Return Of The Rudeboy

Return Of The Rudeboy

The term ‘Rudeboy’ might conjure up Rihanna’s 2011 hit for many but on the streets of London, real life rudeboys are redefining modern day style

Return of the Rudeboy, a new Somerset House exhibition by photographer/filmmaker Dean Chalkley and creative director/stylist Harris Elliott, explores the intricacies of the rudeboy lifestyle, which draws on over half a century of sartorial and musical influences.

“In the 1960s, rudeboys asserted themselves as a reaction to the status quo. They were notorious, yet expressed an exemplary sense of style that was individual and intrinsic to who they were,” explains Harris of the phenomenon that started in the ghettos of Kingston in the wake of Jamaican independence. “Not merely a code for getting dressed but a core spirit which says ‘I’m a buffalo soldier, I take on every challenge and opportunity by breaking the mould and finding my own way to express myself.’ It is the wearer, not the clothes, that make the rudeboy.”

The first rudeboys wore smart suits that let the breeze reach their ankles with skinny ties, shiny shoes and pork pie hats. Attention to the details was everything. The look came to England along with the first waves of immigration and influenced successive subcultures such as mods, skinheads and 2 Tone / ska. The exhibition features 60 photographic portraits of contemporary rudeboys and rudegirls who continue to refine the look. Gone is the gangsterism but the confident attitude remains.

Those featured include tailors Art Come First, designer Bevan Agyemang, blogger Martell Campbell, filmmaker Akinola Davies and legendary musician Don Letts, who DJed at the launch party last week. “In a conservative culture that feels like punk never happened, the time is right for the return of the rudeboy,” Lett says. “I’ve witnessed the twists and turns of a style-driven youth culture that seems to have all but disappeared in the 21st century, or so I thought. This exhibition looks at the tradition, heritage and re-emergence of what is a very British thing.”

The exhibition also includes films, music, installations and specially commissioned accessories that all contribute to a 360 degree vision of rudies today. Meanwhile celebrity hair stylist Johnnie Sapong’s pop-up We Are Cuts barbershop caters to your short, back and sides needs. Rudies don’t need ‘something for the weekend’, they own it.

Return of the Rudeboy, until 25 August, Somerset House, London

Collage One From Left:  Gary PowellComposer, Musician, DJ,  Dexter De Leadus - Shopkeeper, Ayishat Akanbi - Style Creator,  Baraj Mathews - Designer.

Collage Two From Left: 4. La Touche aka Mr Hat Martell Campbell - Fashion Blogger, Donya Patrice - Fashion Blogger, Bevan Agyeman - Creative Director of Dxpe and To-Orist.

  • Words: Helen Jennings

  • Banner Photography : Dean Chalkley

  • Creative Direction : Harris Elliott