoat.)Leonard Sims, a young Teddy Boy sports his newly tailored Drape jacket with flap button-down pockets. The photograph was part of an article published in the daily Mirror Newspaper on Friday 13th November 1955 entitled Why I wear these Togs.
The Boys from the Elephant
One theory as to how the Edwardian style was adopted by working class youths was that some young men from Elephant and Castle called the Elephant Mob were on a recce in the West End and were impressed by the rather flashy and expensive-looking new Edwardian-style and quickly took it for their own.
Tony Reuter, one of the Elephant Boys posing as a Teddy Boy for The People Newspaper in 1955.
Around 1950/51 these same young men from around Elephant and Castle, Lambeth and the Borough (Southwark) having appropriated the uptown Edwardian clothes started to mix it up with the look of a World War Two Spiv. In addition they borrowed the hairstyles and style influences of American Westerns (the Mississippi gambler maverick tie for instance) that were hugely popular in the early fifties.
A group of Teddy boys find themselves with nowhere to go and hang around on the Old Kent Road at Elephant and Castle, South London, 13th July 1955.
It would seem however, that there is somewhat of a case to suggest that the gang from Elephant & Castle who had been impressed with the upper class Edwardian dress that they had seen in Mayfair could well have been the first to start the Edwardian working class style in 1950/51. This was later described in T.R. Fyvel’s book, “The Insecure Offenders” as being The Fashion from the Elephant,in other words it could be said that there is a probability that some members of “The Elephant Boys” could well have been the first Teddy Boys!
Outside the ABC, Elephant & Castle, 1954.
All of the Elephant Gang were snappy dressers. Suits cost roughly the equivalent of two weeks’ wages or more. They were made to measure by excellent tailors on the basis of a deposit and some of the balance paid at each of the two fittings with the remainder paid on collection. The style varied but was never outlandish with generally two buttoned conventional suits.
Boys wearing Edwardian style clothes at the “Teen Canteen” at Elephant & Castle, South London, July 1955 – note the unusually long sideburns of the Teddy Boy with the double-breasted waistcoat for the period.
When the Edwardian fashion came in at Elephant & Castle, the style was a three or four buttoned three piece suit without velvet collar, although this sometimes appeared on overcoats. Fashionable materials at this time were mohair or twenty-two ounce worsted in say clerical grey. Just try to buy that material nowadays. Amongst notable tailors were Harris and Hymies, both in the Cut near Blackfriars; Diamond Brothers at Shaftesbury Avenue; Sam Arkus in Berwick Street, Soho; and Charkham’s of Oxford Street.
The Teddy Boy Fashion spreads throughout Britain.
Young Teddy Boy Frank Harvey in Tottenham, North London in 1954 (from the Picture Post)
Although the popular press of the day claim that the working-class Edwardian fashion was initially worn in south and east London during the early 1950’s, the fashion was actually taking hold all over the country at the same time. Examples of this can be found in Newspaper reports and Photographs which confirm this.
A young Teddy Boy – George taken in the traditional terraced streets of Salford, Lancashire – mid fifties.
This potent fashion statement of wearing the Edwardian style could very well have been the first time teenage boys developed their own style of clothing that differentiated from their fathers or elder brothers. It was a conscious and colourful attempt, just like the posh dandies in St James, to rebel against the grey post-war austerity that had enveloped the country after the war. These fashionable young men from South London and elsewhere would later be known as Teddy Boys but the term had not been invented at that point in time and the boys were then simply known as Edwardian’s.
Teddy Boys outside ‘The Royalty’ Mecca Dance Hall, Tottenham, London 29 May 1954.
There are of course many differing accounts of where the Teddy Boy style actually started and the ensuing pattern of geographical expansion. Some writers, for example, maintain that the first Teds emerged in the East End and in North London, around Tottenham and Highbury, and from there they spread southwards, to Streatham and Battersea and Purley, and westwards, to Shepherds Bush and Fulham, and then down to the seaside towns, and up into the Midlands until, by 1956, they had taken root all over Britain.
Teddy Boy, Roy Bradley aged 16 in 1955 at Peterborough.
There is however now more evidence to support the view that the working class Edwardian style and fashion actually started around the country at around and about the same time. Part of the reason that South London is seen as the birthplace of the working class Edwardian style is because the popular press of the day reported the emergence of the style in the London Press. However there are many reports of the style being adopted in other parts of the country in the early 1950’s with young men wearing tighter than normal trousers, long jackets, ‘brothel creeper’ shoes and sporting Tony Curtis hairstyles.
In 1953, the major newspapers reported on the sweeping trend in men’s fashion across all the towns of Britain, towards what was termed the New Edwardian look. However the working class Edwardian style had been on the street since at least 1951, because the style had been created on the street by the street and by working class teenagers and not by Saville Row or fashion designers such as Hardy Amis.
The influence of the Zoot Suit
As early as 1941 the drape style jacket can see to be emerging through the Zoot Suit. These non-delinquent youths who are Jitterbug fans are wearing Zoot suits, most of which are single -breasted and not double-breasted as is typical of most Zoot Suits.
Due to ignorance, the popular press at the time got the emergence of the working class Edwardian style confused with the American Zoot suit and featured articles and reports of the growth amongst working class teenagers of Zoot Suit Gangs.
Zoot Suits nevertheless, are known to have had a direct influence on the re-emergence of the Edwardian style. Zoot Suits originated in the Harlem district of New York in the 1930’s and were associated with black American Jazz culture and later adopted by Hispanic Americans during the early 1940’s. There was a similarity between the long jacket of the Zoot Suit and the Edwardian Drape Jacket insofar that it was a longer than conventional length.
Three Jamaican immigrants,(left to right) John Hazel, a 21-year-old boxer, Harold Wilmot, 32, and John Richards, a 22-year-old carpenter, arriving at Tilbury Docks, Essex on board the ex-troopship SS Empire Windrush on 22 June 1948, smartly dressed in ‘Zoot Suits’ and trilby hats.
The American Zoot Suit by way of comparison features high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed, pegged trousers, and a long double-breasted jacket with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders. It is generally worn with a Fedora Hat. Zoot suits usually featured a watch chain dangling from the belt to the knee or below, then back to a side pocket, which was a feature adopted by British Teddy Boys. The creation and naming of the Zoot Suit have been variously attributed to Harold C. Fox, a Chicago clothier and big-band trumpeter Louis Lettes, a Memphis tailor; and Nathan (Toddy) Elkus, a Detroit retailer. The name ‘Zoot’ is thought to have been a corruption or reduplication of the word suit.
The first appearances of Zoot Suits appearing in Britain was when a number of Black American soldiers wore Zoot Suits in Britain whilst on R & R in Dance Halls in Britain during World War II. Many West Indians, particularly Jamaicans then brought the suit to Britain during Commonwealth Immigration in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. The Zoot Suit most certainly had some influence on Saville Row Tailors during the re-introduction of the New Edwardian style in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
The ‘Edwardian’ becomes the ‘Teddy Boy’
Turning the corner into Princedale Road, North Kensington, Roger Mayne saw a group of young Teddy Boys whom he thought ‘a bit sinister’. Crossing to the opposite side, he had got past them when one called out, ‘Take our photo, Mister!’. Mayne turned around and took a number of photos – he ‘wasn’t going to miss a chance like that’. ‘Teds’ had attracted a violent and criminal reputation. Some carried flick-knives.
The name “Teddy Boy” however, was not officially born until September 23rd 1953 when a Daily Express newspaper headline shortened Edward to Teddy and coined the term ‘Teddy Boy’(also known as Ted). Nevertheless, it is also known that a number of girlfriends of working class Edwardian’s were referring to them as Teddy Boys well before the Daily Express used its media power to officially christen Edwardian’s into Teddy Boys.
This choice of dress by working class youngsters was, initially, an attempt to buy status since the clothes chosen had been originally worn by upper-class dandies. These were then quickly aborted by a harsh social reaction.
It should be mentioned however, that at the peak of the Teddy Boy movement in 1954/55, the number of fully bona-fide Teddy Boys in the Greater London area did not exceed a top figure of 30,000. This fact dispenses with the modern idea that all British teenage boys in the 1950’s were Teddy Boys.
Teddy Boy George Lamont in a black and white ‘dog-tooth’ drape jacket with black velvet collar and cuffs with his girlfriend, Teddy Girl Edna Hockridge, Aberdeen Scotland 1955.
In 1954 second-hand Edwardian suits were on sale in various markets as they had become rapidly unwearable by the upper-class dandies once the Teddy Boys had taken them over as their own. This was then followed by by the Teddy Boys creation of their own style via the modifications already outlined. This, then, was the Teddy Boys one contribution to culture: their adoption and personal modification of Savile Row Edwardian suits.
Teddy Boys and National Service.
“National Service, unfortunately, aggravates the trouble. Most boys regard it as a tiresome chore that has to be completed before life really begins. Between school-leaving and call-up there is little incentive to settle down.”– Unknown Newspaper column 1954.
Many people tend to forget that most teenagers who had started to adopt the Edwardian style were leaving school and entering the workplace at 14 and 15 years of age. The boys would then later at the age of 18 (or 21 if serving an apprenticeship) be called up for National Service into the British Armed Forces. In many cases the boys would be sent to overseas trouble spots such as Egypt during the Suez crises in 1956, the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya during the 1950’s and Aden. Many older people who had previously served in the armed forces had the view that National Service would ensure that these youngsters would ‘get their hair cut’ and have the Ted Style ‘beasted’ out of them.
