Teddy Boys

The Teddy Boy fashion of the fifties has its origins in an upper class reaction to the austerity imposed by the socialist government in the years following the War. Wealthy young men adopted the style of the Edwardian era. It was then just over forty years ago. Their grandparents, if not their parents, wore the style the first time around.

Edwardian revival

The original Edwardian revival was more historically accurate than the later Teddy Boy style. It featured tapered trousers, long jackets and fancy waist coats.

Teddy Boys

Working class youths adopted this style as their own. They created the classic Teddy Boy look. The classic Ted had a long jacket with a velvet collar. The velvet collar was a particularly important part of the look. The jackets were usually in plain material with blues or greys being common. It was during the seventies revival that the Teddy Boy look acquired the bright shocking pink, electric blue and lime green colour schemes, for example, as is illustrated by the seventies band, Showaddywaddy.

Teds wore drainpipe trousers and narrow ties, often with horizontal stripes. Sometimes they wore an American style bootlace tie as an alternative. Thick crepe-soled suede shoes, known as brothel creepers completed the outfit.

It was difficult to buy a suit in the Teddy Boy style. Ordinary tailors did not make them. Montague Burton, supplier of cheap mass produced tailored suits, was much more conservative. You had to go to a backstreet shop that specialised Teddy Boy gear. A shop such as Kenny's in Leamington Spa, which was down in a basement. A full Teddy Boy suit was also expensive.

"I grew up in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s. There used to be a menswear shop on the corner of Navigation Street and John Bright Street called Chetwyns. If you could afford it, they sold imported suits, jackets, shirts, ties etc directly from the United Sates and loose drape jackets cutaway collar shirts etc. Then in the early sixties the fashion changed. Most young guys got their Italian style suits from Burtons or Colliers, although Chetwyns did survive with the American look. I myself couldn't afford to shop there, but would visit the shop to check out the gear." Andrew Eves

See also: Birmingham in the sixties

Teddy boy hairstyle, early 1950s

The Teddy Boy hairstyle

The hair was as an important a part of the look as the clothes. Teds wore hair long, for the era. They used plenty of hair cream to get the style. At the front, a quiff was the favourite style. At the back, the hair was swept back into Duck's Arse or DA. A variation at the front was the Elephant's Trunk: the hair was shaped in to a sausage which sat on the top of the head.

The guy on the left has got the Teddy boy hair, but the suit is conventional for the fifties.

Denson shoes, early 50s

Ted shoes

Denson supplied crepe sole and thick sole shoes favoured by Teddy Boys. These Denson, right, from 1953, aren't the classic crepe sole brothel creepers, but show a Wild West influence.

Densons sold for 35s to 60s a pair in the 50s.  These cost 49s 9d.

Violence

Teds in the fifties had a reputation for violence. They clashed with coloured immigrants newly arriving in 50s Britain.

In the 50s, Teds from Birmingham and Coventry descended in coach loads upon Leamington Spa for "The Lights", Leamington's version of the Blackpool Illuminations, which were held each year from August to October in the Jefferson Gardens. There were beer tents and a band playing in the bandstand. It was a chance for Teds to show off their gear. After a few pints there would be fights between rival gangs.

The Teddy Boy was the first modern youth cult. Teds are associated with Rock'n'Roll, but the style came before the music. Rock'n'Roll was adopted by the Teds from 1955 when the film, Blackboard Jungle, was first shown in cinemas in the UK. They ripped up seats and danced to Bill Haley's music, which was played at the end of the film.

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Your comments on Teddy Boys

"All the pic's I have seen so far may have been how they dressed in Birmingham or up north, but in London it was different. The cloth for a start was stripped as a City gent's suit was. The taylor was for the most part Jewish from the Old Kent road or similar. Three piece, with a waistcoat made from the same cloth, OR Silk, off the peg. I know if you were in the building trade it took two weeks money to pay for it all.The only blue gabardine drape jackets were worn by some coloureds in Lambeth. Hope this helps." John Crouch

"Your referal to a elephants trunk in the hairstyle section is incorrect, and would get you a smack in the face from a Ted is you refered to his quiff as a sausage." Chris

Hi Chris, The reference came from 'Revolt into Style' by George Melly (p1970). The term elephant's trunk is also mentioned in other articles on the web. There is also a film of a barber called Cyril styling and elephant's trunk in 1956, see British Pathe News - Elephant's trunk hairstyle.

