And now … something for the ladies … (irony alert, irony alert – don’t throw things)… Seriously though, since we spent so much time in the last part discussing the Teddy Boys’ sartorial splendor, it’s only fair that we take a moment to discuss the myriad ways young women manifested as Judies. Let’s get two things out of the way at the start: Every Teddy Girl was a Judy; not every Judy was a Teddy Girl. Teddy Girls were a hardcore subculture within the Judies that actively sought to emulate the look of the boys – something most Judies didn’t do. And, just as there were middle class Teddy Boys – mostly newly returned squaddies, looking to blow off steam and not yet ready or able to throw some magic “switch” in their heads to make them return to “normal” – so there were middle class Judies: Sometimes as an act of rebellion against a suffocating and stultifying postwar middle class existence; sometimes as the sister or girlfriend of a middle class Teddy Boy, sharing the experience; sometimes as a frolic to alleviate their boredom.
But that said, the overwhelming percentage (90% or more) came from working class homes and families. Many were second or third generation descendents of working class immigrants from Ireland. Nearly all had left school (not always willingly) at an early age to supplement the family income, working as shop assistants, secretaries or assembly line workers. For that reason, there was a public notion of the Teddy Girls being dumb, illiterate and passive – which most were not. On average, they were much younger than the Teddy Boys, some, such as Jean Raynor on the preceding pages, as young as fourteen.
With the occasional exception of one of the braver Teddy Girls, they didn’t carouse with the boys (and, those conservative days, they certainly didn’t go out carousing on a “Girls’ Night Out”). The Judies of North Kensington depicted in the first photo frequented a place called the “Seven Feathers Club,” which had a jukebox and served tea and cakes. Such places were typical hangouts for Judies outside working hours, if not riding their bikes, shopping or out with a Teddy Boy, although on occasion a group of Judies did go together to a dance hall – often on the hunt for boys. There are occasional newspaper stories of Judies getting into fights in the dance halls over a boy, but their infrequency, and the relatively negligible nature of the fighting reported, shows that even minor fights between Judies were newsworthy events. It’s easy to see that the young women wearing these outfits thought them out well, and that they weren’t simply thrown together.
Each definitely makes a statement. That said, I have to ask the following: 1) Why does the Teddy Girl above left tie her dress shirt with a “crop top” style knot at the bottom? One sees this a great deal in pictures of Teddy Girls, and it seems an odd thing to do with a dress shirt. 2) What is it with the woven conical hats, such as on the Judies in the photo at right? They seems to crop up regularly in the early to mid 1950s, only to disappear without a trace later in the decade (only to be “revived” by Zoot Horn Rollo of Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band in the early 1970s). Given the usual sources for Teddy attire (Edwardian era, wild west, etc.) how did these hats come to be part of the ensemble?
Judies were not always as easily defined as Teddy Boys. Some wore trousers, some wore skirts and others wore quite ordinary clothes, but with Judy accessories. Judies wore drape jackets, pencil skirts, hobble skirts, long plaits, rolled-up jeans, flat shoes, velveteen ballet pumps, tailored jackets with velvet collars, tailored boys blazers, cameo brooches, scarves, Maverick string ties, skinny ribbon bow ties, espadrilles, and long, elegant clutch bags. They often carried an umbrella, which they rarely opened, even if it rained. Later they adopted the American fashions of toreador pants and voluminous circle skirts.
Judies would have one or two basic outfits (three at most) which they would then accessorize endlessly. They would even make and customize accessories, such as stitching something like a rose on a blouse, cover a clutch bag in a fabric to match their earrings, or paint earrings with nail varnish to have them match an outfit. Hair length was something of a bell curve, with a few cutting their hair to the length of the boys and wearing similar quiffs while, at the other extreme, there were a few who did a Gibson girl-like do or in a flowing feminine, “silver dollar do.” Most hair was well away from both extremes, slightly bobbed, in the fashion of the day.
In time, American looks began to influence the hair, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s we see a proliferation of ponytails, flips, bouffants and pageboys (I’ve found no evidence of Judies ever wearing beehives, but I don’t rule out the possibility that a few did). But in the end, what did it all mean for the Judies to do this? Exactly what it meant for the Teddy Boys themselves – a chance to stand out in a drab, and oppressively conservative postwar society; a chance to tell your so-called “betters” to go to hell. Conventionally, if a bit tightly, dressed Judies, with Teddy Boys at the Seven Feathers Club. Somewhere on the continuum between a Judy and a Teddy Girl, with cameo and a crossover tie.
In some of my very earliest recollections from infancy, I recall a few female relatives looking much like this. Judies could manifest elegantly, conservatively, playfully or in styles that were nearly duplicative of the Teddy Boys themselves. But they were always individual, unique, creative in a time and place that demanded mass conformity But their physical appearance is only part of the story. Next we’ll see how a wholehearted embrace of rock’n’roll by the Teddy Boys and Judies scandalized toffs, their parents and society alike, and became an integral part of their identify in the process.