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February 11, 2015

The Style Subculture That Time Forgot: 22 Cool Photos of Teddy Girls of London From the 1950s

Before mods, rockers, punks, New Romantics and hippies, there was a time when Teddy Boys and Teddy Girls were the dominant style subculture in London and the UK.

Back in the early 1950s, a young freelance photographer began capturing the fledgling beginnings of this new style culture. That photographer was Ken Russell who went on to become one of Britain’s most original film directors. Lost and forgotten until they were recently discovered in an archive, Russell’s photographs of the teddy girls and boys were among the first to document the burgeoning scene.

In 1955, the fledgling photographer created a series called The Last of the Teddy Girls, which featured photographs taken against the war-torn backdrop of London’s East End. The images are one of the first reportage series to be made of British youth culture, presenting pictures of working class girls in Neo-Edwardian dress—a fascinating counterpoint to their drape-coated and drainpipe-wearing male counterparts the Teddy Boy. The Last of the Teddy Girls also provided a rare and unique glimpse of a little recognized and under-documented subculture of austere post war Britain.

These quiet portraits—a direct contrast to Russell’s later bombastic directorial style—are an unexpected and exceptional historical record of cool. They document both the attitude and innocence of 1950’s youth and are an embodiment of the rebellious nature that Russell possessed throughout his life.


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