The sound of soft jazz music wafts slowly across the room surrounded by equipment you would find in a typical men’s grooming salon in the 60’s or 70’s and you’re instantly transported back to an era when being black was a sense of identity, brotherhood and pride.
According to the curators of the Rude Boy exhibition– an immersive revival of the 60’s trend with music, pieces of clothing and bespoke luggage capturing the essence of the trend, there has never been a better time to document the sub culture that originated on the streets of Kingston Jamaica, as today’s youths have adapted their own style for the 21st century in what many now call ‘swagger’.
In an original exhibition created and curated by prolific photographer and filmmaker Dean Chalkley and creative director Harris Elliott, the duo record and photograph a group of 60 sharply dressed individuals over the course of a year. Individuals who embody the legacy of the original Rude Boy in 21st century youths.
The term Rude boy was initially associated with a violent connotation as some of the initial inspiration came not only from music (RnB and Jazz), but gangsters.
Overtime, the negative associations of the movement have been striped back particularly from the arrival of the first set of immigrants who inadvertently brought the unique style of dressing to the UK to the young men and women who still embody the lifestyle today.
So what makes a Rude boy? It’s the sense of style. The sharp mohair suits, trilby hats, slim ties and elaborately designed shoes are just some of the distinguishing characteristics of the initial Rudies in the 50’s, but more importantly, it is the attitude.
Rudies’ aren’t conforming to a fad, this is just how they dress and they wouldn’t even consider dressing any other way.
Looking at the portraits now on display at Somerset House, one can’t help but feel the genuine sense of pride and identity of the ‘Rude Boy‘. It’s very much what is missing in 21st century swagger as black youths attempt to dress to fit in rather than stand out.
Rude Boy is showing at Somerset House until the 25th of August.