This was however not the case and many National Servicemen kept the Edwardian style holding onto the addage that whats under the beret is mine and what is outside is the Army’s. However, a number of Army and Air Force units did everything they could to knock this Teddy Boy style out of their squaddies and airmen with limited success. Here is an example of this from the Daily Mirror, June 11th 1955:
‘The order was given “on parade in civvies”, it was quite the strangest parade in the garrison’s proud history. Some of the men wore Edwardian suits, drainpipe trousers and long, tight-fitting jackets, drape suits. They had ‘jazzy’ shirts and ties, with fancy shoes “to match”. The C.O. (Commanding Officer), six foot tall tough looking Colonel R.G. Pine-Coffin, D.S.O. stood and stared then banned the lot. In future, he ordered only modestly cut lounge suits, sports jackets or blazers and flannels or uniform may be worn by men “walking out” off duty. He added“When I saw how some of my went about Aldershot, I just had to order this Parade. I expect a few, the few who delight in the extravagant dress of Hollywood or East End Spiv’s feel that their liberties are being interfered with, but the Edwardian Suits, fancy shoes and jazzy ties and socks I have seen some wearing are not becoming of a soldier. We’re a proud lot in the Airborne and feel that these modern fashions that a few of the chaps like, rather let’s the mob down!”.’
It should be made clear however that these young Edwardians were only teenagers and thereafter society expected these same young Edwardian teenagers to grow out of this rebellious style – make sure they had a regular job, get married, have children and settle into 1950’s family life.
Bob Corbett, 17 of Liverpool wears a silver grey suit with black lapels and black piping and brown suede shoes. A slightly advanced version of an orthodox Teddy outfit June 1954.
Many young men in the mid-fifties however could not actually afford to purchase the entire Teddy Boy outfit and would wear only elements of it. The shoes were an affordable part of the Teddy Boy style; brothel creepers, lots of entwined leather on the top and thick crepe soles. That element spread as shoes were more readily available than the clothes themselves.
A group of Northampton Teddy Boys all wearing Drape Jackets.
The sartorial signifiers like ‘drain-pipe’ trousers may well have identified a Teddy Boy however, this would have only been the case within the ‘teens and twenties’ age bracket. Male teenagers sported certain signs of peer group belonging, like the hair, the trousers and the shoes, but the Teddy Boys uniform in its entirety was not widely adopted by the mainstream teenager. It tended to be those Teddy Boys in gangs who would wear the whole regalia.
Outside of London, few youths adopted the whole of the Teddy Boy regalia, rather they took on only parts of it – the ones that they could get away with if they could afford them, ‘there were a lot of the drainpipe trousers and haircuts and things like that’.
A Teddy Boy dances with his girl at The Royalty Mecca Dance Hall, Tottenham, London 1954.
It is estimated that in terms of numbers in 1953-54 there were a ‘few thousand’ Teds and that they roamed the streets in gangs and that they were territorial and occasionally violent towards other Teddy Boy gangs.
Bob Aber, a then young Teddy Boy from Northampton photographed in London by John Facer in a single link two piece drape suit (the shadow). Note the photograph was made from the negative placed the wrong way round.
The advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll music in Britain – the Teddy Boys make this their own!
In 1954 Rock ‘n’ Roll had not really been heard of in the UK, it wouldn’t arrive on these shores until as a main stream music until 1955/6. However, it is a mistake to believe that Teddy Boys and Girls did not have an interest in music, prior to the advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Dance Halls were extremely popular places with young adults during the early 1950s and there were plenty of new dance crazes to keep them interested.
Although Teddy Boys are associated with Rock ‘n’ Roll music, the style actually came before the music. Rock ‘n’ Roll was generally adopted by the young generation (which of course included the Teddy Boys) from 1955 when the film, Blackboard Jungle, was first shown in cinemas in the Britain.
By 1955, Britain was well placed to receive American rock and roll music and culture. It shared a common language, had been exposed to American culture through the stationing of troops in the country, and shared many social developments, including the emergence of distinct youth sub-cultures, which in Britain of course included the Teddy Boys. Trad Jazz became popular, and many of its musicians were influenced by related American styles, including boogie woogie and the blues. This was a style that tended to be followed by University students and tended to be shunned by working class Teddy Boys. The skiffle craze, led by Lonnie Donegan, utilised amateurish versions of American folk songs and encouraged many of the subsequent generation of rock and roll, folk, R&B and beat musicians to start performing.
Bill Haley and His Comets rehearsing at London’s Dominion Theatre, February 6, 1957.Bill Haley’s ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ is certainly the record that introduced Rock and Roll to an unprepared British Public. But most people will probably tell you that it was another record that started it all. That other record was ‘Rock Around The Clock’ which was recorded in 1954, but didn’t chart in the UK until October 1955. However, it was still in the chart when ‘Rip It Up’, Haley’s 11th UK success entered the chart at the end of 1956! ‘Rip It Up’ was almost the last in the amazing run of hit records that Bill Haley had issued in the UK during 1956.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.
At the same time British audiences were also beginning to encounter American rock and roll, initially through films including Blackboard Jungle (1955) and Rock Around the Clock (1955). Both movies contained the Bill Haley & His Comets hit “Rock Around the Clock”, which first entered the British charts in early 1955 – four months before it reached the US pop charts – topped the British charts later that year and again in 1956, and helped identify rock and roll with teenage delinquency.
In 1956, the film, Blackboard Jungle made its premier at the Trocadero Cinema at Elephant & Castle in South London. It was then shown thereafter at Cinemas throughout Britain. At the end of the film, the song ‘Rock around the Clock’ was played and at the Trocodero, Teddy Boys danced with their girls in the aisles and when cinema staff attempted to stop them, they rioted and ripped up the cinema seats with flick knives.
This was replicated at copycat riots during the screening of the film at Cinema’s throughout the country. Teddy Boys had now embraced Rock ‘n’ Roll for the first time and made it their own. The government and media were outraged and the film was subsequently banned from many cinemas. The media jumped on this phenomenon, placing the new rock ‘n’ roll music and the Teddy Boys at the centre of all the rioting. This confirmed the pre-conception to many members of the establishment, that Teddy Boys were in fact Juvenile Delinquents and social outcasts.
Newspapers were filled with pictures of Teddy Boys and girls dancing and jiving outside the cinemas. The police were frequently involved in quelling, what was in many instances simply teenage high spirits. There can be no doubt that the media had a big hand in sensationalising the rioting and seat slashing, and thereby simply poured fuel on the smouldering embers of the Trocadero riot, and fanned the flames for what in many instances were obviously copycat riots. Blackboard Jungle was also the first major studio film to use Rock ‘n’ Roll on the soundtrack.
The success of the film, Blackboard Jungle, kick-started sales ofRock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and his Comets, which helped spark the advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Britain.
By the spring of 1957 Bill Haley & the Comets were never to enter the chart again, save re-issues of their previous material. Whatever doubts there may be about Bill Haley’s musical influences, he can certainly be credited with unleashing Rock and Roll on the British record buyer.
American rock and roll acts such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Buddy Holly thereafter became major forces in the British charts.
A young Teddy Boy with a Drape jacket and high-waisted trousers dances with his girl at a local Dance Hall.
A group of Brierley Hill (Dudley) Worcestershire Teddy Boys mid 1950’s
The initial response of the British music industry was to attempt to produce copies of American records, recorded with session musicians and often fronted by teen idols. More grassroots British rock and rollers soon began to appear, including Tommy Steele and Wee Willie Harris. During this period American Rock and Roll remained dominant; however, in 1958 Britain produced its first “authentic” rock and roll song and star, when Cliff Richard & the Drifters (later Shadows) reached number 2 in the charts with “Move It”. The 2is Coffee Bar in Old Compton Street, Soho in London’s West End became the home of and the birthplace of many of Britain’s home-grown Rock ‘n’ Roll Stars.
An Edinburgh Teddy Boy in a two piece drape suit that is in need of a good pressing – mid 1950’s.
At the same time in 1958, TV shows such as Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! Came about and promoted the careers of British rock and rollers like Marty Wilde and Adam Faith. Cliff Richard and his backing band, The Shadows, were the most successful home grown rock and roll based acts of the era. Other leading acts included Billy Fury, Joe Brown, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, whose 1960 hit song “Shakin’ All Over” became a rock and roll standard.
Brian Licorice Locking Roy Clark and Vince Eagers first appearance at the 2is Coffee Bar as the Vagabonds circa November 1957.
Teddy Boys are and were a totally British phenomenon as opposed to the other styles worn in countries such as the United States. Also don’t forget that Teddy Boys were listening and dancing to mainly Big Band, Jazz and Skiffle type music prior to the advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Alec Cruikshank, a clerk in a City of London shipping office walking towards the Mecca Dance Hall, Tottenham, Middlesex (North London) on 29th May 1954.
Criminality and Clothes.
When teenager John Beckley was murdered by a Teddy Boy gang known as the Plough Boys in July 1953 after a fight that started on Clapham Common, the Daily Mirror’s headline ‘Flick Knives, Dance Music and Edwardian Suits’ linked criminality to clothes.
Teddy Boys became regarded by many as the urban, unskilled working class boys, looking for an identity through the clothes they wore. A number of Teddy Boys 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. This reputation then gave any youth who wore elements of the Teddy Boys dress as being tarred with the same brush.
However to many this was a style of dress and a fashion to be worn and of course not all Teddy Boys were as the popular press described. The 1950’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.
Teddy Boys were the first real high profile teenagers in Britain, who flaunted their clothes and attitude like a badge. It comes as no surprise then that the media was quick to paint them as violent and a menace based on a single incident. However, many Teddy Boys formed gangs and gained notoriety following violent clashes with rival gangs which were often exaggerated by the popular press.
