The Null Device

The cars that ate Sweden

Sweden may be associated with supercool indie, twee-folk and fashion-electro these days, but the biggest subculture there are the raggare, essentially rockabilly/greaser types who cruise around in old American cars (bought en masse cheaply when America was hit by oil crises), dress in 1950s attire and fetishise a half-remembered, half-contrived 1950s rock'n'roll Americana.

While they started off as hellraisers, fighting amongst themselves and beating up members of other subcultures, a few decades have given them respectability; there are raggare awareness groups visiting schools, the government consulted them on import taxes for classic cars, and the Swedish post office even issued a raggare commemorative stamp a few years ago. It can't be said that the Swedes undervalue their pop-cultural heritage, even when it is second-hand.

For young Swedes, these giant American cars, which contrasted with the safe, boxy Volvos their parents drove, were the ultimate symbols of rebellion. And they were dirt-cheap. "They were stupid," Georg says about the Americans. "Some of the cars were limited edition. They built maybe 70 of them and they were selling them to us for a few thousand when they were collector pieces."
When the raggare have parties, they tend to have them in their garages: comfortable enough spaces, filled with pots of grease, car jacks and stacks of fenders. The more capable raggare jitterbug and twist; others shuffle from foot to foot, stopping occasionally to pull out the kink in a poodle skirt or run a comb through a greasy quiff

There are 2 comments on "The cars that ate Sweden":

Posted by: ctime Tue Oct 6 18:53:08 2009

Not impressed.

They should be listening to the Knife or Peter Bjorn and John, right?

There are a ton of people here in the states (midwest, Arizona) who could exactly be described as such. I highly doubt they would ever expect this type of thing to be going on in Sweden. This subculture usually is associated with the rockability, Tattoo'd, roller derby type crowd. The music they listen to is circa 1970's rock/metal (Frank Zappa), but it varies greatly.

Posted by: acb Tue Oct 6 19:14:12 2009

The fact that it's in Sweden, and all these rural people went to so much trouble to build up this 1950s-America fantasyland, adds an extra layer of cross-cultural weirdness to it.