“In a conservative culture that feels like punk never happened, the time is right for Return of the Rudeboy.”
— Don Letts on Return of the Rudeboy
In the UK, the term ‘Rude Boy’ elicits a number of responses. However, the true impact of this point of reference is less well known. Deriving from 1950s Jamaican street culture and youth unrest, it came to signify a triumph against adversity. The Rude Boy representing a strong willed and unflinching attitude to stand up and look sharp doing it.
This notion extended far beyond Jamaica’s shores. Beginning with the migration of people from the Caribbean to the UK in the 1950s with their sharp-suited new dapper styles. Rude Boys and the influence of Ska music from Jamaica inspired a cross-pollination of rich culture with the UK’s young Mod scene of the early 1960s.
Rude Boy culture went on to play a pivotal role in the British subcultural landscape setting it’s own trajectory with it’s blend of swagger and style, it has been evident and visible for decades but never adequately acknowledged.
Dean Chalkley and Harris Elliott took up the mantle to investigate and represent The Rudeboy, creating ‘Return of the Rudeboy’: a comprehensive visual essay of the modern ‘Rudie’. This ambitious project successfully unpacked five decades of culture, music and an attitude towards style.
The pair imbued Rudie zeal, into their project and produced a 12-week exhibition and immersive experience (film/talks/live events) at London’s Somerset House. The show received many plaudits from creative industry, press and the public alike. And was recognised for bringing an under-represented subculture into a mainstream sphere.
Since Return of the Rudeboy’s debut in London, the exhibition has appeared in Japan and has culminated in a beautiful 128 page book. Featuring the original works, as well as a compilation of essays, it gives a particular insight to the sharp, well-dressed man and woman. A significant marker to an under documented, yet important, subcultural group.