Many negative newspaper headlines then appeared in the popular press and here are some examples from various cities and towns in England during the mid fifties:
“Cinemas, dance halls and other places of entertainment in South east London are closing their doors to youths in ‘Edwardian’ suits because of gang hooliganism. The ban, which week by week is becoming more generally applied, is believed by the police to be one of the main reasons for the extension of the area in which fights with knuckle dusters, coshes, and similar weapons between bands of teenagers can now be anticipated. In cinemas, seats have been slashed with razors and had dozens of meat skewers stuck into them.”
Daily Mail, 12th April 1954.
Edwardian spivs plan new swoop
GANGS MENACE RESORT
Police are Standing by
BRIGHTON, Saturday Night.
Britain’s most famous holiday resort, packed with Easter visitors in it’s Centenary year, is being terrorised by rival gangs of “Edwardian” thugs.
Gang fights between rival ‘Edwardian thugs’ from Southsea, Portsmouth and the East End of London came to a head in one of Britains most popular holiday resorts. In the month of March 1954 the youths, all dressed in the uniform of the of exaggerated Edwardian jackets and drainpipe trousers clashed with a local gang in a quarral over two girls. The visiting gang from Southsea got the worst of it. Two Policemen were called in to quell the disturbance.
The gang announced that they would return with reinforcements on Easter Sunday. Thus Brighton Police, many of them on special duty were standing by to cope with the threatened invasion by the teenage gangsters from the Southsea and Portsmouth area. The Police were determined to do everything possible to avoid a local incident like the Clapham Common youth gang killing, but admit that the ‘Edwardians’ had the upper hand.
Sunday Chronicle (Brighton), April 18th 1954.
SLASHED WITH RAZOR BY TEDDY BOY
Police appeal for witnesses.
A Slough man, razor-slashed in a fight outside the Public Library in William Street on Saturday night was so shocked when he saw his face in the mirror that he collapsed.
He was later taken to Upton Hospital and had twenty stitches inserted in to his face.
Slough Observer – Friday February 4th 1955
Alleged Razor Attack by Teddy Boy
STORY OF CHRISTMAS NIGHT BRAWL IN NOTTS.
A Razor, alleged to have been used by a Teddy Boy in slashing four youths in a Christmas night brawl, was shown to the jury at Notts Assizes. A 22 year old Yorkshire Railway Shunter, pleaded not guilty to four charges of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Mr T.R. Fitzwalter, prosecuting said “It is a deplrorable, indeed, that youths aged 18 to 20 can find no better way of celebrating a time of what we regard as peace and goodwill, by indulging in an unseemly brawl of the kind you will hear.” Describing a Teddy Boy, Mr Fitzwalter said “The expression is used to describe youths who go about in gangs and clothes supposed to belong to the Edwardian era”.
Nottingham Evening Post, February 28th 1955.
Here’s a great clip of 1950’s Teddy Boys from Burnt Oak, North London being interveiwed by a News Reporter about an attack on a Vicar.It seems Teddy Boys disappear in the Summer & all go Fishing!
Although many incidents of hooliganism, violence and rowdyism were reported at face value. The press coverage of a murder that took place in May 1955 provides an example of the role played by the mass media. A sixty year old Cypriot was killed by one of a group of four youths in a road in Camden Town. There was nothing about this unpleasant killing that indicated a ‘typical’ Teddy Boy crime, yet almost all the newspapers which appeared on the following morning referred to the killer as a ‘Teddy Boy’.
“There were reports of Police Investigations of Teddy Boy activity in Camden Town, and a Detective Superintendent was widely quoted as sending out a message to his men to “Find every Teddy Boy, go into the pubs and dance halls and bring in the boys of that gang”. A week later , a 21 year old was arrested and sent for trial, the same Detective Superintendent said at the preliminary hearing that the boy had an ‘excellent’ character and was not a Teddy Boy. There was no evidence that he had been a member of a gang.”
London Evening News, May 21st 1955.
Press over-reaction was becoming common. The Daily Express report of the crime claimed:
“Four shallow-faced Teddy Boys lounging in the shadows of the corner Baker’s shop”.
Daily Express, May 22nd 1955.
The accuracy of this description is not an issue, although it would be interesting to know how the reporter learned of the boys complexions!
London Teddy Boys portraying the popular violent image in the 1959 UK film ‘Sapphire’
More incidents were reported again in the May of 1955.
TEDDY GIRLS SPARK OFF BATTLE IN DANCE HALL
Two fair-haired Teddy Girls in black sweaters and tight skirts started clawing each other in the corner of the bath Pavilion. Rival Teddy Boys joined the fight and sixteen were arrested as Police routed rival razor gangs from Bath and Bristol. Witnesses said that bicycle chains and knuckledusters were used in the fight, but Police found no weapons. Mr. P. Bedford, Bath Pavilion Director said “The question of whether this type of youth should be banned from municipal dances should be considered.”
Daily Express, May 30th 1955
Blackpool Tower Ballroom, Lancashire, 1954. The sign to the left of the stage reads NO BOP, NO JIVE!
A Blackpool Cinema Manager declared that “I’m the one who decides whether a youth is wearing Edwardian dress or not, my decision is final”. The Police told of a new purge of Teddy Boy gangs following some of the weekend activities in the town, Inspector John Dunn Chief of Blackpool C.I.D. said “They seem unconscious of how ridiculous they look in their drainpipe trousers, light socks, long jackets with flattering padded shoulders and effeminate mops of hair”.
Blackpool Gazette & Herald, May 15th 1954.
The town of Reading reported that a War on Edwardian hooligans was declared, alarmed by the increase of gangs roaming the street, the Police will combat very rigorously, attempts to create disturbances. “Dance hall owners may take unified action”, said one owner, “The time has come to ban from all dance halls in the town any Edwardian youths and their girl friends”, but the trouble is not so much in the Dance halls as in the Street.
Daily Herald, May 23rd 1954.
Local Dance in Peterborough 1955 with Roy Bradley (a Teddy Boy wearing a Drape Jacket) on the far right.
COMMENT – insert.
The Nottingham and Notting Hill Riots of 1958.
A Teddy Boy gets searched by a Policeman during the 1958 Notting Hill Riots in which Teddy Boys were widely implicated, which in fact were orchestrated by Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
The most notable disturbances involving Teddy Boys were the Nottingham – St. Anne’s Well Riots and the London Notting Hill Riots, both which took place in August / September 1958. Teddy Boys were present in large numbers during these disturbances and were implicated in attacks on the newly arrived and settled black West Indian community. These disturbances however, were largely orchestrated by by Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
2nd September 1958 Teddy Boys and Girls run through Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, during the race riots in West London.
The St Ann’s Well, Nottingham Disturbances
In the summer of 1958 there was a self-imposed curfew for black people in St Ann’s. Being caught out on the streets late at night was simply dangerous.
On Saturday 24th August 1958, extra Police were on guard as fierce fighting between White and Coloured people broke out in the St Ann’s Well area of Nottingham, eight white people including a Policeman were run down by a coloured drivers car, and taken to Hospital. Dozens of people were injured were injured by bottles, knives razors and stakes. One had 37 stitches inserted in his throat, two others had more than a dozen stitches each in back stab wounds. Police, ambulancemen and firemen with hoses were sent to the scene and order was restored after several hours.
The incident, which local legend blames for setting off the chain of events leading to the riots, happened when a black man had to visit the late night chemist to get a prescription filled for his wife. On the way back he was waylaid by a group of Teddy Boys, who the police were unable to locate. In the normal run of things they might have been reluctant to back up the sort of young black men who habitually got themselves into fights in pubs and street corners, but this was a story which perfectly encapsulated the situation they were in. A respectable family man, on an errand of mercy, had been pointlessly attacked and beaten. This was precisely the sort of incident which enraged the migrants and made them willing to encourage retaliation.
After that incident the West Indians went out the following week looking to see if they could find Teddy Boys to hit back, but nothing happened. And then, gradually, an incident took place at a pub. And the fighting started.
It would not have been difficult to get into a confrontation outside the St Ann’s Well Inn at closing time on a Saturday night, and on 23rd August it duly happened. This time, however, there was a group of black men on the scene, ready and willing to fight. In the first phase dozens of people were injured ‘ in a matter of seconds’ but before the police arrived, the black men had vanished into the nearby alleyways. Eight local Nottingham whites were hospitalised, including a policeman who was run down by a car. To many of the migrants it seemed like a legitimate return for the treatment to which they had become accustomed.
The chap who drove his car through the crowd, a West Indian chap, described what happened. He was at a party and, as soon as they heard that there was these disturbances at a pub nearby, the Robin Hood Chase, they all decided, Well, we must get there. And he got in his car with a few others and went there, and there was this milling crowd, and he felt the best way, Well, I had better drive through this, and he went through it at full tilt, as quickly as he could. I think a policeman must get bumped on the backside or something like that. And I remember when Roy was telling me, I said, “But, look, man, that was dangerous.” He said, “I reckon you’re too damned nice, man. It give me satisfaction, at least we can fight back, you know, at least we fight back, and people will realise we’re not prepared to sit and take this sort of thing anymore. If they want to be nasty, we can be nasty as well.”
News of the fight spread like wildfire through the area and, in a short time, a mostly white crowd estimated at about 1,500 had gathered and started attacking black people at random. By the time the police restored order another eight people had been injured. In the following weeks, the St Ann’s Well Road affray was widely reported as an eruption which symbolised the racial anger simmering beneath the surface of English life. Oddly enough, this was the last large scale racial conflict of its type in Nottingham. On the next Saturday night an equally large crowd gathered in the district anticipating another ‘race riot’, but no black people turned up, so they began to fight each other.