However, there is very little material about this subject. I would welcome contributions from anyone who was there in the 50s.Retrowow

"Hi Montague Burton back in the 50s had the reputation as it is said to make mass production suits. However this is not alltogether true, they made a suit exactly as you wanted, but was not broadecast by such as myself. You could go through there massive pattern books and design as you wished pick out style and details as you wanted, they then measured you and all went up to london including the material you chose. (I mostly went for 100 ounce serg) One would go back to the store once or twice to get final size and details sorted. These suits were fantastic in fit and quality together with a great Edwardian look. About two weeks wages." John Gibbs

Add your comments on Teddy Boys

"I would like to find 1950s Teddy boy clothing shops in London,Can anyone help" Patrick Flynn 03/06/2011
"they look fabulous in the rocking style because of ther shoes,hairstyle and cloths" bhakti dinesh hirani 13/06/2011
"i would like to know if you can still get teddy boy suits i used to have one when at school got married and seemd to have gone loved showaddywaddy" christopher collins 03/11/2011
"I was old enough for the tail end of teds. The look round here was more like a Mississippi gambler. Suits made to measure by Burtons, Weaver to Wearer or Hepworths cost about two to three weeks wages for an apprentice engineer." Mel 26/01/2012
"Colin Taub - Exclusive Tailor for The Edwardian Drape Society does Drapes. He has a website, just google Colin Taub.

All the best,

Otto Fuchs" Otto Fuchs 28/01/2012
"still a ted,always a ted.Ihad my first ted suit in 1955.i was 16 worked in a hot forge and loved the style,music etc.I had my suit tailored by a salesman who used to sell at the door,i ordered it unknown to my mum & dad utherwise it would not have been possible{teddy boy was taboo to my parents}.The suit cost about 5 weeks wages which was about 30 quid but well worth it, it was midnight blue in colour with a fine black speck in it,wish i still had it,it would look brill today at some of the weekenders we attend,dont know what happened to it as i did national service in 1958.i think my parents must have got rid because i had to sneak out in it when my mates calledfor me,all of them have since passed on.HAPPY DAYS AND STILL ARE FOR MY WIFE AND I,still rockin after 54 years wed.PS.I REMEMBER HAD TO PAY FOR SUIT ON SLY 5 BOB A WEEK,itseemed never ending." joe, wolves. 07/05/2012
"WHERE CAN I BUY TEDDY BOY DRAPE JACKET IN MANCHESTER" PJ 14/05/2012
"i was a teddy boy prior to doing my nationalservice, the suit was always black,a seven button drape jacket with turn back cuffs and velvet collar,drainpipe trousers with fourteen inch bottoms. the haircut was a tony curtis with a d a at the back." tom in egham 22/08/2012
"I am looking for Patrick Taylor,teddy boy from the 50's,please,someone?" Simon 01/07/2013
"dear sir, is there any possible chance could you help me @ all I have tried to find a tailor in Manchester that makes teddy boy drape jackets up 2 now I have had no luck at all what I want is a white 1 with black trim on the pockets & cuffs" richard hill 02/02/2014
"I had my first drape suit made by Burtons. It was a deep candy floss pink herring bone patten full length, and cost me £45. All done and fitted for the Wembly Rock and Roll show in `73 I think. Still got my next drape and still rockin`. If you wish to have a drape made, (better then off the peg), any half decent tailor will make you one." Mike Snow 22/07/2014
"HI
I am looking for a made to measure showaddywaddy style drape royal blue jacket in fife area Scotland.
can you please help,
thank you," George Buchan 15/02/2015
"hey,,i got my first drape in the early sixties,it was black herring bone with gold lining the truosers were drainpipe with raised seams,a black shirt and lacer tie blue sued shoes with two inch crepe soles,,the hair was two trunk curls at the front,swept back at the sides and a d.a.(ducks arse) at the back." will duncan 08/03/2015
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