Origins of the Café Racer - The Ton Up Boys
Ton-Up Boys were one of the most influential and widespread subcultures in motorcycle history. If you don’t know them by that name, then you probably know them as the original cafe racers.
Rockers, leather boys, and Ton-Up Boys — the same subculture known by different names — started appearing on the British motorcycle scene after World War II, when there was a general rise of prosperity in working class youths, the recent availability of credit and financing for young people, the influence of American music and movies, the construction of race track-like arterial highways around British cities, the development of transport cafes along these highways, and the peaking British motorcycle industry and engineering.
They would hang out at places like The Ace Cafe, to listen to rock ‘n roll on the jukebox — the only way you could listen to rock ‘n roll because they didn’t play it on the radio back then —, get a cuppa, work on their bikes, and arrange runs with clubs of other riders like the iconic Fifty Nine Club.
While the Ton-Up Boys all had a definitive look, with their motorcycle jackets covered in pins and studs, pompadours, and engineer boots, they prized being individuals, and found being a Ton-Up Boy to be a form of self-expression. They took what was essentially a sport, and turned it into a lifestyle by refusing mainstream society and rebelling against that which they did not believe in.