Somerset House is currently host to Return of the Rudeboy, an exhibition exploring what it takes to be a Rudeboy by photographing 60 men who fit the modern-bill, playing their chosen signature playlists and showcasing their customised shoes. From 13th June – 25th August 2014, this fashion orientated experience invites you to dip into history before coming right up-to-date, in a well thought out presentation of sharp and terribly inviting looks! Just what you would hope happens when a Photographer, Filmmaker and Curator, Dean Chalky, gets together with Creative Director, Harris Elliott, to capture the essence of Rudeboy’s style in the 21st Century.
It’s been a long time since I went to a fashion exhibition and felt inspired. That’s what happened to me at Return of the Rudeboy. Perhaps more of a reminder than a return of Rudeboys’ (and Rudegirls’) resilience and ability to morph from one time frame to another, through the generations, steadfast to the core elements of Rudie traditions; Jamaican street style, American Jazz and R&B music, along with gangster driven culture and developments and the love of all things new in fashion across time. The exhibition presents the most contemporary evolution of Rudies, noting developments in their ever important music influences, grooming techniques and continual shifts in dress.
Most noticeable from the offset is how good everyone looks, each image capturing men who like to take care of themselves, personalising their clothes to create a distinctive style with a sense of humour as well as extreme pride. There were some unexpected moments, like seeing the bike with no seat, just ski peddles – Nirvana playing from the room next door. Apart from that, I found myself saying ‘Yes!’ out loud quite a lot while walking round. Simultaneously, a friend at the time looking himself up and down wishing his jumper wasn’t bobbly and t-shirt wasn’t stained.
All men shouldn’t aspire to dress the same, a sea of plasters stuck on shoes would instantly ‘kill’ the novelty! But, if for one day we awoke and everywhere men were dressed this good, I would think we were in heaven. It felt liberating being in those rooms, in a celebration of men who who care about the way they dress. Tailored suits worn for the everyday, each fitting perfectly, individually selected colours and textures by the man wearing the garments, whether layered over a long smock or worn with customised shoes, they just looked great.
This so-called selection of 21st century Rudeboys, including all of the strains of, are paralleling waves of menswear from other sub-cultural groups seeing a freshened re-appearance and/or mergence with other sub-cultural groups. Where tailored detailing is appreciated, understood and shown off and not just by people who work in fashion or film or styling. It’s a mentality slowly seeping back into all men’s wardrobes. Worn by men who want to take care of their clothes, who understand quality, longevity and as importantly how to wear them. At a time when the success of menswear is overtaking women’s, Return of the Rudeboy is another nod, with dipped hat, in the right direction.