This summer, Somerset House is proud to present Return of the Rudeboy, an original exhibition created and curated by prolific photographer and filmmaker for music’s most wanted Dean Chalkley and fashion-industry favourite creative director Harris Elliott, which showcases a sartorial subculture through a series of portraits, installations and set pieces. Over the course of the past year the duo has photographed over 60 sharply dressed individuals from across the UK, all of whom embody the essence of what it is to be a Rudeboy (or Rudie) in the 21st century, to document the life, style and attitude of this growing urban group. Far from a snapshot street-style photography project, the curated collection of images shows the subjects presenting their pure and singular sartorial swagger in locations linked to the Rudeboy lifestyle, whether it be on the streets of Shoreditch or Savile Row. Multimedia installations and set pieces will further expose the everyday details of the modern Rudeboy, from the music he listens to down to his daily grooming routine. The previously unseen series of images and installations have been devised and designed especially for the exhibition at Somerset House.
Return of the Rudeboy will be an immersive experience of visuals and sounds, taking visitors into the worlds of today’s Rudeboys. Each of the subjects featured in the portraits have provided their signature playlist, which will be amalgamated along with curators’ and collaborators’ choices into a soundtrack to capture the spirit and soul of the Rudeboy, acting as a sonic backdrop to the visual works. Since grooming is integral to the Rudeboy routine, the space will host a pop-up ‘grooming station’ where visitors can book appointments to get their hair cut or beard trimmed by a top Rudeboy barber. Select installation set pieces will be placed alongside the photography to give another glimpse into the Rudie lifestyle. Working with artisan box maker Kitty Farrow and luggage manufacturer Alstermo, bespoke brief cases, hat boxes and luggage sets will be made to show how this collective of individuals pays attention to detail in all aspects with their fashions.
In true Rudeboy style, Chalkley and Elliott have collaborated closely with a variety of inspirational and influential creative minds to contribute exciting, engaging and enriching content to the exhibition. These include 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; the Art Comes First creative collective founded by top travelling tailors Sam Lambert and Shaka Maidoh; and founding member of Big Audio Dynamite, Grammy award-winning filmmaker and international DJ Don Letts, a pillar of the punk and reggae scene who inspired a generation through his groundbreaking music, films and fashions.
Don Letts said: "In a conservative culture that feels like punk never happened, the time is right for Return of the Rudeboy. Being as old as rock’n’roll, I've been perfectly placed to witness 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. Return of the Rudeboy looks at the tradition, heritage and most importantly re-emergence of what is a very British thing.”
There will also be an exciting season of events in conjunction with the exhibition for visitors to exchange and enrich their knowledge and understanding of this important and culturally significant subculture, from film screenings to sartorial workshops. The events will pay respect to the heritage and importance of the past, but focus on the present and future Rudeboy.
Originating from the streets of Kingston, Jamaica in the late 1950s, Rudeboy or Rudie came to represent the young rebels who wore distinctively sharp sartorial styles such as Mohair suits, thin ties and pork pie hats. The style was closely connected to the music movements of the time; their initial inspiration derived from American Jazz and R&B musicians as well as some notorious gangsters. As is prevalent in the Rudeboy culture, the origins were appropriated and then twisted. For example R&B was imported from the USA to Jamaica and reworked into what became known as Ska, the first and fundamental music for Rudeboys. The late 1950s was a time of migration, so the culture, music and attitude travelled to the UK shores and across the world from Jamaica. The Rudeboy has travelled through time since then and evolved; in the 1980s, Two-Tone brought it right back into the frame. Now today’s young men and women have adopted the swagger and adapted the essence of the original Rudeboy but for a 21st century generation.
The photographs and set pieces will be on sale along with bespoke hand-bound books featuring the images on show in the exhibition. Customised, designer collaboration clothing and accessories inspired by Rudeboys will also be available.
Daily from 10am to 6pm