Posted by Fashion Editor at Large
Additional research by Bethan Holt
For Autumn/Winter, we will be seeing a lot of influence from the British youth subcultures of the 50s and 60s, notably Mods and Teddy Boys. So, we decided to investigate what was de rigeur for these young people seeking to break free from the wartime austerity which characterised their childhoods.
Abbey-Lee as a Teddy Girl in Dolce Gabbana AW11
First up, the Teddy Boys. These teenagers from disadvantaged areas of London are often credited as being the first to define a distinct identity for a group that weren't children, but were also not quite ready to call themselves adults. I am always keen to find a literary reference and that is easy-peasy with the Teddy Boys as their high maintenance look has roots in the dandy figure of the late-Victorian and Edwardian era, some 50 years before. In fact, the name Teddy Boy comes from this association with the Edwardian period. The poster boy for this look is the venerable Oscar Wilde whose preoccupation with velvet jackets and flamboyant buttonholes is legendary
|Teddy Boys got their influence from Dandies. Their icon was Oscar Wilde. Here he is looking whimsical in the 1880s (image from www.wikipedia.com)|
The dandy attitude- placing having fun and looking pretty above all else- provided an ideal template for the Teddy Boys. We have been hugely entertained by the brilliant names for all the elements which made up their look. The BROTHEL CREEPERS were orginally worn by soldiers fighting in North Africa in WWII and the thick crepe sole would save feet from getting burnt. Back in Blighty, they carried on wearing the army issue shoes out and about and so the creeper became the brothel creeper (we'll let you make the connection!). There is also a theory that the name comes from the creep dance which all self-respecting Teddy Boys perfected.
|Doing the creep! (Photo- a 1980s teddy revival- from A30yoyo on Flickr.com)|
WINKLE PICKERS provided an alternative to the brothel creeper; a sleeker option which
has consistently survived in the mainstream (Image from http://www.riotmode.net/) How fabulous is this shot?
Also demonstrated above are the ANKLE STRANGLERS, which would be sewn in at the
bottom to create the desired effect. A coloured sock peeping out at the bottom finished
the look. Finally, the DUCK'S ARSE is probably the last thing we'd want on our head
but this is the name given to highly sculpted, grease heavy hairstyle sported by the Teddy
Boys. Although not exclusive to the Teddies- it was widely worn throughout the 50s , its
prevalence shown through the film which arguably epitomises the decade, Grease- it is a
vital part of the signature look.
Elvis with his "Ducks Arse"
Here is a fascinating clip of Wayne Hemingway (of Red or Dead fame) discussing his
impressionsof the style choices of the Teddy Boys. Key musical heroes for the
Teddy Boys included Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, The Drifters and Cliff Richard (Never
thought you'd see his name in a fashion blog did you?). We also love the video below
of Buddy Holly, who was another key musicalinfluence on the Teddy Boys, on a
rather prim and proper American dance show. The contrast between Buddy's rock
and roll sound and the perfectly poised ladies in the background, dressed
in their Dior 'New Look' influenced attire shows the tug between vastly different
reactions to the post-war era. Don't you think everyone should be dancing around
the background rather than standing tall, looking like puppets?!
The Teddy Boys certainly paved the way for men to become more engaged with their
fashion choices but it wasn't just a question of style. The Teddy Boys may have been
swathed in velvet and inconveniently tight trousers on the outside, but these outfits
were a mask for a more sinister motive. They were notorious for carrying around
knives in secret pockets of their jackets. After the release of Blackboard Jungle, they
rioted and so the Teddy Boy name became associated just as much with violence as it
was with the seismic shift in men's attitude to fashion which they spearheaded.
Dolce and Gabbana are mostly responsible for bringing the Teddy Boy back into the
fashionconsciousness. They used velvet collars, winklepickers, coloured socks and
even a hint of a duck's arse to recreate the Teddy Boy aesthetic. Phoebe Philo also
references the subculture in her Celine Pre-Fall collection.