London Subcultures 1950-1980

London Subcultures 1950-1980

Between 1950 and 1980, groups of young people defined themselves as different through their musical, fashion and lifestyle preferences.

These 'subcultures' usually expressed a deliberate opposition to established ideas of morality and public order. Disenchanted by the staid conventions of the older generation, young people demanded freedom to behave as they wished.

The confidence of youth was partly based on prosperity. Earnings increased by 70% between 1950 and 1970, and young people had disposable incomes to play with.

Teddy Boys and Girls

'Teds' were associated with the rise of rock and roll in the 1950s. Teddy dress was a version of Edwardian-era dress. Teddy boys wore knee-length drape coats with half-length velvet collars, suede shoes and elaborate bouffant hairstyles, a pastiche of the wealthy patrons of Saville Row.

Teddy Girls wore full dirndl or circular skirts decorated with large appliqus, white fitted shirts, and scarves tied around their necks. Along with zoot-suited Hipsters and Greasers, Teds were associated with American-style rock and roll, and the British stars Tommy Steele, Adam Faith and Cliff Richard.


'Mods' or Moderns were fashion-conscious sharp dressers of the 1960s. Emerging in part from the jazz modernists of the 1950s, and partly from working-class traditions of competitive dressing, Mods aped the look of middle-class businessmen. They wore Italian-cut, custom-made suits from Cecil Gee and teamed them withpolo shirts and neat Vidal Sassoon haircuts. They rode Vespa motor scooters.

Young Mod women turned towards style icons such as the androgynous model Twiggy for inspiration. Frivolous or ladylike accessories were abandoned in favour of figure-hugging sweaters, mini-skirts and shift dresses.

Mods liked Black music and those who had grown up with newly settled West Indian neighbours adopted elements of Black styling and a taste for Jamaican Ska. London Mod bands of the 1960s included the Small Faces, The Who and The Kinks.

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