Teddy Boys and Teddy Girls
Postwar youth culture is often typified by rock and roll and teenagers, typified by the Teddy Boy. Young men dressed in Edwardian style dress appeared to be adopting an earlier period in their style, yet simultaneously carved out a specific youth culture for themselves while also transcending class barriers. It is often male youth that take precedence in historical narratives of youth culture and this is still the case with the post-war era and the Teddy youth culture. Perhaps this is because male youths’ sudden change of style was not inconspicuous as they discarded the paraphernalia of military uniforms associated with the Second World War and opted instead for long drape jackets and drainpipe trousers. A visible tension appeared between traditional male identities and this new youth culture which played out in the national press of the time. The Daily Mirror’s headline of 15 September 1953 read ‘Flick Knives, Dance Music and Edwardian Suits’ and made a link between crime, fashion and youth culture.
Ken Russell’s photo essay of Teddy Girls in London that appeared in Picture Post in June 1955 pays testimony to girls experiences as Teddy Girls. To listen to a Coventry Teddy Girl describe her outfit click on A Coventry Teddy Girl in the page box to the right.
(Elsie and Rose Hendon with Mary Toovey and Jean Rayner on a London East End bombsite. Photograph by Ken Russell, c. 1955. Copyright TopFoto)