The Teds

Chris Steele-Perkins was born in Rangoon, and moved to London in 1949. He studied psychology at the University of Newcastle, while working as a photographer and picture editor for the student newspaper. He moved to London in 1971, and started working as a freelance photographer, eventually joining the Paris-based Viva agency in 1976.

This picture of two brothers from Croydon was included in Chris Steele-Perkins’ first book, The Teds, and has since gone on to become his best-known image. The book, with text by Richard Smith, was a survey of the British ‘Teddy Boy’ movement that had begun in the 1950s. The Teddy Boys were the first mass expression of British youth culture in the 1950s, often linked with gang violence. It’s followers adapted a sort of bastardised Edwardian dress as a rebellious statement, and quickly became associated with criminal or antisocial behaviour. The look was adopted and adapted by the punk movement in the 1970s, from which the brothers in the photograph hail, thus helping the Teddy Boy style to span three decades.

Since its publication in 1979, The Teds has become an important document of youth counter-culture, as well as fashion, and helped establish Steele-Perkins as one of the country’s finest documentary photographers. Steele-Perkins joined Magnum soon after the publication of The Teds, eventually serving as President from 1995 to 1998. He won ‘The Tom Hopkinson Prize’ for British Journalism in 1988, as well as many others.

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