Culture, Fashion, Style

Culture Club: The Best of British Subcultures

Chavs and new ravers aside (the NME still have to answer for giving birth to those neon b***ards), Britain has produced some fantastically stylish subcultures in its time. From teddy boys to skinheads to ravers, here we analyse the style of our favourite tribes and the story behind them.

Highly influenced by the tailoring of Edwardian dandies and ’50s American rock ‘n’ roll music, this movement was a rebellious attempt at moving on from bleak post-war austerity. At this point however National Service was in place, and the army did not like the Teddy Boy craze, who tried to ban the suits and haircuts. This dislike for them didn’t stop there, as they were known to fight in gangs, which many papers exploited (much like the emo wrist cutting debacle), saying they went round straight up murdering folk. This image wasn’t helped by A Clockwork Orange, with Teddy Boys being the inspriation for Burgess’s infamous droogs.

1955: A 'teddy boy' gets admiring glances from friends. (Photo by Juliette Lasserre/BIPs/Getty Images)

It’s a shame that they’re commonly associated with a darker, idiotic side of British subculture, but the original skinheads are not the ones that are perceived in films it originally evolved from the Jamaican inspired Rude Boy look, with check shirts, drainpipe jeans and Dr Marten boots being introduced into the uniform. So no, not all skinheads are EDL supporting louts.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brian Harris/REX/Shutterstock (723832ch) Young skinheads on the Dunstan Estate, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, England, Britain Various

Photo by Brian Harris/REX/Shutterstock

The mods took a smart yet edgy approach to style, giving a British twist to luxury Italian tailoring with their skinny suits, Chelsea boots and Fred Perry polo tops, famously seen peacocking around London’s Carnaby Street. Yes, these guys also liked to fight too (see the Who’s Quadrophenia for a cracking dramatization of them fighting rockers on Brighton beach). What is it with guys in tight suits that make them so aggy? The mod family tree goes Paul Weller (modfather), Bradley Wiggins (the successful son), Liam Gallagher (his knob head brother) and Martin Freeman (the weird cousin).

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dezo Hoffmann/REX/Shutterstock (343417gd) MODS Various

Photo by Dezo Hoffmann/REX/Shutterstock

Colourful and chemical rave culture was at its peak in the early ’90s, most notably at Manchester’s iconic Hacienda club where acid house and trance had peaked. It was all about bright colours in shorts, sports trainers and oversized tees with branding and smiley face logos – and maybe a mouth guard if you grinded your tooth enamel into powder. But this was a new type of music for a new generation, so the clothing wasn’t as cool in the beginning, with people showing up to the Hacienda in the late ‘80s wearing suits with shoulders pads.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Swindells/PYMCA/REX/Shutterstock (3488482a) Acid House Ravers, UK 1989 STOCK

Photo by David Swindells/PYMCA/REX/Shutterstock

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