The First Teen Age

CZ Poster Portrait SM

in "The First Teen Age" Trapezium Gallery revisited post-war youth culture with an exciting archive collated by Brian A Rushgrove. Consisting of a display of press cuttings and memorabilia from this revolutionary time in youth culture, "The First Teen Age"  journeyed back to the 50s and 60s, documenting the press and public reaction to the phenomenon of the ‘Teddy Boys’, and their offshoots the ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’


In the 1950s the British establishment was in turmoil. One minute young people were clean, decent and orderly, doing their stint in the forces and paying lip service to God and the Queen, and the next minute they were jivin' around in cinema aisles, dressing up like peacocks and talking to each other in ways that bore only a passing resemblance to the English language. The statute value of all this unexpected newsworthiness was not lost on the Teds themselves. They revelled in the publicity thrown at them by a popular press eager to describe the enormity of the problem in such graphic detail that each and every home in the land could not help but fail to recognize the threat posed to the British way of life by the drape-suited alien hoard.

Teds ClippingsThe newspapers told them that the typical Teddy Boy was a wild, violent, aggressive monster who chewed gum, smothered his hair with axle grease, sewed fish hooks in his lapels and concealed about his person a wide variety of lethal weaponry, including knuckledusters, flick knives, bicycle chains and cut throat razors. Teddy Boys fought in gangs, threatened elderly ladies, seduced young girls and cut to ribbons anybody who stared at them in the street.

TFTA CM01Photo: Cath MuldowneyIn actual fact, Teds liked to be stared at, wanted to be stared at, dressed to be stared at and imagined that there was something wrong IF they weren't being stared at. Ignoring their audience or, on occasions, scowling right back at them, was simply their way of being cool. As their culture lost its momentum, splinter groups of Teds, linked by definite aims and centred around particular forms of leisure interest, music, fashion, cars or motorbikes, struck out in several directions. They each adapted elements of the Teddy Boy style to suit their needs, until the point was reached where they bore little or no relation to the parent culture.

By the close of the decade, the classic image of the Teds had become dated. They stood in the wings, awaiting the day when a new bunch of bad boys would take over the reins of power. These bastard offspring went under different names, each one enjoying a brief spurt of publicity as a copy-hungry media scoured the land to find a suitably sensational replacement for the Teds, whose ability to sell newspapers had made them hotter property than the Royal Family.



Brian presented his first exhibition in 1977 in Bradford and has since added more than 60 further exhibitions to his catalogue. Many have been in the UK, but he has taken his archive across Europe including Spain, Finland, Germany and Holland. In the time between 1974 and 2010 he has published over 130 articles in books and magazines on fashion, music, teenage crime and other historical aspects of the subcultures of this period. In the 1970s and 80s he spearheaded the return to a more original style of Teddy Boy dress.

Brian returned to Bradford 43 years later with another display of press cuttings and memorabilia from this revolutionary time in youth culture.

 TFTA CM02Brian Rushgrove (3rd from left). Photo Cath Muldowney


External Links:

Telegraph and Argus - Teds, Mods and Rockers celebrated in youth culture exhibition - Rock and Roll The First Teen Age A Teddy Boy Exhibition at Trapezium Gallery Bradford




    26th June to 17th July 2021

Curated By:

    Brian A Rushgrove

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