Anyone who was 12 or older in the years after World War Two will remember the Teddie-Boys, the Mods & Rockers and Bodgies & Widgies! They were a phenomenon of the period, a relaxation of the tense muscles everyone had suffered from for five hazardous years, an attempt to leap forward into happier times in the years to come, particularly on the part of the young people, who had just managed to avoid being sent off to Europe to ‘fight for king and country’, by the ending of hostilities!
The initial impetus had come from, not the working-class youths who adopted the fashion, but from much higher up the social scale, in the world of high fashion, itself returning to life after years of producing only stuff which had the ubiquitous ‘utility’ badge on the backs of collars and inside the waistbands of trousers. The highly successful women’s’ fashion known as ‘the New Look’ originated during this period, with its long full skirts, high heels and slender waists, enclosed in fine knits, many of them manufactured from some of the new fibres, invented during the war.
For the men, some high class male designer in Saville Row came up with the idea of recapturing some of the dandyish fashions of the Edwardian period, and produced a line of suits incorporating the short lapel with its velvet collar, fine check worsted material and soft, natural colours from that earlier period. Unfortunately, the upper-class men of England decided for some reason that they didn’t particularly like the idea, but at the same time the children of working class families thought it looked great – and so the Teddie-Boy was born!
It was the Teds (as they quickly became known) who fully developed the idea, taking away the quiet colours, and installing hectic blues and greens, in fine (cheap) fabrics instead of the tweedy material first envisaged – but keeping the velvet collars. They then added shoe-string ties and ‘brothel creepers’, which were shoes incorporating very thick crepe rubber soles, produced in the same garish colours as the suits. And off thousands of them went to dances and clubs, proud of their ‘gear’ and looking for fun and trouble, which they found in abundance.
Alongside the Teds there grew another group of young people, who preferred to think of themselves as classier and altogether more intelligent than the Teds. They were the Mods & Rockers, and the Bodgies & Widgies, which were two sub-groups within the whole of that culture. Mods & Rockers tended to wear leather jackets and trousers, with tee-shirts, and they preferred large motor-bikes as their form of transport, while the Bodgies & Widgies, (in England at least), opted for duffle coats, dark suits and ties, and pointy-toed Italian shoes. They liked to ride around on scooters, such as the Lambretta from Italy and the Vespa, made by Douglas in Bristol.
The M&R’s liked to indulge in minor skirmishes with their fellow sub-group, the B &W’s, in prearranged fights at popular holiday resorts, but these were little more than warm-ups for their major battles, in which they fought together against the common enemy, the Teds, more often than not armed with unpleasant weapons, and still on some popular beach, where they disrupted the peaceful holidays of numerous fellow citizens!
These were cultures which lasted for some years, until things began to settle down again and the youths who had been a part of it grew up and either went to university or got themselves one of the many jobs that were available then, in companies fighting to get back to something like their pre-war efficiency.
Of course, youth will always have its culture, no matter what the economic situation is, and that is as it should be, but I don’t think there has been another with such an impact on society as the Teds, Mods and Bodgies. Theirs was a unique period, brought on by the end of the war, and looking back on them from today; they really were innocent times, not perverted by the drugs and aggression we have to suffer.
Sadly, it was a time we may never see again.
Tell us, what types of groups existed when you were growing up? Do you remember these?