The following weekend there was another uprising, and that was even apparently more violent than the first one, but the interesting thing, it was only one black person was in the area at that time. And he walked through the crowd of fighting people and nobody noticed him, and had a good laugh.
The Notting Hill Riots
SECTION UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
Change in Style
In 1958, there was a huge Italian influence on fashion and this was the begining of the end of the Teddy Boy as a mainstream style. Boys started wearing suits with short, boxy jackets (colloquially known as bum-freezers), tapered knife-edge trousers, waistcoats, with white button-down shirts and thin ties, ideally with a matching handkerchief (usually a bit of cloth on a white card, which slipped into the top left hand pocket of the jacket) and with all that, the emergence of winkle-picker shoes for men. This style was to be in many ways a prelude to the Modernist or later Mod style of dress that would slowly start to emerge in 1959 and would become popular and peak by 1963/4.
The Shadows pictured in 1960 wearing the Italian (tonic) bumb-freezer Suits that had started to become fashionable in 1958 heralding a decline in the wearing of the longer drape jacket worn by Teddy Boys. These suits were generally worn with ‘Winklepicker’ shoes. The mohair tonic suit was later adopted by the Mods of the 1960’s.
There were still some older die-hard Teddy Boys in the dance halls during the late 1950’s; however they were becoming outnumbered by boys who were adopting the new Italian suits. By 1958 the remaining Teddy Boys had started to wear jackets and suits with brighter colours which was due to the fact that new dyes had become available towards the end of the fifties.
Teddy Boy, Bill Evans aged 17 from Salford, Lancashire with his girlfriend in 1959, at the seaside resort of Blackpool, wearing the more traditional neo-Edwardian attire. Bill is sporting a black drape jacket with wide lapels for the date, blue brocade waistcoat with a Chinese pattern, white shirt with slim-jim tie but with much tighter blue-grey 14″ bottom trousers with highly polished slip-on shoes. Bill’s girlfriend is wearing a typical orange circle dress with white sash. Copyright Bill Evans and Julian Lord – no reproduction without permission from copyright holder.
As styles changed jackets had much narrower lapels, more velvet appeared now on the pockets as well as the collar and cuffs and 14″ trouser bottoms without turn-ups became the norm. This style of the late 1950’s became the template for the Teddy Boy jackets and suits which emerged later during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
By 1958 the remaining Teddy Boy suits sported brighter colours with much narrower lapels on the jackets, more velvet appeared now on the pockets as well as the collar and cuffs and 14″ trouser bottoms as the norm. This is demonstrated in the photograph of Breathless Dan Coffey in the photograph below. This style became the template for the Teddy Boys who emerged later during the late 1960’s 1970’s.
Teddy Boy Stalwart, Breathless Dan Coffey, originally from Newport, Monmouthshire pictured in 1960 wearing a light coloured Drape suit with contrasting black velvet on both the pockets and covered buttons. Note the use of the black velvet buttons on the vandyke cuffs and the ‘cumberband’ style high waistband on the trousers. Breathless Dan was one of the original Teddy Boys who kept the Teddy Boy Movement alive during the dark days of the 1960’s and Rock n Roll music in this country. Dan was an avid fan of the Legendary Jerry Lee Lewis and along with his then wife, Faye became firm fiends of The Killer, making a number of visits to the United States. Breathless Dan was primarily responsible for bringing back Rockabilly records to Britain during the 1960’s of American artists who had never had their music aired here during the 1950’s. This then brought about the massive interest and following that Rockabilly music had during the 1970’s amongst British Teddy Boys.
The Dark Days of the 1960’s
As the fifties turned into the sixties, Teddy Boys became a minority subculture and most youths at the time considered the style old fashioned and were captivated with the Italian look of bumb-freezer jackets and winkle pickers.
Here is a programme made in 1960 called ‘Living for Kicks’ which features Brighton, Tooting and Northampton Teenagers. It is interesting to note that Teddy Boys are alive and well in Northampton in 1960 at the Abington Parish Hall, whereas in Brighton at the Whisky a Go Go Coffee bar there is a mixture of Beatnicks and ordinary teenagers of the period. A slightly older audience appear at the Castle pub in Tooting featuring Duffy Power.
The key to how the Teddy Boys actually survived during the dark days of the 1960’s lies with what can be termed, second generation Teddy Boys, that is those Teddy Boys who were too young to be Teddy Boys in the early to mid 1950’s but had adopted the style in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. These Teddy Boys had been guided by the few original first generation Teddy Boys that were still around, these were the Teddy Boys who had continued from the early 1950’s and were the die-hard’s who were true to the style, music and movement.
Breathless Dan Coffey with his wife Faye circa 1960/61.
The few original first generation Teddy Boys still remaining along with the larger numbers of second generation Teddy Boys then continued to maintain the Teddy Boy Movement throughout the so-called swinging sixties, albiet in much smaller numbers
Teddy Boys pictured at Ilford, Essex in 1960.
One should not get the impression that the Teddy Boys had completely died out during the early to mid 1960’s because they had not, however they were certainly only a minority and not mainsteam as they were in the 1950’s. Travelling Fairgrounds were places where a number of Teds could be found during the 1960’s as many of the older Teds found jobs on the Fairgrounds.
Teddy Boys wearing ‘Kiss Me Quick’ Cowboy hats at Scarborough, Yorkshire in 1961. Note the velvet on the pockets of the Ted on the left and the open collars with the T-shirt underneath, a very popular style amongst Rockers in the early 1960’s.
The Rockers and the 1960’s.
A significant proportion of late 1950’s early 1960’s Teddy Boys that were left became Rockers adopting leather jackets and many riding British Motorbikes. At the beginning, the Rockers were an evolvement of the Teddy Boy without the drape. In the 1950’s the ‘Rockers’ were known as ‘Ton-Up Boys’ because doing a ton was slang for driving at a speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) or over and they rode mainly British manufactured motorcycles.
A group of Rockers at the 59 Club during the 1960’s
The Rocker subculture came about due to factors such as: the end of post-war rationing in the UK, a general rise in prosperity for working class youths, the recent availability of credit and financing for young people, the influence of American popular music and films, the construction of arterial roads around British cities such as the North Circular Road in Middlesex and North London, the development of transport cafes and a peak in British motorcycle engineering.
Rockers at the Fifty-Nine Club in Paddington, London with Father Bill.
The Teddy Boys were in fact considered the Rockers “spiritual ancestors”. The Rockers or Ton-up Boys took what was essentially a sport and turned it into a lifestyle, dropping out of mainstream society and “rebelling at the points where their will crossed society’s”. This damaged the public image of motorcycling in the UK and led to the politicisation of the motorcycling community.
Johnny Kidd and the Pirates 1960.
The Rockers (just like their predecessors, the Teddy Boys) enjoyed Rock ‘n’ Roll music particularly Gene Vincent, Vince Taylor, Johnny Kid and the Pirates and other early British Beat of the early 1960’s pre-Beatle era. The Rockers style in the main consisted of jeans, boots and leather jackets. The Rockers tended to decorate their black leather jackets with enamel badges and studs denoting their local gang or their motorcycle type etc. Most Rockers, like their predecessors, the Teddy Boys, were seen as anti-establishment rebels portraying a ‘bad boy’ image.
A scene from the film, The Leather Boys (1963) shot in the Ace Cafe with working class London teenagers Dot (seated) played by Rita Tushingham and Rocker, Reggie (standing) played by Colin Campbell.
The Rockers were essentially from the working class and despised any fashion, other than their own. They each had the same hairstyle, shaggy with a bit of slick to it or a quiff. The Ace Café in Middlesex/North London along the North Circular Road was a well known hangout of the Rockers in North London and like many transport cafe’s was renowned for it’s greasy foods and jukeboxes. Riding motorcycles was of the upmost importance, so they tended to keep away from drugs and alcohol. The motorcycles were also modified or “souped up” in order to be in top racing form. Many Rockers converted their bikes into ‘Cafe Racers’ and most Rockers had a British manufactured Triumph, BSA or a Norton motorcycle.
In actual fact, two groups of Rockers emerged. The first one identified with Marlon Brando’s image in ‘The Wild One’, hanging around transport cafes, projecting nomadic romanticism, violence, anti-authoritarianism and anti-domesticity. The second group were non-riders, who were similar in image but less involved in the cult of the motorbike. This second group who would tend to be more ‘Teddy Boy’ in appearance would tend to wear ‘Castle Top Creepers’ and ‘Winkle Picker Boots’ and either light blue jeans or black drainpipe jeans with coloured bottoms and stripes down the outer seam. The remaining Teddy Boys would tend to hang around with this second group, as most of the remaining Teds were non-motorcyclists.
By 1965 the term greaser or grebo had also become common and, since then, the terms greaser and rocker have become synonymous within British working class Motorcycle culture.
The Modernists or Mods
Mods arriving at Hastings, Sussex aboard their Lambreta and Vespa Scooters in 1964.
The opposition British youth culture to the Rockers during the 1960’s were the Mods or Modernists as they were first known as. The Mods were another working class movement that were typified by their wearing of tailor-made suits with narrow lapels (sometimes made of mohair), thin ties, button-down collar shirts, wool or cashmere jumpers (crewneck or V-neck), Chelsea or Beatle boots, loafers, Clarks desert boots, bowling shoes, and hairstyles that imitated the look of French Nouvelle Vague film actors.
An early 1960’s Mod was Marc Bolan (later 1970’s Rock Star) seen here wearing a typical mohair suit, round collar shirt with leather waistcoat.
A few male mods went against gender norms by using eye shadow, eye-pencil or even lipstick. Mods chose scooters over motorbikes partly because they were a symbol of Italian style and because their body panels concealed moving parts and made them less likely to stain clothes with oil or road dust. Many mods wore military parkas while driving scooters in order to keep their clothes clean.
