Members of the underground subculture inspired by rock and roll and American and English fashions, called “Teddy Boys,” once risked being arrested for their lifestyle in Greece.
Greece’s post-war years were marked by poverty, political turmoil that led to the seven-year dictatorship, and the struggle of young Greeks to follow the trends of European and American youth.
At the same time, authoritarian laws did not allow Greece’s young people to adopt the lifestyles of their western counterparts as presented in the movies or through rock and roll songs.
The behavior, dress codes, and hairstyles of American or English teenagers as portrayed in movies were admired by many young Greeks but derided by the extremely conservative society of the time.
Greeks of the underground were persecuted
Any type of delinquent behavior — or behavior that authorities could arbitrarily define as delinquent — was unacceptable and punishable. Rock and roll music was seen as corrupting by the Church and society.
At the end of the 1950s, some young Greeks tried to imitate American and English teenagers by wearing blue jeans with rolled-up cuffs, to grow long hair and grease it back, or wear suits like England’s Teddy Boys of the time.
Law authorities — for lack of some other suitable term — labeled teenagers with longer than average hair and suits, exhibiting provocative or offensive behavior as “Teddy Boys.”
Judicial authorities — also for lack of a better term — passed Legislative Decree 4000/1959, widely known as Law 4000, or the “Teddy Boy law.”
The law was first introduced by the Konstantinos Karamanlis government in 1958. Teddy Boys were considered dangerous because of their behavior, which was characterized as provocative and offensive by the government of the time.
By law, those who committed “disgraceful acts” could be punished. The police could arrest youngsters for these supposedly offensive acts and throw them in jail. But worse, they shaved the heads of the “offenders”, ripped the cuffs off their pants and then hung a placard around their neck and paraded them in the city center for the world to ridicule them.
The placard usually said “I’m a Teddy Boy and I did… (name of offense)”.
At the time, the most common offensive act by Teddy Boys was to throw yoghurt cups or fruit at people they disliked. However, in the late 1950s and in the 1960s, a young man dressed unconventionally or “hanging out” at a place where a policeman would deem that the “offender” did not belong, was reason enough for the Teddy Boy to be dragged to the police station for questioning.
The law also said that the parents of juvenile delinquents could be arrested as well.
Yet hurling yogurt at people you didn’t like became fashionable at the time and it was not only Teddy Boys who did it.
Yogurt throwing even became a game played in neighborhood streets or playgrounds. The phenomenon spread across Greece, especially in big cities, and it became common even on school grounds.
“Teddy Boy Law”
The Deputy Interior Minister responsible for security, Evangelos Kalantzis, was the one who first implemented Law 4000, ordering police to start arresting Teddy Boys to make an example of youths who might think of straying from traditional Christian and family values.
The first Greek youngster who was arrested under Law 4000 was Antonis Malandris. On August 31, 1958, Malandris and a friend were at Aello Cinema in Athens and they threw a yoghurt cup at a woman who had previously chided them for harassing her daughter. The press of the time described the two teenagers (15 and 16) as “audacious.”
The two youngsters were arrested and on September 3, 1958, they were taken to the Kypseli police station where they had part of their hair shaved under the supervision of Athens Police Chief Theodoros Rakintzis.
Then, they had placards hung around their necks and the police paraded them on the streets of Athens for people to scoff at them.
During the dictatorship, from 1967 to 1974 police would arrest people with long hair and take them to jail to shave part of their heads. Yet, as Greece finally arrived in the time of the hippies, and long hair had become fashionable, Law 4000 found itself on the back burner.
In 1983, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou officially abolished the anachronistic law banning Teddy Boys in Greece — a name which by that time was no longer used.