With their slicked-back quiffs and tailored jackets, John Lennon’s teddy girlfriends in Sam Taylor-Wood’s biopic Nowhere Boy (2009) are the rebellious antidote to the boys’ mouthy machismo. Teddy girls were the first British female youth group, and their rebellion has until recently gone quite undocumented. But with Nowhere Boy and an exhibition in 2006 called “The Bombsite Boudiccas”, which featured pictures Ken Russell took of London Teddy Girls in 1955 (photos above), film and photographing is shining a light on this bangin’ girl tribe.
The Teddy girls’ rebellion was generally crime-free, and purely an aesthetic one, something Rose Shine points in an interview the Times ran with old Teddy girls in 2006:
“We weren’t bad girls,” says Rose Shine, then Rose Hendon, who was 15 when she posed for Russell. “We were all right. We got slung out of the picture house for jiving up the aisles once, but we never broke the law. We weren’t drinkers. We’d go to milk bars, have a peach melba and nod to the music, but you weren’t allowed to dance. It was just showing off: ‘Look at us!’ We called the police ‘the bluebottles’ – you’d see them come round in a Black Maria to catch people playing dice on the corner. But we’d just sit on each other’s doorsteps and play music.”
Instead of getting pissed and causing trouble, teddy girls caused a sensation with what they wore, which was a fastidious combination of 50’s rockabilly and haute couture, resembling Edwardian era fashions. Girls combined pencil skirts and rolled-up jeans with tailored jackets, often adorned with velvet collars or cuffs, flat shoes, clutch bags, doo-rags and elaborate quiffs. Smoking, riding bikes, and kissing boys was the extent of the rebellion, but they sure looked good doing it.
On a slightly different note, check out my new Teddy girl-inspired Brothel Creepers from Underground. Beautiful but scarily disgusting all at one. By the by,
debates still run about the origin of the name ‘Brothel Creeper’. I seem to think its because of a popular Teddy boys song was The Creep by Ken Mackintosh – a slow shuffle of a dance that led to them being nicknamed “creepers”. If anyone knows if this is right or not, drop me a message on here, thanks! The creepers were also known as beetle crushers or crepe boppers, largely because of the thick crepe rubber soles, and the ease with which one could bounce around in them.
Creeper photos by Hapsical