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There seem to be a lot of trends from the 50’s being referenced in fashion right now. They say every decade cycles back around at some point, and I suppose with all the stresses of our modern world looking back towards the relative innocence and simplicity of the 50’s is comforting in a way.

Teenage rebelliousness was just starting to come to a head. The sexual revolution wouldn’t break until the 60’s, but you could feel an undercurrent of the youth movement making it’s way towards the surface. Kids were adamantly pushing against the status quo, embracing a look and attitude that was highly influenced by the new sounds of rock music and American counterculture – from their icons (Marlon Brando, James Dean) to their hairstyles (I believe it was coined the “Duck Arse”) to their music and fashion (Bill Haley, Johnny Ray, creepers).

The youth culture of 1950’s London was where the Teddy Boy was born. Known for their signature drainpipe trousers and Edwardian jackets, this subculture was considered the first “juvenile delinquents” and while they were a very small movement in terms, their influence carried over into other youth cultures and rebellions well beyond their own time frame and geographic location.


Smuggling store-bought trousers to friends and relatives who knew their way around a needle and thread to have the legs openings tapered in to no larger than 15 inches – ‘baptizing’ new jeans by sitting in a bath and letting them shrink to your body, these were just a few ways the Teddys differentiated themselves through fashion. Long Edwardian style jackets, touches of velvet and a penchant for bolero ties (blame it on the influence of American Western films) were also signatures of the Teddy Boy look.


The Teddy Boy movement wasn’t confined to just the fellas. Girls itching to break out of the “humble housewife” confines of the pre-sexual revolution feminine ideal embraced the freedom and rebelliousness of the look and lifestyle in their own, slightly more girlish, way.


With their pegged pants, oversized jackets and bouffant hairstyles, Teddy Girls (and the Teddy movement in general) were the British equivalent of the American Greaser subculture of the same era.


Paying homage to the original rock ’n roll rebels, designers from Paul Smith to Nicolas Ghesquiere to Tomas Maier updated the look in more modern cuts (Smith and Marant) and interesting materials (Maier for Bottega Veneta and Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga) for their recent Fall and Spring runways.


Create your own Teddy Boy influenced look with classic BurdaStyle patterns:

Patterns from left: Jakob Shirt, Jason Vest, Osman Tie, Stinchcomb Jacket and Jochen Trousers.

Patterns from left: Jackets – Cropped Denim Jacket, Oversized Blazer, Marilyn Trousers, Skinny Ankle Trousers, Jakob Shirt and Franzi Vest.

What’s your favorite counter-culture fashion movement? Would you have been (or were you) a rock ‘n roll rebel in the 50’s?


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    Jan 9, 2011, 10.53 AMby popbabe7

    Great article and fantastic pictures!

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    Jan 9, 2011, 02.43 AMby lucelu

    It reminds me of the new wave romantics of the 80’s— the boofy hair, the drainpipe pants, fancy big jackets… Even the capri length pant on the women. We also did scaves/ and skinny ties. The Duckman! Remember The Stray Cats? Rockabilly. I also would steal clothes from my father’s closet— he save everything so I appropriated the deep colored dress shirts (magenta, peacock, emerald) he had. They were oversized and perfect.

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      Jan 12, 2011, 04.00 PMby mollyapple

      The New Wave look took style inspiration from the teddy boy look among others. I used to have a collection of magazine cuttings from the early 80s and amongst them was an interview with Adam Ant who was photographed wearing a teddy jacket and brothel creepers and discussing his fashion inspiration to include the rebellious 50s look.

      A favourite past-time of mine is browsing vintage patterns and more and more it strikes me how much of 80s fashions were taken from 40s and 50s looks as were more recent trends like the tulip and bubble skirts!

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    Jan 8, 2011, 05.08 AMby seazoo

    !!! This is so good an article! I did bookmark this just now :) Teddy girls… just my favorite taste* Thank you!

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    Jan 7, 2011, 10.05 PMby katensew

    If you look at my studio you will see many garments made or altered to reflect the 50’s. I have recently made a ball gown with bolero jacket that I will soon be uploading pictures of !! i got my interest in the 50’s from my husband ( who sadly died Dec 2009 ) and for whom I made a ‘drape ’ jacket and I later altered an old teddy boy jacket and waistcoat of his to fit myself when I attended a rock and roll tribute event. I used to alter trousers to a 14" width bottom as I caught him out one day having used my overlocker to taper his own trousers – and he made them so tight he couldn’t get his feet in !!!

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    Jan 7, 2011, 08.58 AMby momsgotanewhobby

    Please Lord, let them bring back cool colored or patent leather Hush Puppies with pointy toes! Part of the 80’s was incorporating the 50’s into our looks. I wore so much of my Dad’s old clothes then and when I couldn’t find what I wanted in the parent’s closets and stored boxes it was off to the vintage stores on Melrose. Those were the days (immitating the days). Cashmere beaded sweaters with my jeans rolled up and the oxfords, vintage argyle v-necks with men’s 50’s jackets. Buying tuxedos from the 50’s and glamming them up! OK I’ll stop now…Duckie fan forever!

    1 Reply
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      Jan 7, 2011, 03.42 PMby themisslinds

      I was watching Pretty in Pink while putting this together, had to show a little bit of Duckie love :)

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    Jan 7, 2011, 02.48 AMby enormand88

    I love this look! I was born in the wrong decade. Thanks for a recap of the style! Checking out those patterns for sure.

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    Jan 6, 2011, 11.09 PMby corinneski

    My ‘era’ was the sixties – Mary Quant was my fashion heroine, and Vidal Sassoon my hairstylist of choice. I have pictures of me dressed in multi-coloured shoes with low heels co-ordinated with shift dresses that had solid blocks of colour. It was comfortable and stylish. Ahh, those were the days …. (where have I heard that line before?)

    Love the teddy boy/girl stuff though. Great article as well.

    1 Reply
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      Jan 7, 2011, 03.55 PMby themisslinds

      what would i have to do to bribe you to post pictures of yourself from that era? mary quant shifts and vidal haircuts?! amazing!

      have you seen “two for the road”? not the best audrey hepburn movie but she wears all mary quant and even now, over 40 years later, she still looks so fresh and modern.

      i’m a huge fan of the mod look, i can’t wait for that to cycle back around again.

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    Jan 6, 2011, 10.56 PMby carottesauvage

    waow great post! Aren’t teddy boys the ‘nemesis’ of the mods as staged in Quadrophenia? Love the style.

    1 Reply
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      Jan 12, 2011, 04.21 PMby pinksalamander

      No, they’re the Rockers! I think the followed on from the style of the teddy boys – but drainpipe trousers and shrinking you’re jeans were Mod things, not Rocker thing.

      My Nan was a rocker :P She said she used to ride around on her boyfriends motorbike :P

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