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Mods and Rockers were the first post-war style-based subcultures of Europe. The Mod lifestyle was based around fashion and music that developed in London in the late 1950s. Mods showed an affinity for scooters, such as the Italian Vespas. Rockers favoured American rock and roll music by artists like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and early Elvis Presley. Dress style was dominated by leather jackets, Levi's jeans, biker boots and the ubiquitous James Dean quiff. Motorbikes were also integral to the scene, with British brands Triumph and Norton being favourites.

Related: fashion - music - style - subculture - Swinging London - UK - biker - youth movement

Contrast with: Mods

James Dean, photocredit unknown


Rockers, often defined in opposition to their famous antitheses, the Mods, were British youths driven by 1950s-era rock and roll. The Rocker movement arose from a modernisation of the Teds, or Teddy Boys of the 1950s. These youths favoured American rock and roll music by artists like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and early Elvis Presley. Dress style was dominated by leather jackets, Levi's jeans, biker boots and the ubiquitous James Dean quiff. Motorbikes were also integral to the scene, with British brands Triumph and Norton being favourites. The Rocker's look was later adopted by many Punk bands and is today an influence on the Rockabilly Revival and Psychobilly scenes.

Today, revivals exist of several of these music/fashion sub-cultures, with the modern day Rocker style having followings all over the world. Emphasis of the Rocker fashion is rooted in the look that began in the 1950s through the 1960s, with the turned-up Levi Jeans and leather motorcycle jacket. This fashion has minute details that are followed and usually only noticed by other Rockers. Example of this would be the Esso Man key chain and the Club 59 patches adorning the motorcycle jacket. Also making a show is the white tube socks that are folded over the top of the motorcycle boots, usually worn with leather trousers. The Rocker of the 21st century has evolved from its humble working class British beginnings more than 40 years ago and so has the fashion, Winkle Picker shoes are no longer used and in its place the famed Dr Martens boots usually in an 8-hole. Also Creeper shoes have worked themselves back into play, originally worn by the Teds of the 1950s. To complete the look, no Rocker would ever be seen on any motorcycle other than a classic "cafe-racer" styled British Triumph or Norton, usually from the 1960s, as this was the heyday of the British motorcycle industry.

Always unique looking as a stand alone and tough looking among a crowd of fellow rockers, this is a sub-culture that persists to this day, not to be confused with similar looking Rockabillys, Psychobillys, Punks or Greasers, it's all about the bike for a true Rocker. And a true Rocker will always be seen wearing a classic style "pudding-basin" helmet made by Davida. As for music, even though modern-day Rockers respect and enjoy old-time Rockabilly like Eddie Cochran and Elvis Presley, as well as the revival Rockabilly sound popularized by the Stray Cats. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockers [Jun 2005]


Rockabilly is the earliest form of rock and roll as a distinct style of music. It is a fusion of blues, hillbilly boogie, bluegrass music and country music, and its origins lie in the American South. As Peter Guralnick writes, "Its rhythm was nervously uptempo, accented on the offbeat, and propelled by a distinctively slapping bass....The sound was further bolstered by generous use of echo, a homemade technique refined independently by Sam Phillips and Leonard Chess in Chicago with sewer pipes and bathroom acoustics." While recording artists such as Bill Haley were playing music that fused rhythm and blues, western swing and country music in the early 1950s, and Tennessee Ernie Ford performed in a somewhat similar style on songs such as "Smokey Mountain Boogie," they were not playing rockabilly. As Nick Tosches writes, "By the early 1950s, it was not uncommon to encounter simultaneous country and rhythm-and-blues recordings of the same song." And he points out that the Delmore Brothers and Hank Williams were performing, in the late 1940s, music that could be called rock and roll. But rockabilly was a stripped-down version of its various sources, and thus a specific stylistic moment in the evolution of music that before had existed in many forms. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockabilly [Apr 2005]

Teddy Boy (youth culture)

The Teddy Boy youth culture first emerged in Britain during the early 1950s, and was strongly associated with American rock and roll music of the period.

