Chris Steele-Perkins: The Teds

Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins documented teddy boys across the UK from 1976 to 1979

Chris Steele-Perkins’s photoessay on British teddy boys will be exhibited for the first time in almost 40 years.

The Teds will be held at the Magnum Print Room from 21 September and forms part of the ongoing Magnum Photos Now series. The exhibition coincides with the re-launch of The Teds book.

Along with the writer Richard Smith, Steele-Perkins documented teddy boys across the UK from 1976 to 1979. He photographed them in dance halls, pubs, homes, car parks and seaside promenades.

Teds were arguably the first British youth movement. As far back as 1951, working class kids reshaped the tailcoat of Edwardian dress into a rebellious silhouette. Within a couple of years, they were being discussed in the redtop newspapers of the day where they were first given the monicker “Teddy Boys”.

In The Teds, Smith writes: “Out on the streets, you could still find the fights. Down at the municipal baths, there was the penny-in-the-slot Brylcreem dispenser. A quick white greasy squirt after a tone-up swim, the Ted could style his quiff, flicking and stroking with his plastic comb.”

A third wave of teds emerged in the 1970s. Led by nostalgia, they became known as “the plastics” and were documented by Steele-Perkins alongside the 1950s veterans.

“For pop, the 1950s struck a chord more resonantly than any other period,” says Smith. “It was the beginning; the lost innocence lies there. 1950s nostalgia provided Teds with an affirmation. They are remarkably durable.”