There’s an episode of The Simpsons where fashionable women, dressed in blazers, trench coats, ties, men’s trousers, and canes, realize their trailblazing look is based on a group of women who had copied the Edwardian Dandy to protest against the idea of “good manners” in nineteen fifties London. Well, this has actually happened. The young fashionistas who created this style were called the Teddy Girls.
For over fifty years, this girl gang was banned to the land of forgotten anonymity. It wasn’t until the appearance of a box of photographic negatives from photographer-turned-filmmaker Ken Russell that the story of this subculture was uncovered.
“They were tough, these kids, they’d been born in the war years and food rationing only ended in about 1954 – a year before I took these pictures. They were proud. They knew their worth. They just wore what they wore.”
The result was an immediate counterculture fashion blended with social commentary and Rock N Roll.
The burgeoning feminist movement of the times was matched with accessories from a different time. A feisty attitude was built from a post-war childhood and adolescence. Broken cities and a devastated morale forced high society families to sell their couture for cheap. Platform shoes worn by the British Army during the Second World War, straw hats, brooches, and clutch purses; short hairstyles that would create the nostalgic obsession with Grease twenty-some years later; jackets, coats, and blazers from the early twentieth century would be worn by men and women who’d earn the name Teddy, based on their obsession with the fashion from the time of Edward VII.
However, this trend didn’t last long. It was quickly dismissed based on the association with rebellious gangs of the time.
The reason why these girl gangs of style was sent to oblivion while their male counterparts were remembered seems to be a sexist mindset. The Teddy Boys found notoriety after being involved in the racially motivated Notting Hill riots of 1958.
They wore the clothes of a social status slowly disappearing behind the working class: items once-belonging to their mothers and grandmothers, their fathers’ shoes from their time in war, the hairstyle of their idols, and the personality to rule over a broken world. But while the boys roamed the street corners looking for trouble, the girls worried about violence and sensationalism.
We currently see plenty of young women decked in menswear, portraying a fashion style that is based on social commentary, not unlike the original Teddy Girls.
Fashion has a way of coming back in a way that can be as nostalgic as innovating. It can remind us of a time gone by, or it can commemorate the strength of the people of the time. Check out 50 incredible editorial styles from Vogue that can give your outfit an extra touch of classic.
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