Retro: French Rockabilly

In the early 80s, French photographer Gilles Elie Cohen documented the lifestyle of two Parisian youth groups and their obsession with the American subculture of the 1950s.

The French-Tunisian photographer and documentary-maker met the Vikings in 1982, a rockabilly group of disaffected, ethnically mixed youths from the Paris suburbs, and started following them night and day.

The Vikings were obsessed with the subculture of 1950s American rock’n’roll, adopting the fashion, music, and party lifestyle. Their name was inspired by “Del Vikings”, the first rock’n’roll group of the 50s to include both black and white musicians.

The Panthers were the Vikings’ allies. They were a gang of predominantly first and second generation young West Indians, and had taken their name from the American activist movement of the 60s. The Panthers were the first gang of what is now considered anti-fascists, inspiring groups such as the antifas and chasseurs de skins (skinhead hunters).

The gangs lived a life of partying, concerts, drugs and violence, often frequenting the trendy Paris nightclubs. In time, they laid down the law in certain parts of the city, often clashing with other Paris gangs such as the Teds and the Rebels.