After the Second World War, Britain saw the creation of perhaps the first true teenage revolution, The Teddy Boy. The rationing years were not such a distant memory and the nation was still scarred by the War both economically and psychologically. Whilst it is commonly suggested that they Teddy Boy grew out of a British rebellion against the US Rock and Roll sound that was emerging midway through the 1950s.
However, the truth, in fact, happened some years earlier at the very beginning of the 1950s. Working-class kids were donning the Edwardian jackets, the drainpipes and Beetle Crushers combined with the ‘slim jim’ tie and the Brylcreemed pompadour, the Teddy Boy was a Frankenstein creation of WWII Spiv mixed with Harlem zoot-suited hipster.
The music at the beginning of the decade was more trad jazz and skiffle than true blue Rock and Roll. When the mid-’50s hit and the onslaught of Rock and Roll happened the Teddy Boys embraced it with all the gusto of a movement starved for too long of style and sex appeal!
Blackboard Jungle rocked the cinemas in 1956 with Bill Haley and His Comets belting out ‘Rock Around The Clock’ for the first time to an unsuspecting post-war Britain, particularly the Elephant & Castle picture house – and the fuse was lit.
The conservative media world at the time couldn’t resist but load everything wrong in society on the feral Teddy Boys. The truth again was quite different and was, of course, to be heard echoing down the generations from Mods to Hippies to Punks, all of whom had the same accusations thrown at them, it would always be a crime to be young and different.
As Spring Chicken Andrew Mcewan puts it, “Like all teenage culture groups, Teds, Rockers, Mods, Skins, Punks….Their reputations and the acts of a tiny minority were exaggerated and often fabricated by the tabloid papers and media. Lies, exaggerations and fake news, it’s not new!”
The Teddy Boy became all that was wrong with post-war Britain, they were the razor-wielding street criminals who lived to fight, the ‘Cosh boys’. Of course, history shows there were a few that fell into that category but many were just interested in the fashion and the music. As many of our Spring Chickens testify;
“My first real boyfriend was a teddy boy he was gentle and kind and too such good care of me there was the odd one who was a bit of bad lad but mostly they were all good lads just liked the Ted clothes.” – Chris Anne Taylor.
“Remember the shoes, my cousin had ‘beetle crushers’, and the quiff and DA haircut, we missed it all, become a Mod when I left school in 65, most of the ones in our area just like the clothes.” – James Pierce.
“My big brother was a teddy boy he was one for girls music and football never got into trouble though. Always immaculate when he went out.” – Janet Pollitt.
“Don’t you bring no Teddy Boy’s here my mother used to say…..you’re right….they were teddy bears compared to their equivalent today.” Joan Lithgow.
For many many of the Teddy Boy and Girls trouble was the last thing on their mind they were enjoying the glories of youth and the freedom the end of WWII had afforded them. Besides as Spring Chicken Sue Simms puts it, “They were too worried about getting their hair messed up.”