Subcultures – Teddy Boys:

“Our dress is our answer to a dull world” [Teddy Boy at the Mecca Dance TedsHall, Tottenham, 1954]

It is the 15th October 1954 and I am interviewing Michael ‘Mike’ Collins, a Teddy Boy.

So, Mike could you give me a brief overview about what it means to be a Teddy Boy?
Yeah sure, I suppose, like most lads, my gang lark around making the most of our boyhood at the new pin-table saloons, ‘caffs, milk bars and record shops’ [Breward, C. Ehrman, E. Evans, C. (2005) The London Look: Fashion From Street To Catwalk. Pg119] the only difference is that with us Teds we’re slicked up and dressed up. There’s an “implication that an ill-dressed person is also probably dishonest, stupid and without talent.” [Luire, A. (1981) The Language of Clothes, pg118] and just because you’re ‘working-class’ doesn’t mean you have to look or act like it!

Teddy Boys admiring the view on Clapham Common in 1954, a year after the infamous Teddy Boy Murder.

Where does the term Teddy Boy come from?
It’s the abbreviation of Edward as in a ‘neo-Edwardian look’. We’ve ‘transformed the new Edwardian style by Saville Row for those posh men as an act of bricolage.’ [Hebdige, D. 1979 Subculture: The Meaning of Style, pg104] It’s a class rebellion: an opposition, we stand united!

So you have mentioned being ‘slicked up and dressed up’, could you describe your clothing for me?
It’s an ‘exaggerated style.’ We wear really ‘narrow ties; drainpipe trousers with a 17 inch maximum cuff width; winkle-pickers with pointed toes, or creepers. Our jackets are wider-cut with more padded shoulders.’ [Luire, A. (1981) The Language of Clothes, pg78] Most of mine have ‘velvet collars and cuffs.’[Breward, C. Ehrman, E. Evans, C. (2005) The London Look: Fashion From Street To Catwalk, pg 114] Also, I always carry the essentials: a pocket watch, linked to my waistcoat; a flick knife and of course my hair comb.

jacket 2jacketteds2

Does it take you long to get ready in the mornings?
For sure I mean, you have to have freshly shined shoes; everything is always ironed; and my pompador is slicked to perfection. But saying that: ‘It’s definitely smarter; it attracts the birds, when you put it on it gives you a superior feeling, a confidence and people look at you.’ [http://edwardianteddyboy.com/ (15/01/2015)] The effort is worth it, if I didn’t look like this I wouldn’t have picked up my Maureen, would I!?

teddy boys mecca dance hall london tottenham 1954

What do you think of other people’s clothing?
We’re in the 50s, my wage has doubled [Abrams, M. (1959) The Teenage Consumer, London Press Exchange] so have others, why would you want to dress like a peasant?!  That’s a non-Ted by the way, just like you and my parents. They won’t ever understand the way I dress!

Bibliography:
[Teddy Boy at the Mecca Dance Hall, Tottenham, 1954]
– Breward, C. Ehrman, E. Evans, C. (2005) The London Look: Fashion From Street To Catwalk. Pg119
– Luire, A. (1981) The Language of Clothes, pg118
– Hebdige, D. 1979 Subculture: The Meaning of Style, pg104
– Luire, A. (1981) The Language of Clothes, pg78
– Breward, C. Ehrman, E. Evans, C. (2005) The London Look: Fashion From Street To Catwalk, pg 114
http://edwardianteddyboy.com/ [15/01/2015]
– Abrams, M. (1959) The Teenage Consumer, London Press Exchange

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