For more information on Mod Culture, go to: http://www.modculture.co.uk/
The Return in the Prominence of the Teddy Boy and the so called Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival – 1967.
‘Fifties Flash’ at Northwood, Middesex in 1968.
The difference between the emergence of the Teddy Boy in the 1950’s and the re-emergence of the Teddy Boy in 1967 is that the Teddy Boy of the 1950’s was a youth fashion statement against austerity and the beginning of the identity of the teenager in Britain. As previously stated, Teddy Boys in the early 1950’s initially had no connection with Rock ‘n’ Roll music until it arrived in Britain in October 1955. In 1967 however, teenagers had already become established throughout the fifties and sixties and the re-emergence of the Teddy Boy was directly connected with 1950’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Music. The interesting thing is that the Teddy Boys who led the revival were not teenagers, they were second generation Teds in their mid twenties and in some cases original Teddy Boys in their early thirties.
In 1967, at the height of Flower Power – mainly a student phenomenon – Bill Haley’s Shake Rattle and Roll crept into the charts again. Pop’s instant nature is it’s nostalgia; the passing had attained a permanence. The Fifties was the beginning of the period to return to.
The Teddy Boys had lingered on through the sixties, albeit in decreased numbers. Then all of a sudden from 1967 onwards, the Teddy Boys started a resurgence and were again on the increase. The style had changed: the drapes were brighter, the drainpipes tighter; hair lacquer had started to replace grease. The meaning had changed too. Teds were no longer the hard-core nasties; that they had previously been seen as in the 1950’s. They were more like nostalgic adherents to Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Teddy Boy style.
Young kids continued to join the ranks of the Teds. The thirty-year-old old timers, the Originals formed the leadership. Teddy Boys, like Breathless Dan Coffey spearheaded this resurgence. Veterans of the Fifties, they had been there. Respect for age, absent at the start, was becoming a corner-stone of the re-merging Teddy Boy movement.
Brian Rushgrove and other Teds in Bradford 1968.
This heralded a new era for the Teddy Boy movement and during the late 1960’s and especially during the 1970’s Teddy Boy groups and Rock n Roll Clubs and Societies could be found throughout most of Britain’s main cities and towns as the momentum picked up.
Teddy Boy, Ray Flight wearing a plain ice blue drape suit circa 1970.
In terms of the music, as well as Bill Haley’s re-emergence, the American comedy Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival band, Sha Na Na had quite an influence on the Rock ‘n’ Roll music scene singing many Doo Wop songs and Teen ballads as well as main stream Rock ‘n’ Roll in the early 1970’s.
Sha Na Na – from the Streets of New York in 1971.
Sha Na Na were first seen at the 1968/9 Woodstock festival and also gained acceptance and popularity amongst non Rock ‘n’ Roll adherents. In Britain, the 1960’s band, the Dave Clarke Five produced the Good Olde Rock ‘n’ Roll EP and LP in 1969 where the band appeared as cartoon versions of Teddy Boys on the black and white covers.
It was bands like the Wild Angels, The Houseshakers, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Gang, Shakin’ Stevens & The Sunsets and The Rock ‘n ‘Roll Allstars that had re-created the true spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll, by rendering the big success of the 50′s These bands played traditional Rock ‘n’ Roll favorites such as Johnny B. Goode, Tutti Frutti, Peggy Sue, Be Bop A Lula, C’mon Everybody, Great Balls Of Fire.
There were two South Wales bands however that had started to develop Rock ‘n’ Roll and take the Teddy Boys in a new direction. They were Penarth (Glamorgan) based Shakin Stevens & the Sunsets and Newport (Monmouthshire) based Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers who had both discovered and started to play Rockabilly music. The other bands in general were not developing Rock ‘n’ Roll music much beyond third rate versions of the originals. Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Teddy Boys needed something new and it was to be these two bands along with later the Flying Saucers and the Riot Rockers who would provide this.
As former Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers roadie, Ritchie Gee comments on the sleeve notes of the LP Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers …. the Way it Was:
“The band looked the same on stage as they did off. Out ‘n’ out Teds! When this lot came out of South Wales, they were so wild and different to anyone else it was scary! (What other band looked like that at the time?)”
“Sure there were other bands playing Rock ‘n’ Roll in 69 – 70, but most of them were just doing the same old covers and nothing new. At gigs in the early 70’s I often saw Rock ‘n’ Roll musicians turn up in their flared jeans and straight hair styles, disappear backstage and re-emerge in Drapes ‘n’ Drainpipes with their hair greased and slicked back! They’d churn out all the safe old standards and afterwards change back to what they really were – the sort who wouldn’t get past the door at a real Rock ‘n’ Roll gig.”
“But seeing Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers for the first time at the Fishmongers Arms in 1971, lookin’ real cool and playin’ wild Rock ‘n’ Roll music to a Teddy Boy crowd, I thought “At Last! This is IT! Yahoo!”
Gene Vincent in England in 1969.
It should be noted however, that out of all the American artists, Gene Vincent probably had a bigger influence and impact on the late 1960’s and 1970’s Teddy Boy movement than any other single American Rock ‘n’ Roller. This was mainly due to the fact that Gene Vincent had been popular amongst the 1960’s Rockers and had spent a great deal of time in Britain during the 1960’s making many appearances right through until his death in 1971. Gene Vincent remains to this day a cult figure to Rockers and Teddy Boys.
Teddy Boys outside a Cinema in Victoria, London in 1971, pose for the cover of a budget Contour LP’CRAZY ROCK’ : Ray Flight, Don Dolby and Girl and Driftin’ Den Board.
The 1970’s – the new age of the Teddy Boy and the emergence of Rockabilly music.
A photograph some very smart 1970’s Teddy Boys taken in Chelmsford, Essex, circa 1973/74 left to right: Tony Stutely, Maurice Stutely, Steve Barnes and Jerry Rock RIP.
As the 1960’s turned into the 1970’s there continued to be a genuine nationwide revival of the Teddy Boys, with some being the sons of the originals who had grown up with the style and the music. However, the vast majority were simply teenagers who did not want to adopt the other styles that were popular at the time. Another reason was the increase in popularity of Rock ‘n’ Roll music and the emerging interest in Rockabilly music and as a result, a number of Rock n Roll Clubs opened up and their patronage swelled. This consequently fueled a big increase to the ranks of the Teddy Boys.
Although the resurgence in Rock n Roll music during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was initially focused at traditional Rock n Roll, Rockabilly music gradually became the music of the 1970’s Teds. In the 1950’s Rockabilly had been included as part of mainstream Rock n Roll with records like Carl Perkins Blue Suede Shoes and some of the early Elvis Presley Sun Records such as I Don’t Care if The Sun Don’t Shine and That’s Alright Mama. However few people had ever heard of American artists such as Charlie Feathers, Mac Curtis and Sonny Burgess in Britain. During the 1960’s, people like Breathless Dan Coffey had made visits over to the states and brought back these records back to Britain. As time went on Rockabilly music gained ground and the British label, Charley Records bought up many of the rights of these Rockabilly records and re-issued them to good effect.
Due to the resurgence of interest in the Teddy Boy style in the early 1970’s; the look was taken up by fashion designers, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren through their shop ‘Let it Rock’ on London’s Kings Road. They produced many “off the peg” Drapes for sale. However this was to be short lived and as with all fashion designers, they soon moved on to other styles such as the Punk Rocker styles. Malcolm McLaren in fact went on to manage the Sex Pistols punk rocker band and therefore these people could never have gained acceptance within the Teddy Boy movement as clearly they were simply opportunists cashing in on a style and therefore have to be discounted as far as the evolvement of the Teddy Boys are concerned. The Teddy Boys were then left with their traditional tailors who continued to produce their suits. The 1970’s Teds had adopted many aspects of the 1950s style however with a large glam rock influence, including louder colours for drape jackets, brothel creepers and socks.
Fashion designers such as Katherine Hamnet started bringing out drape designs in lurex and this took a lot away from the original Teddy Boy style to make the wearing of such attire no different to stage wear. Yet another example of band wagon jumpers and an opportunist, who used the Teddy Boy style for commercial gain. There were tartan, yellow and orange fluorescent drapes which would never have been worn by the original Teddy Boys. Commercial Bands such as Mud, and Showaddywaddy in the Seventies had given such a bad and distorted image of the real Teddy Boys, that the general public interpreted these incorrect styles as being how Teddy boys should look. Actually a lot of Teds stopped going out to regular clubs because there were so many people dressed in such gaudy colours.
There were a few outlets who would produce off the peg Drapes such as Teds Corner at London Victoria, many of these suits and Jackets were made by East End tailor, Colin Taub now based at Hackney Mews and still a major Teddy Boy tailor to this day. There were other outlets who would sell accessories such as drainpipe jeans, satin shirts, slim-jim ties, bootlace / bolo ties and buckled belts etc, an example being Lord Jim’s in Bradford’s Kirkgate Market. They were also suppliers of footwear such as Industrial Trades Footwear in Thornton Road, Bradford who would sell George Cox Creepers and the friendly old Leo (originally from Peckham in South London) would always be happy to assist and give you a bit of discount and a spare pair of laces or a suede brush. There were also ‘Castle Top’ Creepers which were sold in Stylo shoe shops during the 1970’s. The 1970’s Teds were never short of gear!
As far as hairstyles were concerned, the 1970’s Teds would tend to use hair lacquer rather than the traditional Brylcreem. They would also tend to train their hair into big quiffs and huge pompadour’s which could be better held in by the use of hair lacquer as opposed to hair cream or grease. Some Teds would use coconut oil as well.
