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Social-sub groups and youth movements

Note - This section includes what I have found on distinctive styles of fashion employed by various groups who wished to define themselves as different. As this kind of thing is usually to imply superiority this has lead to considerable friction over the years, ranging from fighting in the streets to all-out state sponsored persecution. These groups, being visually different and associated with particular periods in history or locations in the country can be used as time and/or place markers on a layout.


Technically a Jew is anyone who adopts the Jewish faith although the core of the community are descended from the ancient Hebrews, who called themselves Yehudi, which became Judaeus in Latin during the Roman Empire and remained as part of the English language as Jew. They left their home land (modern day Israel) to try and avoid persecution, but ended up stateless and vulnerable, suffering endless persecution (particularly in Christian countries). They arrived in Britain during the Roman period, and when Christianity took hold they suffered serious persecution by the authorities. Jewish people were banned from having a skilled trade but as Christians were not allowed to lend money for profit (that being usury) a law was passed allowing Jewish people to do so, hence Jews became associated with banking. Another option was wholesale dealing, although this really only became practical in the mid 19th century when factory goods became the most traded commodities. A few hundred years ago the English king ordered all Jewish people to leave the country, claiming this was something to do with his Christian faith, in actual fact he was wiping out everyone's overdraft (including his own) which all went down rather well with the general population at the time. Constraints placed o them over time, and the need to maintain viable communities, have meant that Jewish people are mainly seen in larger towns. In Europe the Jews were even more severely persecuted at various points in history, one particularly bad time in Poland lead to the adoption by the more religious individuals of the mode of dress of the Polish ruling classes. People wearing this costume are the only visually 'different' group but might be seen in any British town or city, particularly in those areas with a distinct Jewish community (the textile towns of the North for example), the outfit consists of a long black coat with a wide brimmed round-topped hat, often with the hair arranged in two long pigtails at the sides.

Distinctive Jewish clothing
Distinctive Jewish clothing

This style of clothing was widely seen from the time the railways arrived up to the 1950s, it has become less common since the 1960s as many of the people favouring it have returned to Israel to settle. In Britain the Jewish communities in London, Leeds, Manchester and other large cities have shrunk dramatically since the 1980s (due to emigration to Israel) and the black hats and coats are less often seen these days.


The nomadic Romany folk (usually called Gypsies in the mistaken belief they originated in Egypt) have been wandering the country in horse drawn caravans since about the 16th century, and continued to do so into the 1950s in some cases. These people originated (I believe) in Northern India but many of their traditions and art work (notably the castles and roses) appear to have developed as they passed through Eastern Europe in the 15th Century. They migrate along their own selected routes, ignoring national boundaries. Socially they have confederations of 10100 families which elect a chieftain for life (the title is not inherited), the women have their own organisation within the confederation, represented by a senior woman. They have suffered a lot of bad press, being regarded with suspicion by more settled folk, and many thousands were killed in the Nazi death camps in the second world war. They generally adopted clothing similar to the people in the region were wearing but were noted for being 'colourful' (especially the women), although socially conservative they have tended to favour sightly 'old fashioned' styles of dress. The really distinctive feature was the horse drawn caravan, these remained in use into the early 1950s, by which time they were increasingly being displaced by more modern designs, increasingly drawn by motor vehicles (although 'Gypsy Caravans' were by that time being offered as holiday homes, in Ireland you could have one with a horse to pull it for a touring holiday).

Classic 'hoop topped' Romany caravan
Classic 'hoop topped' Romany caravan

See also Appendix One - Road Traffic - Tramps, Camping, Caravans and Camper vans.

Teddy Boys

The teddy boys were trying to rebel but commercial culture caught up with them and they became fashionable, by the later 1950s they had largely disappeared as a separate group although there were traces of the fashion styles seen in young people dress. As an example gents ties became very narrow and many featured horizontal bands of colour. Most went on to adopt the American motorcycle culture of black leather and big boots, others went on to an Italian styling and tended to purchase the scooter, these went on to become the mods and rockers of the early 1960s.

Afro-Caribbean people

Afro carribean, African and dark skinned people, usually men, from other parts of the world have been in Britain for hundreds of years, mainly in larger port cities such as London, Liverpool and Cardiff, although they were few in number. These people generally adopted the mode of dress of the locals and assimilated into the general society, as a result although they were often mistrusted and suffered some discrimination they were not persecuted to any great extent.

Slavery has existed since pre-history and there was little public objection to the practice until the Enlightenment. With the opening of the colonies in the Carribean the British purchased slaves in Africa to work on the plantations on the islands, the Americans also used slaves and the slave trade became a major business in Britain. In 1803 the British abolished slavery in all their lands, largely as a result of the work of William Wilberforce who continued to agitate for the total abolition of slavery. The Slavery Abolition Act, ending Britains involvement in the trade, was passed one month after Wilberforce's death in 1833. The American Republican Party was anti-slavery and in 1863 the government in Washington abolished slavery, although the states in the south (which formed a separate country called the Confederacy, who's economy depended on slave labour) retained slavery until the end of the American Civil War in 1865.

