In early modern London, gesture, demeanour and manners embodied the hierarchies of gender and status. An archive of litigation between male and female apprentices and their masters and mistresses offers a way to reconstruct the performances of power and submission in urban working households. Young men manifested all the misbehaviours of urban youth, both troublesome and central to the performance of masculinity; society expected them to display a subordination that was temporary. For a few young women, the contract of apprenticeship offered a route to independent labour. In learning the competence and assertiveness required for the marketplace, these women needed to manifest the internalized manners of a proper woman. When apprenticeships broke down, employers, fellow apprentices and neighbours painstakingly tracked and criticized the errors of demeanour and conduct on both sides. The resulting narratives give us a new insight into the meaning of early modern work.