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What Is Rocker Culture?

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What is rocker culture? Is it something new, or has it always existed?

Rocker culture is a subculture that emerged from the 1960s counterculture movement. It has now developed into a distinct style of dress, music, and attitude.

Rockers often wore leather jackets, jeans, boots, and other clothing items associated with riding motorcycles.

They also listened to loud guitars and heavy metal music.

The following are some examples of rocker culture:

  • A group of people who listen to hard rock music.
  • A person who wears clothes similar to those worn by rock musicians.
  • Someone who rides certain motorcycles and dresses in a certain way.
old couple rocker wearing leather jackets with a motorcycle

Rocker (Subculture)

You may be familiar with the two groups, the Mods, and the Rockers.

They were two conflicting subculture groups in Britain, known to spark media coverage of fights between them in the early to mid-1960s.

Following this came a moral panic about the British youth, and they were both publicly known for their violence. 

The Rockers were known as motorcyclists who would wear leather and biker jackets, and the Mods were known for wearing suits and riding scooters. 

However, the Rockers mainly emerged in the 1950s and were known for being motorcyclists before anything.

In the 1960s, the Mods became more prominent than the Rockers, but there was still a rivalry between the two groups.

The early Rockers of the 1950s were also known as Ton Up Boys, as ‘ton up’ was slang for riding motorcycles at 100 mph around the area where the Ace Cafe was, in North London, and it was their known spot to hang out. 

group pf people in a concert raising their two finger rock hand

Cultural Background 

This subculture emerged as a result of the end of Post World-War II rationing in the United Kingdom, and the rise in prosperity and opportunity for working-class individuals.

This was as a result of credit and finance availability for young people. 

As mentioned above, the Rockers in the 1950s were known as Ton Up Boys, but the term ‘Rockers’ emerged in the 1960s as a result of their immersion in rockabilly music and fashion.

They also became devoted to rock and roll music, just as much as they were devoted to their motorcycles, which is what they were initially known for. 

The Rockers would purchase factory-made standard motorcycles and modify them to look like racing bikes.

They would race each other on public roads and frequent certain cafés as their starting and stopping points.

This is how such cafés such as The Ace Café, Ace of Spaces, and Busy Bee became known as the Rocker’s hang out spots. 

Due to their dirtiness, attitude, and clothing styles, they were not generally accepted into society and were not welcomed in many venues such as dance halls and pubs. 

electric guitar on a black background

Fashion And Music 

In the 1950s, the Rockers were known for their motorcycle attire. They would usually wear leather jackets, jeans, and boots.

However, these items were not necessarily purchased from a store or factory; instead, they were made by themselves using tools and materials that could easily be found in any garage.

These included metal latches, screws, nuts, bolts, and rivets. 

In addition, they wore hats, scarves, gloves, and sunglasses.

They would often use safety pins to fasten their clothes together, and their hair was usually long and greasy. 

They listened to music that was popular during the 1950s, including Elvis Presley’s songs, and they also listened to rockabilly music, which was a combination of country and western music and rhythm and blues. 

The Rockers also listened to American R&B artists such as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. 

motorcycle in an old garage

Café Racers 

One of the most famous places that the Rockers frequented was called The Ace Café, which was located near the junction of Holloway Road and Archway Road in North London.

It was here that the café racers met to ride their motorcycles. 

The term cafe racers came about in the 50s and 60s when the Rockers would visit these cafes while racing each other.

Now, a cafe racer is a type of motorcycle that has been modified by its owner to be faster and more aerodynamic.

These modifications include using smaller engines with fewer cylinders, lowering the seat, removing unnecessary weight, and installing a fairing or windshield. 

These are the types of modifications that the Rockers made to their motorcycles.

For example, they may have removed the front wheel, lowered the handlebars, and installed an engine cover instead of a tank. 

Rocker Reunion 

By the 1970s, the Rockers had all but disappeared from the UK, due to the rise of other influences from California, such as the Hippies and Hells Angels.

There were some rockers that remained, but they were then known as ‘Greasers’. 

In the 1980s, the Rocker Reunion Club was formed.

It was founded by a group of former members of the club who wanted to bring back the culture of the original Rockers, and within a few years, around 12,000 revivalists joined the club, bringing back media attention to this subculture. 

The Rocker look then influenced Punk style, and many Punk bands based their looks on Rocker fashion, incorporating motorcycle jackets and Levi Jeans.

people on a rock concert

Modern Day

Today, there are still many clubs around the world that follow this lifestyle. In fact, there are even websites dedicated to it.

The Rocker has evolved in the 21st century through social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

Many people post pictures of themselves wearing Rocker clothing, and the Rocker community can see what others are up to. 

There are also many events that take place throughout the year when Rockers get together for parties and gatherings. Some of them are:

Rockers United 

This is a yearly event held at the end of June. It takes place in the UK every year and attracts thousands of Rockers.

The Rockabilly Festival 

This is a festival that takes place in the US every year. It features live performances by Rockabilly musicians.

The Rockabilly World Championship Showcase 

This is another annual show that takes place in the USA.

Final Thoughts

Although the Rocker subculture has gone away from mainstream society, it is not dead yet.

There are still many Rockers around the world today, and they continue to enjoy riding their bikes and dressing like the Rockers did in the 1950s.