Teds at Wembley in August 1972.
On Saturday 5th August 1972, the London Rock and Roll Show took place and was the first major Rock ‘n’ Roll concert held at Wembley Stadium in London, England in which Teddy Boys would gather together in large numbers. This was a landmark concert where the greats of Rock ‘n’ Roll could be heard in one concert for the first time in the UK.
The concert included performances by major performers including Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Bill Haley and His Comets. The concert ended with an extended performance by Chuck Berry, who at the time was enjoying major chart success in Britain and the US with his “My Ding-a-Ling”.
The concert was filmed and then released in 1973 as The London Rock and Roll Show, directed by Peter Clifton. Although no soundtrack release occurred at the time the film was made, one was finally issued in the early 2000s, followed by several different DVD releases with different combinations of performances.
The entire footage of the London Rock n Roll Show 1972
The most famous venue in London during the early 1970’s was the famous ‘Black Raven’ which was the main Central London Teddy Boy Pub in Bishopgate Street, London EC2. The Black Raven finally closed its doors on Saturday 16th August 1975, however the pub actually started to become a Teddy Boy haunt from about 1965/1966 onwards.
The Black Raven Pub, Bishopgate, London with Sunglasses Ron and Gang
“There weren’t any groups doing gigs at the Black Raven. It was far too small! Tongue Tied Danny and Roy Williams used to play records upstairs when Bob Acland let the Teds use an upstairs room.The pub got SO FULL that there was an overspill onto the pavement outside. Pretty soon upstairs was full and in its heyday Upstairs, Downstairs and outside was completely rockin’. It really was unbelievable by today’s standards. Somewhere SO SMALL giving SO MUCH enjoyment to SO MANY. It didn’t matter that there were no groups playing in the Raven – we had other places to go for that. What we HAD was a rockin jukebox, a rockin record hop, LOADS of mates, plenty of birds, plenty of booze, a really great time and probably the best cameraderie of any group of people I’ve ever met in my life. The Black Raven wasn’t much to look at……..BUT IT WAS OURS!” (quote from Ray Flight – a well known ex Black Raven regular).
Famous Photograph taken outside the ‘Black Raven’ Pub, 185-187 Bishopgate Street, London EC2 – the Black Raven was the main Central London Teddy Boy Pub 1966-1975 (featured p 18/19 in the Sunday Times Colour Supplement 27th September 1970.
One major event happened in the 1970’s which brought Teddy Boys to the fore nationally, was the ‘March to the BBC’ and this took place on Saturday 15th May 1976.
The band ‘Flying Saucers’ on the March to the BBC in London.
This involved thousands of Teddy Boys and Girls from all over the Country marching through Central London to the BBC studios in a national campaign for more Rock ‘n’ Roll to be played on the Radio. The campaign was a total success and the BBC caved in and this resulted in Harrogate born Stuart Coleman who had helped organise the march and much to his suprise into delivering a weekly Rock n Roll Show on Radio 1 late on Saturday afternoons.
Teds gather at Hyde Park ready for the March to the BBC at Portland Place.
However, the events leading up to this March and subsequent epic concert recording at Picketts Lock began in the dark winter days of 1975. This started as an idea to gather Rock ‘n’ Roll fans from all over the country to join forces and march through the streets of London to BBC Broadcasting House, to demand more time on Radio for our kind of music: Original Rock ‘n’ Rol, seemed impossible, but after months of publicity, promotion, touring around and foot-slogging spreading the word, the great day arrived and there outside Hyde Park, London. This was an amazing sight seeing thousands of people (over 5000) nearly all Teddy Boys and Girls, all resplendent in their best gear, ready to march, and march they did! To the BBC where a 50.000 strong petition and a taped pilot Rock ‘n’ Roll show were handed in.
After the march, the day was far from over for all those fans who had made the journey to London. The climax of this unique day was the live Rock ‘n’ Roll show at Picketts Lock. For this major event, three of the top Rock ‘n’ Roll bands in the country were to play: Crazy Cavan ‘n’ the Rhythm Rockers, The Hellraisers and Flying Saucers. An LP of the Picketts Lock Show was made entitled’Rock’n’ Roll is still Alive’.
Rock n Roll is Still Alive LP Cover.
The emphasis on Rockabilly music amongst the Teddy Boys during the period from the mid 1970’s through to today has been a major influence on the whole Rock ‘n’ Roll scene in general. Although with the current interest into British Rock n Roll amongst the Teddy Boy scene, this has been somewhat overshadowed.
Boppin’ Bill’s Regimental Re-union (London Evening Standard) with left to right: Billy Johnson, Andy Tuppen, Sunglasses Ron Staples & Pete ‘Spot’ Lambert & Colin ‘Chip’ Chippendale outside Lyceum in London on October 15th 1975 following concert with the Hellraisers and Rock Island Line.
During the 1970’s, there were Teddy Boy groups in most main towns and cities throughout the country. This was a great period for the Teddy Boy movement and many new bands emerged notably Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers who greatly influenced by Rockabilly created the distinctive Crazy Rhythm sound and wrote their own songs such as Teddy Boy Boogie and Wildest Cat in Town. Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers became the Teddy Boy band of the 1970’s and 1980’s and have remained so till this day. During the early 1970’s Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers were not initially accepted by the older second generation Teds. Dell Richardson (Radio Caroline – Good Rockin’ Tonight presenter) remembers when he ran the old 6-5 Club in Harrow during the early seventies, that when Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers were playing at the club, the older Teds would stand at the back and complain at the then new Crazy Rhythm style, preferring traditional Rock ‘n’ Roll. Of course as time went on, these self same Teds would become avid fans of the band.
Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers pictured wearing Drape Jackets during the early 1970’s have since their formation been the main Teddy Boy band and are still well acclaimed amongst Teddy Boys.
Other notable bands who emerged during the 1970’s who would play Rockabilly were the Flying Saucers and The Riot Rockers.
There was considerable friction between the younger Teds and other cults such as the Punk Rockers in the late 1970’s particularly in London and later with the Mods which re-emerged during the early 1980’s.
The Rockabilly spin off.
Due to the fact that Rockabilly music was from the Southern Sates of America, the Teddy Boys started to adopt the Confederate Flag as a symbol. Many people wrongly interpreted this as being racist, due to the Confederate Flag being standard of the Confederate States of America who had upheld slavery before and during its existence, 1861 – 1865. It was the fact that Rockabilly music came predominantly from the Southern States, that the Teddy Boys decided to adopt the Flag.
There was also a spin off movement with a number of Teds wearing Confederate caps and uniforms during the early 1970’s. Notably a band called CSA wore Confederate uniforms on stage.
Eventually a breakaway movement that became known as ‘Rockabillies’ emerged. Initially, they were really Teddy Boys who wore checked shirts, jeans, boots and Donkey Jackets with Confederate flags on the back. A number also wore cheese-cutter caps (as worn by Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps) as many were big Gene Vincent fans.
The photograph above shows a Rockabilly on the front cover of the LP that was published in 1978 by Charly Records entitled ‘Rockabilly Rules OK’. You can see that the hairstyle is combed into a quiff and DA, as worn by Teddy Boys, however the clothing is totally different as detailed as above. There are a number of reasons why this Rockabilly movement came about and separated itself from the Teddy Boys. First of all there were a number of young Teddy Boys who were subject to a certain amount of bullying from some of the older teds who tended to both regard them and call them ‘Plastic Teds’. Secondly some of these younger Teddy Boys were targeted by other groups who were around at the time and got beaten up for what they wore, so they succumbed to peer pressure and wanted too wear something that brought less attention to them. The image of the Rockabilly enabled these youngsters to maintain part of the image without drawing too much attention to themselves. A third reason was that, the cost of a full Drape suit was extremely costly to many young aspiring Teds. Also the image of American Rockabilly style fitted this image whereas the Teddy Boy was totally 100% British.
As time went on, this Rockabilly movement started to adopt different haircuts with Flat-tops starting to replace the quiff and DA. Many would shave all their hair off around the sides and keep a crew cut on top. This then started to bring about a totally different style away from the Teds. Most of these Rockabillies however, continued to go into the same pubs as the Teds and go to the same Do’s. There was commonality through the music – Rockabilly. For instance most of the Teds were fans of Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers and most of the Rockabillies were fans too. For instance on the LP cover shown above, Rockabilly Rules OK, along with the original 1950’s Rockabilly tracks there are two Cavan tracks as well. Another point is that as the seventies progressed, Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers wore less in the way of Drapes on stage with many members of the group wearing checked shirts and jeans more in keeping with the Rockabilly movement.
Towards the end of the 1970’s another movement would emerge, the American style swing jive orientated ‘Hep Cats’. These further depleted the numbers of Teds during the early 1980’s and there was some open conflict between this group and the Teds. The ‘Hep Cats’ will be covered further on in this History of the Teddy Boy Movement.
Despite all these other spin off movements and depletion in numbers during the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Teddy Boys have continued steadfast in their own self belief.
London and Leeds Teds meet up in Central London in 1983 for the Jerry Lee Lewis Concert at the Hammersmith Odeon. Pictured left to right: Spider Ken, Spot, Jimmy Coleman Adrian Clayton, Nidge, Geordie Bill, Unknown, Son with Martin Gravall (centre).
Rock n Roll / Teddy Boy Weekenders
In 1979 the first real Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekender took place at Caister near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. The weekend saw some really big artists take to the stage such as Ray Campi, Matchbox, Freddy ‘Fingers’ Lee, Flying Saucers and Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers and Bill Haley, which was quite unique. The festival included all Rock ‘n’ Roll fans as well as Teddy Boys such as Rebels, Rockabillies, Rockers and Hep Cats and this took place with minimal trouble.
