The Teddy Boys were a study in contrast — a cocktail of formal styling and vulgarity, poured together and shaken up violently.
The youth culture emerged shortly after the birth of the concept of the “teenager” sweeping the U.K. in the 1950s. Instantly recognizable in their Edwardian-influenced dress, they pushed against post-World War II society with flamboyance and hyper-masculinity. They favored luxe fabrics cut into sharp suits, tied it together with a bootlace or thin tie, and whipped their hair into resplendent quiffs. And as they gained a reputation for violence, donning the look could be grounds for being thrown out of an establishment.
Photographer Chris Steele-Perkins of Magnum Photos remembered witnessing their first wave as a child. “Each town had its own Teds who hung around on street corners smoking and sort of grunting at people. My father would rail against them and threaten to turn me over to them if I didn’t behave myself,” he said.
Two decades later, Steele-Perkins was commissioned by New Society magazine to cover the phenomenon. He first published his work in “Teds” in 1979, and it was reissued by Dewi Lewis Publishing in 2016.
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