Today, the word rockabilly is thrown around as an adjective to describe everything from wedding decor to hair accessories. Most of us know that the term is based in vintage rock and roll, but how did it come to describe everything from Carl Perkins to cars to cherry print bikinis? The term rockabilly was invented to describe a type of early 1950s American music. A combination of rock and roll, country (or “hillbilly”), western swing, and boogie woogie, this music of the American south was made famous by artists like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bill Haley. Haley’s “Rocket 88” was one of the first true rockabilly songs recorded, and Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” was one of the most popular.
Young Americans - and The Rockabilly Invasion of Britain
As with most subcultures, the British took it to an extreme. 1950s British rockabilly fans evolved from the war-toughened Teddy Boys (and girls) in Edwardian-influenced creepers and suits, to the Mod-hating leather-clad Rockers. You may have heard of a few of these British rockabillies - John, Paul, George, and Ringo named their band the Beatles after Buddy Holly’s Crickets. Unlike the motorcycle-loving Rockers, American counter culture Greasers (or “hoods”) paid more attention to cars (and James Dean). Greasers also wore leather jackets, but in tribute to or imitation of the pilot heroes of World War 2. It follows that the Greaser’s girlfriends would also adopt World War 2 styles - in the form of the pin ups that the soldiers loved. The trend faded by the 1960s. In the 1970s, media like Happy Days, American Graffiti, Grease, and Sha Na Na led to a rockabilly revival. Though much more popular in England, the American rockabilly resurgence produced important bands like the Stray Cats and the Cramps. Rockabilly mixed and mingled with the leopard print, vintage monster movie love, and wild hairstyles of the 1980s punk scene.
The Many Parts of Rockabilly Fashion
As far as fashion goes, rockabilly style is a mix of all of the above; the Teddy Boy’s suits and creepers, the motorcycle gear of the Rockers, and dark jeans and western shirts for authenticity. For women, rockabilly style favors the fashion of the 1950s. Full skirts and big petticoats made from several yards of fabric were popular after wartime rationing had ended. Bold novelty prints like polka dots, gingham, hearts, plaids, and cherries were everywhere. World War 2 (1940s) through 1960s looks can also be found in rockabilly style. Think victory rolls and wedge heels for the former, and beehives and pencil skirts for the latter. Rockabilly may be outside of the mainstream, but it still exists around the world today - and Heart of Haute can help you dress the part! From concerts in small towns, to huge weekend events like Viva Las Vegas, someone somewhere is still rocking around the clock.