chapter  9
Sounds of youth
Pages 30

I had on precisely my full teenage drag ... the grey pointed alligator casuals, the pink neon pair of ankle crepe nylonstretch, my Cambridge blue glove-fit jeans, a verticalstriped happy shirt revealing my lucky neck-charm on its chain, and the Roman-cut short-arse jacket . . . not to mention my wrist identity jewel, and my Spartan warrior hair-do, which everyone thinks cost me 17/6d in Gerrard Street, Soho, but which I, as a matter of fact, do myself with a pair of nail-scissors and a three-sided mirror that Suzette's got, when I visit her flatlet up in Bayswater, W.2. (MacInnes, 1961, 23-4)

Youth, or better, the 'teenager', was apparently a post-1945 invention. It was also clearly American in origin. Before then teenagers simply did not exist, 'You were just an over-grown boy, or an under-grown man, life didn't seem to cater for anything whatever else between' (MacInnes, 1961, 27). This, of course, was not exactly true. Public youth styles existed before 1945. They stretch back through the razor gangs of the 1930s that inhabit Graham Greene's Brighton Rock into the nineteenth century, to the London 'coster-monger' and the northern 'scuttler' and his 'moll': 'bell-bottomed trousers, the heavy leather belt, pricked out in fancy designs with the large steel buckle and the thick, iron-shod clogs. His girl friend commonly wore clogs and shawl and a skirt with vertical stripes' (Roberts, 1973, 155). But the fact that the teenager was treated as something completely novel and alien to British culture was also true.