The Rockabilly style heralds, perhaps unsurprisingly from the United States. Is it the denim? The slick back hair? It certainly has that look that screams pure Americana. As a movement, the term ‘Rockabilly’ was coined in the mid-fifties, but it was seen as a derogatory term by the fans and musicians involved. It was a portmanteau of ‘rock’n’roll’ and ‘hillbilly’, implying lack of education and dubious parentage.
It was the blending of country and rock’n’roll that gave Rockabilly its distinctive sound. The style itself had been around in one form or another since the 1920’s, but it had finally found its voice with the emergence of the ‘teenager’. It seems strange now that such a concept was unknown in the years before the fifties, but until then, there was no sense of unity among the age group. Young people were just old people waiting to happen.
The film Blackboard Jungle is cited to have brought the idea of the teenager to the mainstream. Starring Glenn Ford, the film follows a teacher as he faces difficulties from not only his students but his colleagues. The film shocked some quarters of America, primarily because of the depiction of aggression by young people, but also the music of Bill Haley and the Comets.
The film drew rock’n’roll into the eyes of mainstream media, although its musical cousins, such as Rockabilly still seemed more alternative. Perhaps it was a snobbery that kept it just out of the forefront of popular misc at the time, being neither completely country or completely rock’n’roll. Rockabilly hits were often jazzed up versions of old blues and jazz standards, making the songs fun to dance to with wild abandon.
Rockabilly has never really gone away or died out, and has continued on through the 70’s and 80’s to the present day. It has even spawned its own off-shoots, including Psychobilly, Surfabilly, Trashabilly and Gothabilly. The Rockabilly look has been adopted by fashion houses and even children’s clothing designers have been inspired by this slice of American culture. The rough edged clothes and greasy hair is pure archetype of the 50’s teenager – once a terror to the fabric of the nation, now something of a romantic icon.
This iconic look is still very much part of pop culture now; Lady Gaga has appeared in full (male) rockabilly garb for her video for ‘You and I’. It’s a logical conclusion for the fashion industry, especially with such a fascination with vintage looks inspired by the 40’s and 50’s.
We’re forever fascinated by looks of the past, and there’s something about the shifting looks of American fashion that is forever inspiring.
I Dream Elephants has a fantastic range of children’s clothing and accessories, from brands such as Darcy Brown, American Outfitters and Rockefella clothing.