The modern style of Teddy Boy

A new range of casual, comfortable clothes for boys aged five to 12, cleverly marketed by the elusive Ted Baker, seems set to cash in on a new phenomenon: fashion-conscious children. By Melanie Rickey Photographs by Heather Favell
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Daddy, don't tuck your shirt into those trousers, it's so uncool." These could be the words of a seven-year-old: there is a generation of children today that are more fashion-literate than their young parents have ever been. The average seven-year-old boy will have strong opinions not only about the shirt he - or you - should be wearing, but also about how to wear it. His parents are not obsessed by fashion, but they dress well. They don't wear designer labels, but their son knows all the names: Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith, Calvin Klein, Versace. And next week, a new name will be on his lips: Teddy Boy.

Teddy Boy is the new boys' line for five- to 12-year-olds from Ted Baker, purveyor of fabulous shirts to men up and down the country. The business started in Glasgow in 1988. Two weeks before the first shop opened (there are now 13), a mysterious cartoon strip appeared in the Glasgow Evening Herald. It was a clever bit of publicity that featured an elusive character called Ted Baker. When the shop actually opened, people were saying, "Oh yeah, I know Ted Baker."

The man himself may be no more than a cartoon character, but Ted Baker's elusiveness has proved to be the making of the brand. Once you recognise its total disregard for advertising and product placement, and begin to notice the number of men who wear the shirts, you get the point. Men buy the clothes because they like them.

The Teddy Boy range is being launched next week, just as parents begin to dread the back-to-school demands of their children. Increasingly, children of junior-school age don't wear a uniform; instead, they need clothes that are hard-wearing, practical and fashionable. The point-of-sale catch- line is "No ordinary hand-me-down"; the idea is that a boy can wear clothes just like the ones his big brother or even his dad wears.

The range is a scaled-down version of the men's collection, with a selection of shirts in checks and all the colours of the rainbow; bright sweatshirts in lime green, electric blue, red and yellow; and navy fleece jackets with pouch pockets and matching, jogger-style trousers. Zip-up Harrington jackets featuring the Ted Baker logo come in navy and beige, and are mini replicas of jackets in the men's collection. Ray Kelvin, who describes himself as "the man closest to Ted", says: "I'm deliberately keeping the collection small. I want to find out what the kids need as I go along, not bombard them with stuff."

So there are also jeans, but only in one style, made with Tencel to make them durable and smooth to the touch. They are designed with the rigours of boyhood in mind, with deep pockets to accommodate those handy computer games (no conkers or pieces of string for Teddy Boy), and heavy stitching on the seams. The only accessory in the range is a mini-rucksack in tough industrial nylon. It costs pounds 24.99 and has chunky zips for small hands. All the clothes come with cute swing-tags saying, "Your son will thank you one day". Labels inside the garments say "Not to be used as goal-posts", "Ted says wear this with pride", and "Ted says these shirts don't grow on trees".

All these clothes could provide the answer to parents who want a uniform of sorts for their sons. "We don't want to do pretentious clothes," Kelvin says. "I get offended when I see big global names selling their branded childrenswear at extortionate prices. I saw a kids' designer T-shirt for pounds 40, which is an outrageous price to pay. Ours are made to the same quality and are only pounds 12.99."

Terry, nine, our model in these pictures, loved the clothes; he became particularly attached to the blue-and-red sweatshirt and the jeans. Unfortunately, they were samples and had to go back to the Ted Baker HQ. But his mother knows that come next week he'll be hankering for a visit to "the place Dad gets his shirts from".