Return of the Rudeboy at Somerset House

This summer Somerset House played host to the Rudeboy movement in an homage to the rich sartorial subculture through a series of carefully curated portraits and installations.

Return of the Rudeboy was created and curated by two industry heavyweights: Dean Chalkley, photographer and film-maker, and much coveted fashion creative director Harris Elliott. The exhibition embodies the attitude of this urban group through photographs of over 60 sharply dressed individuals, collected over the course of a year. Each image personifies what it is to be a Rudeboy or Rudie in the current day and age, set against a rich historical narrative of the movement’s origins in the 1950s in Kingston, Jamaica. What we now recognise as rebellion via the medium of pork pie hats actually evolved by taking inspiration from the R&B music developing at the time. By the time this musical influence eventually intermixed with the American Jazz scene, and ultimately evolved into Ska, the Rudeboy style had essentially developed it’s own soundtrack which remained a defining factor thereafter. It plays throughout the exhibition, setting the tone and completing the experience.

It wasn’t long before the wave reached the UK, and despite enduring comings and goings along with the trends and times, it has remained a lasting subplot of British culture. It’s most recent reincarnation is reflected by the timely exhibition of images taken on the streets of London itself, whether Shoreditch or Saville Row. Each of the Rudeboys (and Rudegirls) displays the attitude through pristine sartorial swagger in the form of mohair suits, thin ties, and pressed, well everything!

A number of collaborations throughout the exhibition (including Rashad Smith, a British-born, New York-based producer who has worked with the likes of The Notorious B.I.G, Busta Rhymes and Nas) ensure that there’s no shortage of original, engaging, and exciting content. Everything from the grooming kits, the Singer sewing machine in the corner, poised and ready, to the walk in barber shop where visitors could make appointments with a top Rudeboy stylist. Everything feels immersive and authentic. Attention to detail is the mantra here, not only in the exhibition, but of the entire Rudeboy movement itself. And long may it last.

Return of the Rudeboy closed this summer, but you can still check out their website here

(Images courtesy of Somerset House & CRAVE Communications)