Earlier this year New York-based trend forecasting group K-HOLE introduced normcore into the dictionary of streetstyle (The New Normal - The New York Times, April 2014). Waist-high white wash jeans, over-sized tees and non-descript sneakers were being spotted on fashion packs around the world. The look is post-aspirational, mall-in-the-middle-of-nowhere get up. Think out of office hours Obama, the late Steve Jobs or American tourists in Europe from the Nineties. Rarely do the words normal and fashion meet in the same sentence, however this neologism - borne from its distant metaphorical relation, hardcore - continues to trend amongst hipster boys and girls who want everyone to know they could give zero fucks about Yeezys or Yves Saint Laurent.
This summer Somerset House presents the antithesis of normcore. Return of the Rudeboy is an original exhibition showcasing the sartorial subculture that bridges the swagger of the 1950s in Kingston, Jamaica to the sharp tailoring of London’s Savile Row. Unlike the peacocks that were parading down the King’s Road or Carnaby Street during the Swinging Sixties (Sex, Drugs & Fish n’ Chips, September 2011), Rudeboys (or Rudies) didn’t dress to impress but dressed for themselves. Caribbean immigration to the United Kingdom during this time led to a revival of dapper dressing between young rebels influenced by punk and reggae music of the era. The movement is an extraordinary insight of an attitude towards menswear that until only recently is being acknowledged by fashion commentators. The confidence demonstrated in recent seasons of male sprezzatura, or nonchalance, when it comes to one’s threads, borders on the aesthetics of Rudeboy culture. It is the routine and attention to detail reflected in the collaborative nature of the exhibition however, which firmly define the Rudeboy as much more than superficial swag from head to toe.
Return of the Rudeboys - Somerset House London
Central to the Rudeboy look is putting a twist on its heritage and this is successfully echoed by the visual mash up of garments and styling objects displayed in the neoclassical opulence of Somerset House’s South Wing Terrace Rooms. Creative director Harris Elliott and photographer Dean Chalkley, curators of Return of the Rudeboy, feature a host of bespoke contributions beside the quintessential suited and booted mannequins, that include objects by box maker Kitty Farrow and luggage maker Alstermo Bruk. Hats, shirt collars and even hair combs are given their very own custom splendour in exquisitely designed travel cases, perfect for the Rudeboy on the move. And how does a Rudeboy get around town? On an Opus Dopus freestep by Paul Gaba, paired with a tasseled pair of KIL-LER kicks by Mr Hare of course.
#style mix frm #RudeboysReturn exhib @somersethouse #London June13 - Aug25 2014. #doyathinkimsexy #fashion ... https://t.co/VDteCVOmdA
— Jonathan Velardi (@JMVELARDI) June 13, 2014
The Rudeboy lifestyle embodies everything from the accoutrements of fashion to the sounds that put a kick in one’s step. Alongside the large-scale photographic portraits of over sixty influential Rudeboys and Rudegirls on the scene today, a playlist of tracks selected by each subject to capture the spirit and soul of the Rudie philosophy offers a sensational experience through the multi-media galleries. The dynamic curation continues with the installation of a ‘grooming station’ from Johhnie Sapong X We Are Cuts that offers hair cuts and beard maintenance, by appointment only, in a fresh pop-up barber shop.
KIL-LER loafers by Mr Hare
Return of the Rudeboy is one of those exhibitions visitors will think twice about what to wear before leaving the front door. You have been warned: ain’t nothing normcore about Rudeboys.
Return of the Rudeboy runs to 25th August 2014 at Somerset House London. Visit returnoftherudeboy.com for details of special events and film screenings throughout the duration of the exhibition.
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