PHOTO: Leeds Teddy Boys & Girls in a Challet at the first Caister Weekend in 1979. Rear row, left to right: Les Errin, Pete Ewart, Adrian Clayton, Maxine and Dave Johnson RIP. Front, left to right: Dave Williamson and Myles.
As the 1980’s progressed there were more successful Teddy Boy Weekenders, notably ‘Brean Sands’ near Weston-super-Mare in Somerset and Weymouth in Dorset. Both Brean Sands and Weymouth were organised by the great Bristol Ted, Johnny Hale. Brean Sands and Weymouth ran for a good few years during the mid to late 1980’s. However, one major spin off of Brean Sands was the appearance of Bill Haley’s original Comets first UK appearance in 30 years. Later in the 1990’s there were more weekenders organised at both Weymouth, Skegness and Great Yarmouth.
Teds at Weymouth, Dorset in 1986.
Return to the Original pre 1955 Edwardian style
Most people who had become Teddy Boys during the late sixties and nineteen seventies had absolutely no idea about the origins of the Teddy Boy movement or how it started. If you asked the majority of people why they became Teddy Boys during the ‘Revival’, it would be because they liked the style, they liked Rock ‘n’ Roll music and they wanted to be different from all the other fashions around at the time. In fact many Teds would have a far greater knowledge of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rockabilly music than they ever would about the original styles of Drape Jackets worn in the early 1950’s for example. Most Teds would go for the accepted roll collar and half-moon pocket style drapes in varying colours and varying contrasting velvet trim with bolo (incorrectly called Bootlace) ties by way of example. Most Teds if you asked them would see absolutely nothing wrong with this, as this was the accepted norm and they actually knew of nothing else! There were exceptions to the rule however and these exceptions would eventually start something in terms of change.
However, during the seventies and eighties due to the influence of the ‘Glam Image’ that had infiltrated the Teddy Boy scene, the original Teddy Boy style had become largely diluted and to a large degree, somewhat lost.
With the establishment of the Swing Jive American orientated ‘Hep Cats’ that had become established during the late 1970’s, a number of British outlets had started buying up stocks of American 1950’s clothes and importing them in large quantities over into the U.K. These then became available for sale and many ‘Cats’ were then seen wearing original 1950’s Box Jackets and Peg Pants etc. Not all Hep Cats were wearing original clothing of course, and like the Teds, many had their clothes made and tailored after copying original American designs. Also a considerable number of former Teds had either become Rockabillies or Hep Cats which had led to a deletion in numbers of Teds during the early 1980’s. The reasons for those Teds changing their allegances have already been discussed previously in The Rockabilly spin off.
What a number of forward thinking Teds realised was, that these Hep Cats were wearing a more authentic style of clothing, albiet American, than were the current British Teddy Boys. This then started to set off alarm bells in the mind of some of these Teds – how the hell can we allow these Hep Cats to outdo the British Teddy Boy in terms of authentic clothing, we need to do something about this!.
It was now time to do something about this problem. In the early 1980’s, it was felt amongst a number of Teddy Boys, that they needed to go and research their roots and return to the more authentic original styles of the 1950’s and that this was now far from overdue. This was initially started by those Teddy Boys who were keen to return to the original more conservative Edwardian style of Teddy Boy dress and get away from the seventies Glam image.
The Eccles Connection with the Edwardian style
As many Teds from the North West of England will remember, in 1972 the Midland Hotel in West Didsbury, Manchester opened up and became the main venue for Teddy Boys in South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire during the 1970’s. However, during the very early 1980’s the ‘Mid’ as everyone knew it, started to go into decline and eventually closed in late 1981, early 1982. As the ‘Heps Cats’ had started to increase in numbers during the late 1970’s early 1980’s, these had become residents at the ‘Mid’ along with the Teds. For ‘most of the time’ these two groups happily co-existed apart from one or two educational smacks that the Teds felt that they needed to administer!
When the ‘Mid’ closed in the early eighties, the Teds and Hep Cats went to the ‘Gorton Brook’ pub at Belle Vue in Manchester. However, many of the Teds felt that the new venue lacked atmosphere and this is when a number of the Teds started to go to a venue in the nearby town of Eccles.
As Teddy Boy author, Julian Lord (originally from Urmston) recalls: “After the ‘Mid’, my mate Jim Lelonik (better known as ‘Skinny Jim’) were lost as far as Ted venues were concerned and we made a conscious decision to go around in our drapes in Urmston, where we both lived as the ‘Gorton Brook’ in Belle Vue was definately not to our taste. Eventually we found out about the Teds in nearby Eccles, and the next thing, we were straight accross the swing bridge over the Manchester Ship canal form Urmston into Eccles. From theron in, we went with our girls to Eccles and drunk, rocked and stopped over there every weekend .”
However, many Teddy Boys will not be aware that something quite dramatic was starting to happen in nearby Eccles at the begining of the 1980’s, which is not widely remembered or even known about.
This was the start of the reclaiming of the original pre 1955 Edwardian Teddy Boy style, which interestingly came about in 1981 in Eccles, Lancashire. This is a former textile town to the west of the City of Salford which ajoins Manchester to the east. Eccles was an appropriate place for this to happen because the town had been established territory for Teddy Boys from the time when they first emerged in the early 1950’s. So to see Teddy Boys strutting their stuff in Eccles was nothing new and was in-keeping with the character of the town. At that time during the seventies and early eighties, Eccles was a place that had changed little since the fifties and was an appropriate place for this to happen. Eccles Teddy Boy, Ray Ferris was to be the first person to spearhead this move back to the original pre 1955 Teddy Boy style, after co-opting second generation Manchester Teddy Boy, Boppin’ Brian Spilsbury.
Three Eccles (Salford) Teds circa 1981/82 at Mill Brow, Salford where a big Teddy Boy fight took place in the late 1950’s. Teddy Boy, Bill Evans talks about this fight in the book, TEDDY BOYS A Concise History by Ray Ferris and Julian Lord. Bill Evans was actually in that fight. The three Teds sporting the pre 1955 style in the photograph are Dave Cotton RIP, Ray Ferris and Wayne Percival (aka Percy).
According to ‘Boppin Brian’ Spilsbury, it was in late 1981 / early 1982 that Ray Ferris and him had decided to go and research the true Edwardian style at the Manchester Central Library newspaper archives. This was the begining of the move back to the original pre 1955 Teddy Boy style and these Teddy Boys were actually at the forefront of re-discovering their Teddy Boy Roots.
Boppin Brian recalls: “All I know is that it was around 1981/82 that the change which we had being doing the research into started to take hold. .I remember, then young Teddy Boy, Paul Trainor looking like he had just stepped out of a 1954 photo in his dogtooth fingertip drape.”
Paul Trainor remembers: “The first time I saw a rock and roll band – the Renegades, playing at a pub in Ordsall, Salford. I didn’t know anybody there, but during the break, Bopping Brian and ‘Big’ Dave Machin came over and asked me if I was enjoying it. It’s so easy to ignore newcomers sat by themselves, but I will always remember what great ambassadors for rock and roll those two were. Later on that evening I got talking to Ray Ferris, who also made me equally welcome. I went round to his flat later that week and he let me borrow a shed-load of his records to tape. I also remember him telling me about the origins of Teds from the from the early, pre-rock and roll fifties and importantly, about the original Edwardian style of jacket which they wore. He also recommended a book which he had used for research – “The Insecure Offenders”. All this was new to me, so I remember it very well, it was January 1979. I first went to the tailor on Langworthy Road in early 1981 to get a pair of pants made, to match a jacket I already had, and soon went back for a full suit to be made. A lot of the styling was suggested by the tailor himself, Paul Mack, with input from me, but really I wouldn’t have known where to start without this early guidance from Ray Ferris.”
Urmston Teddy Boy, Julian Lord in 1983 wearing, his then, new all black drape, black half velvet collar, black velvet over left breast pocket. Ticket pockets were present on both sides of the drape to complement the straight flap hip pockets. Julian was wearing a much more authentic style of suit albiet with the seventies mix with Winklepickers shoes, which he eventually replaced. He also eventually lost the 1970’s sideburns!
As Julian Lord recalls: .
“It was actually Paul Trainor from Eccles (Salford) in 1981 who was the first Teddy Boy to actually start wearing the more authentic drape. By 1982 most of the Eccles Teds were wearing a much more orthodox drape suit. I could only afford one and in 1983 Ray Ferris and I designed my black Drape suit in a pub in Eccles that summer. We all used to get them made to measure at the tailors on Langworthy Road in Salford. One other thing was that, we all had our hair cut and styled at Pritchard’s in Eccles who did a mean DA – we always called him Mr. Pritchard. You could guarantee, that if you went over on a Saturday morning there would be a massive cue before you could get your hair done”
Julian Lord continues:
“Eccles in the early 1980’s was a massively secure Teddy Boy stronghold and fortress back then. We all used to go around the town with at least a dozen Teds and our girls, visiting every pub we could until we were ratted. Brilliant memories. At the time Teddy Boy, Frank Hibbet had the first pin stripe suit I ever saw, and it looked damn smart, although pin stripe in the 50’s was uncommon on Teds as it was regarded as an upper class thing then. I remember Ray Ferris in a brand new all light grey suit with turn ups on the trousers. I don’t think it had any velvet on it at all – that would have been in 1982 or 1983.”
The Farnborough Edwardians
Two members of the Farnborough ‘Edwardians’ – Danny Dawkins and Jerry Lunn pictured in 1988.
