Pioneers of juvenile delinquency. In Paris, no less. Urban, working class and young, they were known for their flamboyant dress, black jackets over bright colored shirts, with a silk scarf, and “tummy-ache” pants. The name was attributed to a French journalist, reflecting the European perception of the savagery of the Native American tribe. French historian Michelle Perot described the Apache as “an intellectual anarchist, he considers theft to be fair restitution and practices ‘individual recovery’ on the bourgeois.”
Britain’s men in black of the 1930’s. They were the militia of Oswald Mosley’s New Party of the early 1930’s. Originally founded by former Labour Party members as an answer to the Depression, Mosley eventually gravitated toward fascism. Dressed from head to toe in black, the biff boys, recruited mostly from among the disaffected young in London, were charged with “maintaining discipline” at Mosley’s fascist gatherings. This often involved clashes with protesters.
Teenage girls who were fans of swing and big band music in the 1940’s. These girls were regulars at dances and since many of those dances happened in gyms where you had to take your shoes off they danced in their bobby socks. In addition to the socks these girls likely wore skirts and sweaters and the footwear they discarded were most often saddle shoes. Frank Sinatra could make a bobby soxer swoon.
Boxcar boys (and girls)
The kids who left home during the Depression and started riding the rails. Mostly they were boys and of the girls who joined them, many would dress as boys. They were a product of the Depression. With no job, no food and a family that might have lost their homes and moved into increasingly cramped quarters, these teens hopped freight trains in hope of finding some work picking fruit, harvesting grain or chopping lumber.
The feminine persona of the Roaring 20’s. Flappers listened to jazz. They also drank, smoked, drove cars and wore a lot of makeup. Short skirts and bobbed hair was the signature style of the flappers. Author Jon Savage (Teenage) calls flappers the “first mass female adolescent generation.” They were sexy and flirtatious and as such represented something of a liberation from the traditional perception of the female teenager.
The term was part of the jive language for the 1940’s version of hipster. An icky was someone who wasn’t very hip. Someone who just doesn’t get it. Getting it involved being a part of swing culture with its zoot suits and bobby socks and jitterbugging. The icky was perhaps a predecessor of the modern day nerd.
One who did the jitterbug, which was the dance you did to swing music. You might wear a zoot suit to jitterbug or you might wear bobby socks. Variations of the jitterbug included the Lindy Hop, the Jive and the East Coast Swing. The term jitterbug was popularized by Cab Calloway. He issued a recording called “Call of the Jitterbug” and later a film titled “Cab Calloway’s Jitterbug Party.”
Today Neo-Pagans are associated with spiritual movements, usually involving some type of magic or witchcraft. In the early 20th century, the neo-Pagans were a group of privileged young British intellectuals whose distinction was in defying Victorian customs. For example, male and female neo-Pagans freely intermingled, although they preached abstinence. They were socialist, some were vegetarian and they espoused a sort of Peter Pan like forever young philosophy. Apparently the movement died before it got old.
Pachucos and Pachucas
Latino zoot suiters of the 40’s. But since they were mostly Mexican-American youth who were the children of poor immigrants, the public perception was of a gang of dangerous delinquents. Boys and girls alike donned zoot suits. The Pachucos added triple sole shoes and sported a long slicked back duck tail. Pachucas went for a heavy dose of dark red lipstick and black mascara. They were also the primary victims of the 1943 zoot suit riots in which servicemen would attack, beat and “depants” pachucos in Los Angeles, Oakland and Venice, Calif.
Members of Sub-Deb clubs, social groups of teenage girls that were popular in the middle of the decade. You might think of them as a high school version of sorority sisters. They set the standard for high school style and behavior and focused on the achievement of popularity. You would likely find them hanging out at the drugstore. They were generally an upper middle class group that were heavily into consumption.
Short for Victory Girls. During World War II with men off to war and women off to the factories these often unattended teenage girls made their contribution to the war effort by entertaining soldiers and sailors. That might not have always involved sex, but usually it did. An organization called the American Social Hygiene Association described V-girls as “sexual delinquents of a non-commercial character.” Countries in Western Europe experienced some of the same resulting increases in venereal disease and out-of-wedlock births as the U.S. did during the war years, but only the Americans tried to frame it in a veil of patriotism.
The Cambridge dictionary defines wide boy by as “a man who is dishonest and decieves people in way he does business.” The British term was first used in a 1930’s novel “Wide Boys Never Work.” That is, of course, because they were crooks of one sort or another. Wide Boys were most likely found in the Soho and Paddington sections of London and they included racetrack gangsters, prostitutes and the gay and Jewish undergrounds.
French zoot suiters. Came into being during World War II. Like their American counterparts they had a distinct style of dress including garish and oversized clothes. The women wore short skirts, striped stockings and carried umbrellas. And, like the zoot suiters they danced to swing. The zazous are viewed by historians as a way that young people in France expressed their resistance to the Nazi occupation. As the war years went on they became the targets of attacks by fascist youth organizations.
Folks who wore zoot suits. That includes the Pachucos, the Jitterbugs, the Zazous and the bobby soxers’ dates and dance partners. It was the preferred uniform of swing music afficionados. The zoot suit included an oversized jacket called a king coat, and wide legged, pegged pants and it was often topped with a fedora. The style originated in America’s black and Latino communities and went mainstream along with the music it is associated with.