A Social Revolution?
The period between 1959 and 1975 was a time of great social and moral change throughout Britain. The most significant change involved the emergence of a new youth culture. In my day, the population had consisted of only two age groups, children and adults. This meant you were either too young to work and therefore went to school, or you were at work earning money and handling the responsibilities of an adult. …”the nation’s youth were already different to us”,
The post war baby boom meant that youngsters made up the largest part of the population in the late fifties and early sixties. They had benefitted from not having to live through the crippling austerity that we as parents had endured. This meant that the nation’s youth were already different to us, as they were brought up in a more affluent and stable environment. New technology, better living conditions, the safety net of a free health service and welfare state enabled people to live a healthier and wealthier life than ever before. As a social group, working class teenagers were able to find work easily after leaving school. These jobs were often well paid and allowed working class apprentices to learn a trade.
The youngsters of the sixties also had much more free time than we ever did. The introduction of labour saving devices into the home meant we as parents were less likely to require help with house-hold chores. The new generation had money in their pockets and time to spend it. So what were our teenagers spending their money on?. Unlike us, teenagers had little or no financial commitments. They chose instead to spend their money on themselves in the form of leisure activities, fashion, travel and music.
An influential sociologist named Mark Abram carried out market research on spending patterns of teenagers. He was particularly interested in the new consumer group that was emerging in the late fifties early sixties. Abram’s “The Teenage Consumer”, was the first sociological study of youth culture. This new consumer group that was emerging was referred to as youth culture and was predominantly made up of working class males. Abram’s, suggested that youth culture was developing in the fifties and sixties because of the affluence of the decade. One of the major purchases made by young people during this time was clothing. Fashions of the time both sprang from and had influence on the various youth culture groups which evolved as the decade progressed. American influences such as films and rock'n'roll music had hit Britain in the Fifties, giving rise to major subcultural groups with a common love for the same type of music, fashion and beliefs. A new group that emerged was the “Teddy boys”, or “Teds”. They were so-called because of their smart, tailored Edwardian style clothes. These first teenagers were recognisable not only on account of their outrageous clothes, but also their delinquent and sometimes violent behaviour. They were proud to belong to the English working class, and reacted aggressively to the influx of West Indians during the 1950s. “The very first moral panic with regard to a youth subculture in Britain was adult society’s response to the Teddy Boy”. The teddy boys were the first teenage subculture in Britain to construct new identities for themselves, paving the way for others to join the youth revolution. (Figure I) Mods and Rocker's at Clacton 1964
“Mods and Rockers” were the next big teenage subculture and they were easily identifiable by their distinctive clothing styles and choice of transport. Mods were mainly middle class students, who wore Fred Perry and Ben Sherman designer suits, covered by a Parka jacket and rode scooters like Lambretta’s and Vespa’s. They listened to a mix of Motown, ska and bands such as The Who. Rockers on the other hand, had evolved from the working class teddy boys, and wore leather biker jackets and jeans and favoured motorbikes. They listened to American rock...
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