In the 1950s there was a policy of encouraging people, notably from the Carribean islands, to move to Britain to take up jobs in the UK. They arrived in large numbers, often alarming the local population, natually they congregated in communities with people of similar backgrounds

Mods and rockers

American culture was strongly influencing most of the world throughout the 1950s and 60s, one aspect of this was the motor cycle clubs that sprang up. In America these were often peopled by young men who had found it difficult to reintegrate into civilian life after the Korean war, they took to riding about on motorcycles and evolved into the Hells Angels. In Britain the motorcycle types were originally known as 'ton up boys' as they tried to get their machines to 'do the ton' or 100 mph. This was pretty lethal given the machines and roads of the day but they relished their reputation as outlaws. The ton up boys evolved into larger organised groups in the 1960s, some styling themselves Hells Anges, most calling themselves 'Rockers'. All favoured loud rock music and leather riding gear although some also wore the sleeveless denim jackets of the American Hells Angels, with the 'club colours' emblazoned on the back. The clubs often had fights with each other but their main enemy was the Mod, the successor to the Teddy Boy of the early 1950s these favoured motor scooters, modern Jazz music and smart Italian suits, although when riding their scooters they wore a heavy US army parka coat (which had a wolf fur lined hood) known as the M51. The Mods often added a great many chromed attachments to their scooters, multiple rear-view mirrors, chromed horns and all forms of carrier frames were widely used. Crash helmets were worn by the ton-up boys, usually with goggles, but they were not legally required until 1971 and many of the mods and rockers went bare headed (for more on crash helmets see Appendix One - Roads and road traffic - Private Motor Vehicles). Both groups would assemble, the rockers at selected cafe's, the mods favouring coffee bars, which allows the modeller to add a lot of detail in the form of machines and figures without requiring movement.

Fig___ Mods and Rockers

Sketch of mods and rockers


They fist appeared in London and the style rapidly spread across the country. Standard kit for the skinhead was large lace-up boots (often combat boots but usually red and well polished) worn with shorter than usual jeans, revealing the boots, braces and a cotton shirt (usually a T-shirt in summer). In colder months they adopted the 'crombie', and expensive woolen overcoat, usually cut just short of the knees (car coat fashion) by skinheads and (in South Manchester at least) there was usually a bright handkerchief in the breast pocket of the coat.


The skinhead culture emphasised 'masculinity' and adherents were often associated with violence. Being smartly turned out seems to have been a large part of the culture in my area, the clothing was always of good quality, the boots were usually 'Doc Martin's', which cost more than most. During the 1970s and 80s skinheads spread to Australia, America and mainland western Europe and the dress style became increasingly associated with right wing organisations that espouse anti-Semitic and other racist views however not all people dressed in this way hold these views however. . Since the 1980s skinheads are frequently seen tattooed, often on their heads, the look apparently having become essentially the preserve of the more extreme groups rather than a mass youth movement.


The sworn enemies of the skinheads, at least according to the press, were the 'hippies', actually a diluted form of the American Hippie movement coupled with a fashion among young people to dress in a 'hippy' style. These young people were mainly preoccupied with the entertaining effects of psychedelic drugs and with a reputation (largely undeserved) for engaging in a lot of sex. Hippies wore brightly coloured clothing, often purchased from second hand shops and of antiquated style. The girls wore long skirts or jeans and the boys wore flared trousers. The press gave the hippies a reputation for not being clean, although my own recollection of the period does not support this at all (there again this was the same press that paid young mods and rockers to fight so they could have a story to print).

Both the hippies and the skinheads continued in existence into the 1980s although the clothing styles, quite fashionable in the later 1960s and early 1970s became less common in the later 1970s.



The roots of the Rastafarian movement seem to date back to an Jamaican black man by the name of Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) who moved to America in the early twentieth century and founded an organisation called the Universal Negro Improvement Association. He believed in aparthide, setting up several black-owned businesses (including the black star shipping line) and a newspaper called Negro World. He tried to encourage trade between America (largely isolationist at the time) and Africa and did quite well until he was convicted of mail fraud and deported back to Jamaica. The ideas he had promoted remained in circulation and the Rastafarian movement developed in Jamaica in the early 1950s. The basic belief is that the black peoples of the world are the reincarnated Israelites and the New Messiah had been the Ethiopian ruler Haile Selassie (this had a lot to do with Ethiopia remaining an independent country during the period of European colonialisation in Africa). The movement has spread to West Indian communities in several countries, although the original idea that all black people should return to Africa seems to have faded somewhat, the visually distinctive element is the hair style, the ringlets or 'dreadlocks' often topped off by a brightly coloured knitted hat. In Britain Rastafarians appeared in city centre West Indian communities in the early 1970s and remained fairly common in these areas for the following three decades.

Rastafarian 'dreadlocks'
Late 1970s Rastafarian 'dreadlocks'


This started as a music style, in protest at the heavily comercialised music industry, but evolved a distinctive clothing style and even a basic ideology along the way. It originated in New Yourk in the mid 1970s and arrived in Britain in the later part of the decade where the distinctive fashions appeared. These were quite visual, brightly coloured hair 'spiked' with grease or even super-glue and baggy torn clothing held together with safety pins and bits of chain.

Fig___ Punk clothing style
Punk clothing style

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