Portraits of Swiss “Halbstarken” Girls With Very Big Hair in the 1950s and 1960s

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Halbstarke is a German term describing a postwar-period subculture of adolescents – mostly male and of working class parents – that appeared in public in an aggressive and provocative way during the 1950s in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Later, the term sometimes described youths in general.

Often, the Halbstarken wore a quiff, jeans, checked shirts and leather jackets. Their look separated them from the other, more widespread, German youth culture. Mopeds and motorbikes were very popular and used for riding in ‘gangs’ (as seen in American movies). Because there weren’t a lot of alternatives, the Halbstarken often spent their leisure time outdoors. Their cliques met at corners of the road, in parks or at other public places. This behavior wasn’t appreciated by elder citizens and so they described it as “bumming around”.
These photographs were taken by Karlheinz Weinberger (1921–2006) who began to take pictures as a teenager and became a member of the Bund der Naturfreunde photography club where he improved his technique.
In the 1940s, he joined the famous Zürich underground gay club “Der Kreis” and began to publish his photos in its magazine under the pseudonym of Jim. In the late 1950s, he met young misfits on the street and began to photograph them, in studio at his mother’s apartment or during their trips in the Swiss countryside. Working all his life as a warehouseman for the Siemens factory, he devoted all his spare time to his photographic passion for eccentricity. For more than thirty years, Karlheinz Weinberger followed these young people, who reused the codes of Rebel Without a Cause and created inventive and provocative outfits.

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