Saturday, May 29, 2010

Won't You Be My Teddy Boy?

Glass Prism, Poe Through the Glass Prism,  RCA Victor, 1968.  Near Mint $15

Don’t you love it when there’s that bizarre bit of coincidence when you’ve been talking to someone about some obscure subject and within a couple of days the same esoterica comes up again, out of the blue, from another source?  No?  Okay, maybe it’s just me.  I don’t know exactly why, maybe it makes me feel there’s order in the universe, but it gives me a tiny wonder-jolt every time it happens. 

It happened to me this week as I was contemplating posting about the Teddy Boys.  A day later a young friend loaned me a couple of records (thanks, Thurston) and one of them happened to be a perfect illustration of what I’d been thinking about, which is that when a fashion trend starts, there seems to be a constant need to up the ante.

I knew nothing of Teddy Boys (or Teds) until I started to read Jonathan Gould’s Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (more on this when I finish the book).  Apparently, John Lennon adopted the teddy boy style during his art-school years.

The Teddy Boys were part of a subculture which grew up in post-WWII London.  The TEDS quickly became associated with the emerging music called rock 'n' roll.  Teddy boys were young, often working class teenagers who wore clothing that evoked the Edwardian period (thus the name, Teddy, for Edward).  Drape jackets with velvet trim, “drainpipe” or “stovepipe” slim pants, chunky brogue shoes with huge crepe soles (known as “brothel creepers") or boots with severe pointed toes call Winklepickers.  Hair was typically worn in what was known in the States as a duck-tail, or in a style called a “Boston” where it was combed straight back and cut blunt at the nape.

But as the 50s came to a close, as with any trend there seemed to be a need to ramp it up and by the time the Beatles became THE Beatles, and forever altered the western cultural landscape, the duck tail had been replaced by the “mop top” and the sedate sartorial style of the Teds gave way to a peacock pseudo-Edwardian motif with colorful brocade jackets, ruffled shirts and ascots–for some bands, on some albums, at least--like the Glass Prism and the above album based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

It’s a given that any style distinctive enough to be cool will someday, in retrospect, look ridiculous.   Still, I’m holding on to my tie-dye, you never know when it might come around again.

Come on, let's all 'fess up, what's the most ridiculous fashion trend you've ever followed?  

I'll start, anyone remember palazzo pants, otherwise known as bell bottoms on steroids?  Let me just say that palazzos, 3-inch cork wedges and a flight of stairs that have to be navigated is a terrible combination when you're running late.  Fortunately, nothing was broken.

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