Yesterday afternoon in the centre of the quaint town Norrtälje, the silence was interrupted by the sound of ‘Let’s Twist Again’ blaring out from loud speakers from a car. The car was an old American brand, and had an American flag on the back of it. Two greasy guys sat in the front seats, elbows out of the windows and they cruised around the town centre looking pleased with themselves.
These guys are called ‘raggare’ in Swedish. This fascinating sub-culture in Sweden is related to the ‘greaser’ culture in the USA and they are known for their love of rockabilly and 1950’s American pop culture. They dress in 50’s clothes, grease their hair back and dig the 50’s sound. Think James Dean. Think Rebel Without A Cause.The ‘raggare’ culture is very much associated with rural small towns and has a working class, somewhat ‘trashy’ feel.
You’d think that would mean these ‘raggare’ are young, like in the picture above, but often they’re not. They are mainly middle aged, paunchy Swedish men who enjoy meeting and showing off their retro American cars.
Nowadays, it seems that most Swedes look at the ‘raggare’ with a mixture of affection, amusement and mild disapproval. However, when the phenomenon began in the 1950’s it caused moral outrage in Sweden. Mainstream Swedes were worried about alcohol, drugs, violence and unprotected sex in the back seats of the cars and many campaigns were started to ban the ‘raggare’ from cruising the streets.
There are many events for ‘raggare’ every year. One well-known one is the long drive around Stockholm, playing loud music and drinking beer to rub rural rebellion in the faces of the city dwellers. Another event is ‘The Power Big Meet’ which happens in the town of Västerås and is actually the world’s largest classic car show.