Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Neat blog article on Teddy Girls (and boys) in post-WWII England---archival photos galore:

The Forgotten 1950s Girl Gang

The blog, Messy Nessy Chic, is great stuff---lots of forgotten history and urban archealogy and such.

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The Teddy Boys had more in common with steampunks with their Edwardian styles, but it's certainly a punk subculture that deserves more attention.  Unfortunately, the Teddys were straight-up Clockwork Orange-esque hooligans, so there's not much written about them.

Period inspiration aside, I had previously only been vaguely aware of the Teddies; as a name or label, much like the slightly later Mods and Rockers and such.  The blog's archival photos, though, seem to me to show a sartorial style that, era notwithstanding, has more in common with the "tween the Wars" fashions dieselpunk draws from than the bustles and tophats and flounce steampunk goes in for these days.  They're pretty High Victorian, from what I see on Pinterest.

A larger question that interests me about trends like these is what I call the "thrift store effect" . . . in the early stages of a fad, it seems a lot of times it comes down to what was cheap; street culture making a feature of a necessity---a nephew of mine used to get Seventies t-shirts and polyester slacks for pennies; now you see "hipsters" buying imitations online and from A&F and Old Navy and whatnot.

I figure the first Teddies were probably raiding Grandpa's closet and the English equivalent of Goodwill.


I think it's quite unfair to describe them as straight up hooligans. Some were of course, but many of them were just young men and women who liked Rock n Roll and followed the fashion. Something which as always became quite expensive to do. So many of them were nice middle class types with decent pay checks. I've met quite a few of the old originals and they had no worse stories of hooliganism to tell than anybody else. In fact it was often the case that if violence occured it was a result of them being targeted by "regular folks" for being different.

I actually found an old newspaper from the early fifties during a loft clearance. It featured an article on psychology which stated the Edwardians (as they were initially called) had adopted their manner of dancing due to a psychological primal instinct to re-enact primitive rituals of mating and bravado etc. (I guess that was a ground breaking theory back then).

I always found it very ironic that back in the early seventies when Punk first started to really take hold. Punks and Teds were sworn enemies, and there were often reports in the papers of skirmishes occuring around the UK. It was largely ironic because Malcolm Mclaren and girlfriend Vivienne Westwood's first shop was called Let It Rock and sold Rock n Roll clothing to third generation Teddy Boys (a different and possibly slightly more thuggish breed).

He grew a bit dissolusioned with that, and later when pushing Punk on all fronts, changed the shops name to Sex and started selling Punk clothing instead. The funny thing is he obviously still had a fair bit of stock left over, hence tiger print brothel creepers, drainpipes, drape jackets etc all conveniently became part of Punk fashion as well. Now one could see how some of the Teddy boys may have objected to that, but you've got to hand it to Mclaren, he was always the canny entrepeneur if nothing else.

It's true that History is written by the winning team.  If you take a look at what the Teddies were up to and place it against what was "normal" for the time, anything they were doing outside of that cookie-cutter would have been considered hooliganism.

Well precisely, in the article I read the tone was definitely one of "look what these strange young people are up to". And in that respect reporting by the mainstream media on any subculture really hasn't changed much to this day.

It's also ironic because if you think back to the folks that inspired Rock n Roll fashion. The famous Ducks Arse and quiff haircut for example, was an adaptation and then exageration of a hairstyle worn by Tony Curtis in his younger day. And of course the actual Rock n Roll stars, everyone from Bill Haley to Elvis Presley to Cliff Richard and The Shadows. Many of them (particularly the latter) could not have ended up being taken more to the establishments hearts, despite the suspicion it initially had about these gyrating young mavericks and their scary Voodoo music.

But still in everything from it's trad form to the many permutations such as Rockabilly and Psychobilly etc, the music and styles still endure, They say say Rock n Roll will never die and I truly believe it won't.

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