“The Rudis and the Skins are my history – my culture.” In her first article for DM’s, artist/writer/poet/second gen Rudi Rene Matić (she/they) celebrates a subculture that took in her father and continues to define her.
To be ‘rude’ is to be offensive, abrupt, impolite, and bad-mannered – all terribly un-British characteristics. To be rude – to be a glitch – is to go against. To interrupt and stop in tracks. To be rude is to ruin, to ruin in order to build back up.
Sometimes Rude Boy, sometimes Rude Girl, sometimes Rudie, most the time all three or four or five and forever. And like most good things, being a Rudie comes from black – black survival.
After Jamaicans independence in 1962, nothing much changed by way of improving the economic conditions for the Jamaican people. An increase in the population meant that there were huge strains on housing, employment, and food. Surviving the deteriorating conditions (by any means necessary) became known as ‘scuffling’ – a term used to describe those who had to hustle in order to get by.
As scuffling became more popular, it manifested as a subculture with a soundtrack and a dress code. Folks from fourteen to twenty-four began emulating the aesthetic of Gangster films, US Jazz musicians and the upper classes. They coveted 3-button tonic suits accompanied by pork-pie hats, dark sunglasses and a swagger.
They obsessed over reggae and ska music, following sound systems like they were football teams. THE RUDE BOY HAD ARRIVED.
The Rude Boys were treated as threats to public order because of their loud response to neglect. A rise in crime when times get tough is nothing new – it’s a re-occurring cultural pattern. And yes, they did misbehave. When one finds themselves in a place of powerlessness – one tends to use the closest tools available to them as a way out of subordination. we enter into a dance with the dominant order, seeking to modify, negotiate, resist and even overthrow its reign – its hegemony.
With each subculture, we take what worked and we bring it forward.
Stuart Hall describes this as ‘pre-constituted field of possibles’ that groups can take up, transform, and develop. With each cultural moment in history, we take what worked and we bring it forward. And a lot about Rude WORKS… even just for the self.
(And I know I know I’m being a bit smoke and mirrors. I’ve heard the songs from brothers and sisters pleading with the rude boys to stop your messing around and to think of your futures but I’ve also heard the ones wiv puffed out chests. Tougher than tough, rougher than rough, strong like lions, WE ARE IRON).
The milieu that makes up different subcultures – violence and dancing alike – is that it all contributes to re-imagining the self out of the situation you are in.
It is about knowing that there is better and you can see yourself there. It is the ability to find family from foraging.
The Rude Boys recognised migration to the UK as an opportunity to seek their fortunes on different soil. They worked (if they could find a job) alongside white working-class brits in the week and shared dancefloors with them in the night. They took solace in one another’s shared oppression and together, birthed The Skinhead Subculture – family from foraging.
My Dad had a rough childhood as a mixed-race bastard child with no Mumma (and barely a Pappa), but the kid knew how to forage. Found himself a pair of DM’s and a disco and the boy could fly. The Skinheads looked after my Dad from the age of 9 to this day. Thank God.
By the time my dad was 15 (1977) the British empire was a diminishing force and the UK economy had fallen behind those of its previous (predominantly white) colonies. So, what do we do when we find ourselves in places of powerlessness? WE GATHER OUR TOOLS. And what were the closest tools to the Skins and the Rudis? EACHOTHER. With Thatcher came a second wave of Ska music for British youth to kick off to: 2-Tone. Mixed race bands like The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat, Madness and The Body Snatchers came through with a soundtrack of resistance, honouring the roots of RUDE and shunning the bullshit Fascist parties trying to infiltrate.
2-Tone posed a threat to white supremacist systems and hierarchies, and so does my diasporic body – my 2-Tone body.
The Rudis and the Skins are my history – my culture. Thanks to that group of Skins who picked my 9-year-old dad up at a football game all those years ago today.
So, what I’m saying is. I don’t know.
I am a second generation, third wave indigenous Skinhead. I was born with 10-eyelet Dr Martens on my tiny baby feet and I refuse to hand them over.
Today I am Rhoda Dakar Rude. RUDER THAN YOU. An opening with limitless dimensions.
For more on the Rude Boy subculture, check out Rene’s further reading list:
- Original Rude Boy by Neville Staple
- Never Again: Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League 1976-1981 by David Renton
- Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga
- Black by Design by Pauline Black