15 snapshots of teddy boy style and swagger in early 1970s Birmingham

A very young Chris Tarrant mixes it up with Yardley youth, who waste no time in giving him their final answer.

Paul O’Callaghan
Updated:

Footage from Media Archive for Central England

In 1973, a strikingly fresh-faced Chris Tarrant heads to Birmingham to meet the city’s teddy boys and discovers that there’s life left in this distinctly British subculture, some 15 years after its heyday.

1. Shortly before he rose to prominence as co-host of kids’ show Tiswas, Chris Tarrant had a stint as a newsreader on ATV Today. Here he is in Yardley, Birmingham, to catch up with the local teddy boys.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

2. Although the subculture is synonymous with American rock’n’roll, the distinctive teddy style was originally inspired by Edwardian fashion. The bootlace or Slim Jim tie was a key element of the look.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

3. Another tell-tale sign of a ted is a pair of ‘creepers’ or ‘beetle crushers’, said to be inspired by shoes worn by British soldiers in North Africa during the Second World War.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

4. Then of course there’s the signature hairstyle, known self-explanatorily as the DA, or duck’s arse.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

5. The movement gained a certain amount of notoriety, particularly after gangs of teddy boys were implicated in violent racist attacks during the 1958 Notting Hill riots.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

6. But these teds insist that their scene is simply about music, fashion and camaraderie.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

7. They’re currently without a meeting place, following the unexpected closure of their hangout spot of choice, the Hideaway Disco.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

8. Dave here explains that most of his clothes are custom-made – a time-consuming and costly process. His wedding suit took 3½ months to be produced.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

9. The natty ensemble he’s currently wearing set him back over £50, or well over £400 in today’s money.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

10. Flash here admits that he’s occasionally laughed at by children for the way he dresses.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

11. Tarrant asks this chap what his parents make of his lifestyle: “They’d rather have me as a teddy boy than a skinhead or a Hell’s Angel.”

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

12. On this bunch’s relationship with the police: “They have enough to cope with without worrying about us.”

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

13. On the difference between teddy boys and rockers: “We take a lot of pride in our dress, costs us a lot of money. With greasers you’ve got a leather jacket and a pair of jeans, and that’s about your lot.”

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

14. Tarrant goads the boys: “I suppose you’re all very smart, but wouldn’t you fancy nice long hair and perhaps a pair of flared trousers?”

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

15. Their response is fairly decisive.

Birmingham Teddy Boys (1973)

Footage from Media Archive for Central England

The film and stills on this page are taken from Britain on Film, a digital archive of UK places that mean the world to you. 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to now will be digitised and can be watched for free on BFI Player.

Britain on Film is funded by the National Lottery funding and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

 

The Media Archive for Central England is the public screen archive for the East and West Midlands. An independent charity and company based at the University of Lincoln, MACE acquires, catalogues, preserves and makes widely available moving image materials that inform our understanding of the diverse cultures and histories of communities between the Lincolnshire coast and the Welsh border.

MACE logo

Read more

  • Britain on Film

    Britain on Film

    1,000s of films, beautifully preserved. 120 years of British life, unseen until now.

Read more

Back to the top

See something different

Subscribe now for exclusive offers and the best of cinema.
Hand-picked.