I'm sure it's all of those things and more.
I've always related to it on a personnel level. The subject could have been me. The lad would have been about the same age as I was then. I had them boots, that shaved head them pants, "Birmingham bags" we called them, swap the location from Jarrow to another Northern town in terminal decline, in my case Widnes and Mr Killip could have taken my picture.
It's also a picture of vulnerability, perhaps a metaphor for nation, I see it on a more literal level and I don't think that that makes it any less of a work of art.
This image stirs a sense of nostalgia, as I've mentioned, the clothes etc. It also drags back darker memories of a permeable sense of despair, of fear for the future heightened by the onset of manhood.
The current recession and rise of hate party's such as the BNP stir up memories from the same time. Young lads like the one shown above were easy pickings for the jackals of the right. Back then it was the NF and the youth division of Oi! now replaced by the BNP or the more "user friendly" UKIP. They are still looking for recruits and finding them, that picture could be shot again with a kid wearing tracky's we have new economic hardship and a new load of foreigners to blame.
Not that anyone needs to make a new image, Killip's picture stands the test of time but I challange any of you photographers who are reading this to go sum up our current scary moment in our nations history so perfectly with one shot......