Drawing on ethnographic research, this article explores the contradictory tendencies of nostalgic subcultures which can be simultaneously regressive and progressive, reactionary and rebellious, as subversive values of the past can help improve present and future experiences. During the same decade that punk surfaced as a marker of discontent, another group emerged in England that signified rebellion not through the development of a new genre, but rather through the nostalgic re-interpretation of a previous one: rockabilly. This subculture has grown to international proportions over the decades as members continue to preserve the material and sonic symbols of a bygone era to express their opposition to mainstream contemporary culture. Rather, my purpose is to uncover the reasons behind their strong identification with the popular culture of the past, evaluating the importance of this embodied performance and the valued meanings it has in their negotiation of everyday life. This article explores how rockabillies validate these aspects of their subaltern identity through the three most obvious signifiers of this subculture: the music, the cars, and pin-up and burlesque-inspired fashion.
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Skip to main content. Teenage Rockabilly. Various artists. July 1, Listen Now.