Ted Polhemus

Ted Polhemus is the author of the amazing book 'Street Style'.  Without the Hipsters, Teddy Boys, Beats, Rockabillies, Rude Boys, Mods, Surfers, Hippies, Punks, B-Boys, Ravers, Harajuku Girls – and all the other streetstyle originals – most of us would be left without anything to wear.  It has nearly 100 extra pages, including more than 250 compelling images, all in 224 pages devilishly smart. 
First published by Thames and Hudson in 1994, Streetstyle has been a revelation right from its launch at London’s V&A Museum. Born in London but successful worldwide, Streetstyle has now been distributed internationally.  Ted says 'i mention all this not only to underline my remarkable talent, but also to contradict those who would have us believe that appearance style constitutes a mere superficial irrelevance. Style isn’t simply an icing on the cake of culture; it is culture - generating as well as expressing the profound tectonic shifts of history.'  Here is a sneaky peak at a paragraph from the book!  'The history of streetstyle is a history of ‘tribes’. Zooties, Hipsters, Beats, Rockers, Hippies, Rude Boys, Punks . . . right up to today’s Travellers and Raggamuffins are all subcultures which use a distinctive style of dress and decoration to draw a line between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

What’s intriguing about this is the fact that such styletribes have blossomed and flourished at precisely that time in history when individuality and personal freedom have come to be seen as the defining features of our age. As Margaret Thatcher told us, ‘Today there is no such thing as society. There are just individuals and their families.’ And by and large this is something she was right about. The old groupings of class, region, religion and ethnic background have decreased in importance, leaving the individual free to pursue life as he or she personally chooses.

Why should anyone want to give up this freedom to join a group like a motorbike club? Or, on a larger scale, groups like Rockers, Mods, Hippies, Punks, Goths and Raggamuffins?

My view is that the tribal imperative is and always will be a fundamental part of human nature. Like our most distant ancestors we feel alienated and purposeless when we do not experience this sense of belonging and comradeship. It is no coincidence that the decline of traditional social groupings which has intensified so markedly since the Second World War precisely parallels the rise of a new type of social group, the styletribe. Hipsters, Teddy Boys, Mods, Rockers and so forth arose to satisfy that need for a sense of community and common purpose which is so lacking in modern life.’

“Streetstyle is my sartorial bible” –

Chloe Sevigny in The New York Times.


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