MEET THE JUDIES…
We’ve been sucked into the world of the Teddy Girls through Ken Russell’s incredible images of the movement. Here is an example of a few of our favourites, taken from his photo-book published in 2020. Russell is known best as a director, but he had a brief stint as a documentary photographer, capturing these photographs in 1955.
The Teddy Girls were an extension of the ‘Ted’ subculture, a movement adopted by young, working class men in London. The boys stuck two fingers up to the upper classes by appropriating the Edwardian styles that Saville Row were marketing to young Mayfair men after World War II. Like their male counterparts, the Teddy Girls rejected post-war austerity (these images were taken only a year after rationing had ended in the UK), and typically left school at age 14 or 15 to work in factories or offices.
While their style mimicked that of the Teds, they wanted to make it their own. They adopted the masculine, sartorial styles but juxtaposed it with feminine accessories such as clutch bags, cameo brooches and straw conical hats. It was unlikely that the groups of Teddy Girls from East to West London left their areas to mix with one another, so what we see is the style being interpreted in slightly different ways. From long jackets and gladiator sandals in Plaistow, to pencil skirts and umbrellas in Poplar, to cuffed jeans and drape collar jackets in North Kensington.
The pictures depict two worlds at conflict with one another, the dandy, tailored flair of the Edwardian past, contrasting against the rubble and the bomb sites of the Post-War present. Russell’s directorial style in his later works is that of shock and sensationalism, which can also be seen in these images, as his subjects pose theatrically, framed by the rubble and war-wounds that remained all over London. Unlike photographers such as Cecil Beaton, who marched models into bomb sites to stage photos for the glossy pages of magazines, Russell’s images are honest, while playing on the girls’ desire to be conspicuous.
All photos belong to Ken Russell / Topfoto.co.uk
‘Teddy Girls’ is available to purchase at Donlon Books: https://donlonbooks.com/