It was typified by young men wearing clothes inspired by those of the Edwardian period which Saville Row Tailors had tried to re-introduce after WW2: "Edward" being shortened to Ted after a Daily Express headline in 1953 first coined the term 'Teddy Boy', a term which stuck.

Clothing consisted of long drape jackets, usually in dark shades sometimes with velvet trim, high waisted 'drainpipe' trousers, chunky brogues and later large crepe-soled shoes, often suede (sometimes nicknamed 'brothel creepers'). A high necked loose 'Mr B'collar on a white shirt (as worn by jazz musiciam Billy Eckstine)was set off with a narrow 'Slim Jim' tie and floral brocade waistcoat. In the main these clothes were tailor made at great expense through many weekly instalments. Preferred hairstyles included long, strongly moulded greased-up hair with a quiff combed back to form a 'DA' (duck's arse) at the rear of the head.

'Teddy girls' adopted a style similar the the lads: drapes complete with pencil skirts but also adopted American fashions: toreador pants and voluminous circle skirts, wearing their hair in ponytails.

As with some other youth culture movements, groups of 'Teds' sometimes formed gangs and enjoyed notoriety following violent clashes with rival gangs, seized upon and aften exaggerated by the popular press. The most notable of which was the infamous Notting Hill Riot of 1958 where police broke up youths attacking West Indian immigrants who had recently emigrated to London. As with most other youth cults however, most were attracted by the clothes and music rather than violence.

In the 1960s, many teddy boys became 'rockers'. During the 1970s, rockabilly music enjoyed a brief period of popularity and saw a resurgence of interest in 'Teddy boy' fashions, but often in much louder pastel colours. In the late 1970's the new generation of Teds became the arch enemies of the Punk Rockers. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_Boy_%28youth_culture%29 [Jun 2005]


Greasers is a subculture that started in the 1950s and continued through the mid-1960s. The name derives from the heavy use of hair grease. In the 1950s the greasers were rebellious, forming gangs and riding motorcycles. Music of the greaser's was rockabilly, Elvis and other "rebellious" music of the era. Their fashion style of leather jackets and denim jeans was inspired by Marlon Brando's The Wild One. Later movies and television programs glorifying greasers would include The Lords Of Flatbush (1974), the Happy Days series (1974-1984), the Grease duo (1978; 1982) and The Outsiders (1983).

Worthy of mentioning is the fact that the Greaser sub-culture was largely an American youth phenomenom, where as the British equivilant would be the Teds or Teddy Boys of the 1950's, although leather and motorcycles were not part of the Teds culture it was part of the Ton-Up Boys culture of the same era.

The 1960s British parallel to the Greaser would be the Rocker. Rockers evolved from the Ton-Up Boys and Teddy Boys ("Teds") of the previous decade.

Today there are recurrent revivals all over the world of these infamous music/fashion sub-cultures. Just as Punk and Rockabilly continue on to this day, movies like American Graffiti and Grease saw the Greaser culture revive in the late 1970s and remain popular to this day. For the modern-day Rocker it's all about the right look, music and the ever present British motorcycle. For the modern-day Greaser, it's all about the fashion, the music and classic American "Hot-Rod" cars. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greasers [Jun 2005]

In a reggae context

Rockers is a style of Reggae beat that originated in the mid-1970s. Unlike the earlier "one drop" style which has the bass drum play on the 3rd beat of every measure, in a rockers beat the bass drum plays on all four beats of the measure, like the bass drum in a disco beat. In fact, this beat probably influenced the sound of disco music.

Rockers Reggae is a sub-genre of Reggae music popular in the mid to late 1970s, existing simultaneously with (now more widely recognised) sub-genres Roots and Dub. The name is derived from the Rockers sound system, owned by Dub legend Augustus Pablo. Rockers is also sometimes known as Lover's Rock, referring to the romantic subject matter prevalent in some artists' work. Important artists and bands include Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy, Black Uhuru, Junior Murvin and Dennis Brown. Rockers Reggae was also the sub-genre played by British-Jamaican groups Steel Pulse, Aswad and Matumbi. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockers_reggae [Jun 2005]

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