February 5th – Blue jean babies
They called them the ‘Blue Jean Babies’. And for a while, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they held most of South London in their grip.
These streets had known terror before. From Jack the Ripper to the Krays, there had always been something to fear. Something to stop you from going out alone at night, something for mothers to scare their children with The Bogeyman was real, and he had a name, and he was going to get you if you didn’t watch your step, be a good child, and do go out alone at night.
Nothing had prepared them for the Blue Jean Babies.
Nobody knew how many they were: they hunted in packs, sometimes in groups well into double figures. Where they cam from was a mystery. Easily identifiable by their uniform of denim jeans and jackets, you only wanted to see them from a distance. If you were close enough to see their faces, it was already too late.
The organised crime department of the Metropolitan Police was at a loss. Conventional methods of anti-gang policing were clearly not going to work. Informers were next to useless, and even their best men and women would be unable to go undercover. Because how could you infiltrate a gang whose average age was estimated at around four years old?
Mothercare was worst hit. Extra staff had been drafted in, security guards posted on the doors, but the Blue Jean Babies were too good, too fast, too ruthless. They were between the legs of the guards and wreaking havoc inside before you even had the time to work out what was going on. For a while it looked like stringing a net between the legs of the guards, tied on each side to the knees and ankles, was going to work, but field testing in Lewisham showed up one major flaw: how could you chase tearaway toddlers with your legs tied together?
Too young even for infant school, the average age of the Blue Jean Babies kept them out of the clutches of maternal infant school teachers who would smother them with kindness and pacify them with colouring in. Nursery schools kept inefficient records: it was impossible to know who was there and who wasn’t. A collaborative effort by shops and markets to ban the sale of junior denim only saw an increase in late-night containers arriving at Tilbury and swiftly moved on before the authorities could pounce.
And then, after a ten-year reign of terror, the Blue Jean Babies were gone. Some said they had simply grown up; others claimed that advancing technology and the deployment of animatronic teddy bears was the cause. Perhaps we shall never know. It is still the case, though, in several boroughs of London, that dressing your toddler in double denim is more alarming than a simple fashion faux-pas, and still has the power to elicit a shudder from even the most alpha of males.
Inspired by a prompt from here.