It’s almost Christmas! Let’s not talk about it for once. Instead, let’s talk about how discussing fashion as elitist or frivolous or as a means of oppression by the upper crust is boring. I’m tired of that conversation. It’s an exhasted line of logic. Put it to bed. A few weeks ago, fellow IBC blogger, Matthew Lawrence, mentioned the problematic stance of the likes of Thorstein Veblen, who saw fashion as “a class war wherein the poor attempt to dress like the rich and the rich respond by changing their styles so as not to be confused with the poor.” BOOOORING. Too bad old Veblen didn’t live to see the era of rich kids dressing like paupers, the working class, and “artists” for reasons that remain unclear.
Granted, anything that becomes a self-contained economy brings with it its own set exclusionary associations, but at some point the “fashion-as-elitist-agenda” logic evolved from a frugal argument against the frivolity of lavish luxury (I’m still unconvinced by even that argument) and somehow entered the realm of general style. Meaning, why do so many people associate attention to style with snobbery?
It wasn’t always so. There was a time when nearly all people gussied when it was time to gussy. Men shined their shoes, got smart and inexpensive barbershop cuts, and generally paid attention to how they looked even if they ran an auto repair shop (a true story of IBC’s Thomas McBee’s grandpa). Women dressed for dinner, had collections of gloves for different occasions, and wouldn’t have been caught dead walking around in public places in pajamas. Now people assume you’re fancy if you just look like you can figure out how to not to wear ill-fitting pants on a regular basis.
So, in yet ANOTHER attempt to disprove the stance that style and elitism are intertwined, I give you the Teddy Girls. The Teddy Girls were part of a style movement that arose in post-war Britain. Teddy Girls were working class Londoners who worked in the factories by day and dressed in neo-Edwardian fashions by night… or by day when they weren’t working. They were often dropouts, leaving school at 14 or 15 to get jobs. They spent a lot of their time looking badass, smoking cigarettes, dancing, and perfecting their coiffures.
Unlike their boyfriends, the Teddy Boys, documentation of the Teddy Girls is almost nonexistent. The images in this post are taken from a photo essay done by Ken Russell and are nearly all the images that exist of this fashion-heavy working class youth subculture.
BUT WAIT! For this post, I have a treat for you. San Francisco mix master, DJ Bunnystyle, made a soundtrack for the Teddy Girls. I’m going to stop talking and let you listen and learn from the Teddy Girls that ALL people can and should be stylish.