Notably, another group of then young Teddy Boys from the Farnborough and North Camp area of Hampshire – Paul Culshaw, Jerry Lunn, Richard Wooley and Frankie Calland started to adopt the original pre-1955 Edwardian style. The Farnborough group were also one of the first groups in the early 1980’s to reject the 1970’s glam rock image and adopt the original Edwardian pre 1955 Teddy Boy image to excellent effect.
As Jerry Lunn describes the pre-1955 Edwardian style in his book, A Thouroughly English Hoodlum, when he and Richard Wooley first came accross Paul Culshaw and Frankie Calland:
“There were a couple of others within the group, who stood out. They had longer, slicked back hair, and instead of the casual, summery type clothing worn by the rest, were wearing charcoal grey suits. Long cut jackets with matching, slightly loose fitting trousers, waistcoats and watch chains. Unlike the rest, they had no colour in their dress, and looked very sombre. Both wore highly polished plain black shoes, you couldn’t see the socks, as their trouser cuffs hung just on the top of the shoe. These two guys brought back that vision from so many years ago, yet they were somehow different. They still projected that same air of superiority and arrogance, they looked just as smart and tough as I remembered the Teds from years before looking, if not more so. But, there was something about this less flamboyant look that demanded more respect”.
Richard Woolley, Paul Culshaw, Simon Moon and Fiona somewhere in London portraying the original pre-1955 image.
According to Jerry Lunn, one of the main influences in adopting the authentic Edwardian style were pictures from old copies of Picture Post magazine, along with other similar press cuttings from the early to mid 50’s and the occasional correct image gleened from books with pictures of 1950’s Edwardians such as Colin Donellan and Alex Cruickshank.
Richard Wooley with Paul Culshaw and Fiona in the 1980’s sporting the authentic pre-1955 image.
Paul Culshaw however, as already stated, was really the first member of the group to adopt this early authentic style and he was influenced by photographs from Picture Post and the like, however another of the old gang Steve Ferrin, had found photos of his dad, who had been a Teddy Boy back in the 50’s, and the pictures were of this earlier style.
The Edwardian Drape Society – T.E.D.S.
Members of the Edwardian Drape Society with a young looking Ritchie Gee (stood right) with Dixie (stood) and Suzy (seated) Kieth Thorby (centre) in 1993. Other Teds unknown?
Whilst these other two notable groups in the early 1980’s mentioned above at Eccles and at Farnborough had made an impact in terms of the return to the original style, the Teddy Boy scene as a whole was starting to wane in the mid 1980’s and the numbers of Teds were starting to drop significantly. Some had got married and couldn’t afford to go out any more due to family commitments, a considerable number had joined the ranks of the Hep Catsand Rockabillies and some just simply became disillusioned and left the movement altogether. This then only left a hard core of Teds to continue the movement and those left soon realised that the heady days of the seventies for the Teds were finally over.
However in the early 1990’s something was starting to stir in London just north of the River in Islington. Two sisters, Dixie and Susie thought about getting the Teds, initially in the London area, into a unified group and improving their image. A meeting was then organised at the Empress of Russia pub in Islington and about 20 or so people turned up and a new Teddy Boy movement was born.
This group was known as ‘The Edwardian Drape Society’ or ‘T.E.D.S. for short, and had been formed with the objective of taking a co-ordinated approach at encouraging those Teds still around to start wearing a more authentic form of Teddy Boy clothing and to reclaim the original 1950’s Teddy Boy style.
Once The Edwardian Drape Society had been formed, it was soon spearheaded by Teddy Boy, Ritchie Gee (who became President) along with veteran Teddy Boy, Frank ‘Knuckles’ De Lacey (Vice President). In 1993 a new Rock ‘n’ Roll club known as the ‘Tennessee Club’ was also started by Ritchie Gee at the White Hart pub on White Hart Lane in Tottenham, Middlesex (North London) and this then became the home of T.E.D.S.
Members of The Edwardian Drape Society, 1996.
Although credit must go to the pockets of Teds that started to reclaim the original style back in the early eighties mentioned above, T.E.D.S. brought the Teds together as one force and with the media interest in the group, managed to spread the word throughout the Teddy Boy scene and beyond. This is why this group were successful where the others were not in promoting a more original and authentic style of Teddy Boy clothing amongst the whole of the Teddy Boy Movement.
When T.E.D.S. started in the early 1990’s the original 1950’s Teddy Boy look was promoted in a big way and T.E.D.S. have been responsible for bringing about the more authentic style that most Teds now follow today. The Edwardian Drape Society have arguably along with other Teddy Boys, been responsible for holding the Teddy Boy movement together during the last 25 years.
In 1996, a brief 3min 45 sec Black and White film was made by photographer and film maker Bruce Weber entitled Teddy Boys of the Edwardian Drape Society.
The Tennessee Club had a number of venues over the years notably ‘The King’s Stables’ in Wood Green and finally it moved to the Trent Park Golf Club at Oakwood in North London and operated very successfully for a period with Ritchie Gee staging many big and sought after American Rock n Rollers. However the Tennessee Club finally closed its doors in the early 2000’s although T.E.D.S. has continued as an entity even if somewhat underground. T.E.D.S. has now largely achieved its objective and left a legacy, because if you look at most Teds these days, they are undoubtedly wearing a more authentic style of clothing that they ever were during the 1970’s.
Founders of The Edwardian Drape Society, sisters Susie and Dixie with Ritchie Gee and Teddy Boy Paul Keenaghan at The Tennessee Club 2nd venue, The Kings Stables at Wood Green, North London around 1998.
As a well known Teddy Boy from North London says: “It’s great what The Edwardian Drape Society set out to do back then in those days because this had a permanent lasting effect on putting our image right.”
Teddy Boy Promotor Ritchie Gee now runs the Wildest Cats in Town weekenders held at Pakefield, Lowestoft in both June/July and December of each year. Andy Munday now assists Ritchie and Frank and takes a lead role in the organisation of the Wildest Cats weekenders along with a number of other members the team.
Ritchie Gee, Andy Munday & Frank ‘Knukles’ De Lacey at the Wildest Cats in Town Weekender, Pakefield, Lowestoft, Suffolk.
Most of the Teddy Boys around today are third generation Teds and the nineteen seventies was the period that they became active on the Teddy Boy scene. There are also a few second generation and fourth generation Teds and even a small number of new recruits from the current period. Due to the fact that many of these Teds are in their late forties, fifties and sixties, their style of dress has been toned down with the passing of years and is totally different to what many would have worn in the 1970’s.
In addition, there have been a number of other factors that have influenced the current more conservative and original style of Teddy Boy dress of wearing more somber colours and styles. The Edwardian Drape Society (already mentioned) set up during the early 1990’s had a major impact on reclaiming the original style by setting an original dress code standard. In fact at the time, Teds had to wait to be invited to join T.E.D.S. and this was largely as a result of their dress code. For instance those Teds who wanted to retain the seventies style of dress would not be invited to join.
Many Teddy Boys that have continued to maintain the 1970’s style of dress saw this as a form of dictatorship, by what they considered, as a group of elitest Teds who wanted to become the Teddy Boy Fashion Police. However, this was never the intention – the reason was to simply return the style of the Teddy Boy back to the pre Rock ‘n’ Roll – 1955 style of dress, which had become bastardised and become somewhat lost during the annals of time.
Members of The Edwardian Drape Society wearing predominantly Black Drape suits at The Tennessee Club’s 3rd and last venue at Oakwood North London around 2000.
When the majority of Teddy Boys had started to adopt this early 1950’s style in the from the mid to late 1990’s onwards, many started to have Black Drapes tailored and were accused of looking like Undertakers. However, as time has progressed and with more research, it is clear that early and mid fifties Teddy boys were wearing colours other than black such a bottle green, powder grey, brown, navy and mid-blue and checks. Many Teddy Boys are now wearing a range of colours and styles inkeeping with the early to mid fifties period.
Other Edwardian Teddy Boy Groups
The International Edwardian Teddy Boy Association
The Manchester Peacock Society
The British Teddy Boy Movement Today
The Internet and the access of historical photographs and the interest in the roots of the British Teddy Boy, particularly the pre-1955 era (before the advent of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Britain) has given the Teddy Boy Movement a knowledge that the rank and file of Teds never had previously. This new found knowledge has given the ability for the Teds to rediscover themselves and where they came from and on top of that, the ability for many of us to recreate the look of the pre -1955 Teddy Boy – 59 years or more later.
As a result of these factors, many mainstream Teddy Boys in the UK have made the decision to return the original 1950’s style and image that the Edwardian style groups in the 1980’s were promoting and more so with the influence of The Edwardian Drape Society during the 1990’s onwards. In general most Teddy Boys and Girls are now wearing a far more authentic form of 1950’s Edwardian Teddy Boy form of dress than they would have worn during the 1970’s. However a number of Teddy boys still prefer to maintain the 1970’s image and of course as a unified movement, there is room for these Teds to take their rightful place within the Teddy Boy movement. Although the Teddy Boy has a certain way of dressing based on a common theme, there is no right or wrong dress code that dictates what style a Teddy Boy should be wearing, because at the end of it all the Teddy Boy is an individual and most ostensively – a Rebel!
Teddy Boys and Girls at the Manchester Evening News Photo Shoot, Saturday 6th April 2013.
Despite the variety of styles and differences in opinions within the Teddy Boy movement, one thing is for sure, the British Teddy Boy is likely to be around for a good few years to come and represents the first distinctive style that made teenagers in Britain stand out and be different from the rest. The Teddy Boy’s were the originators of a distinctive Youth Culture in Britain and the first rebels against conformity and conventional style. They have continued to maintain that reputation to this day, standing out from the rest of society – the British Teddy Boy really has become a British Cultural icon!
© The Edwardian T