A subculture is defined as “a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture”. In the years gone by Britain has found itself with more than one at any given time. At a glance, It’s hard which is which and where each stand in history so I thought I’d give you a rundown of some of the more popular subcultures.
1950s: Teddy Boys/Judies
After the end of World War II Britain entered a period of economic prosperity unknown in history. This was brought about by the need to rebuild Britain, her allies and Germany after 6 years of Wartime. In the 1950s teenager culture began to change. Teenagers were tired of following the same path their parents had trodden before them, and began to express themselves.
Teddy Boys (sometimes known as ‘Teds’) and Teddy Girls (Or Judies) wore ‘Edwardian’ style clothing with colourful suits and drape jackets. These were often worn with a pair of flat shoes and a slicked-back pompadour. Judies and Teds came as a package, with the ladies wearing similar clothing except for skirts, clutch bags and broaches, which were unlikely to be found on the men.
If this were a family tree, Rockers and Teddy Boys would be father and son. The two cultures are very closely related and often confused for one another, but are very different in a few very crucial areas. The name ‘Rocker’ (despite popular belief) comes from a part of a Motorcycle Engine not Rock n’ Roll music. Firstly Rockers dressed very differently to Teddy Boys, often sporting drainpipe trousers, leather jackets and surplus army drill/ammunition boots. As previously mentioned Motorcycles were a big part of the Rocker Identity and gave the Rockers the freedom of travelling around the country as they pleased without the need of a drivers licence.
And if this were a family tree Mods & Rockers would be the brothers with a difficult relationship. Also born out of the Teddy Boys, the Mod movement incorporates fashion, music and art into its identity. Mods are known for their skinny Italian suits made by tailors on London's Carnaby Street, which made them look distinctly different to the Rocker’s battered leather jackets and worn out boots. Mods also wore their hair very differently too, most much shorter, cropped and combed forward. The Mod’s final mark of distinction was his scooter. Most popular were the Vespas, Italian scooters to go with their Italian suits.
It is often said the Mods and Rockers hated each other, due to the story of the Mods and Rockers at Brighton Beach in 1964. However this story has since been debunked and in reality most Mods and Rockers had a friendly rivalry.
In the years since many other subcultures have risen and fallen, but I believe those three are the most constant and still have very active members today. Perhaps one day all three will see widespread revival and if they do, you’ll know what to look for!
By Cian Smith