Afro-Caribbean youth styles

   Afro-Caribbean youth culture is largely based upon the mediation of black British urban experience by a heterogeneous fusion of Afro-diasporic influences. As a sub-cultural group, Afro-Caribbean youth have converted states of urban dislocation, socio-economic adversity and institutionalized racism to produce rearticulations of black British identity through musical, linguistic, sartorial and visual expressions. Afro-Caribbean youth styles have metamorphosed through Caribbean-derived incarnations stemming from the Rudeboys of 1960s ska and rocksteady, the Rastafarians (see Rastafarianism) and reggae of the politicized 1970s to the Raggamuffins of the early 1990s. Diametrically opposed to Rastafarianism, Ragga music, fashion and dance celebrate an individualistic materialism, forthright sexuality and ostentatious attitude. With later militant and Afrocentric variants (see Afrocentrists), the Fly-Girls and B-Boys of the 1980s, Afro-American hip hop culture created a unisex fashion consistent with the broader casual sportswear and casual trends among Afro- Caribbean youth in Britain. Trading in a common currency of style, designer tracksuits, expensive trainers and chunky gold accessories became signifiers of power and status in the reclaimed cultural terrain of the street.
   Hip hop culture underlines the creative assemblage that defines Afro-Caribbean (and Asian) youth styles in Britain, whether through music (mixing, sampling or developing musical styles), dress (arranging assorted fake and real designer labels) or language. In 1981, Smiley Culture’s chart hit ‘Cockney Translation’ signalled the black British blending of the Jamaican ‘yardy’ and the cockney ‘geezer’, delivering a distinctive dialect of rhyming cockney slang and fast-style Jamaican patois. First widely practised by black-conscious youth during the 1970s, Jamaican patois and Afro-American street slang are linguistically employed to subvert forms of standard English. As with graffiti spraypainted on public property, Afro-Caribbean youth have reimagined linguistic and urban landscapes with non-conformist, self-affirm-ing stylistic explosions of flowing and disrupted rhythms and colour. Institutional authorities, however, are inclined to view their occupation of such alternative subjective and leisure spaces as transgressive.
   Afro-Caribbean youth have exerted a decisive stylistic influence on British youth and mainstream cultures as evidenced by the mod, skinhead, punk and dance (see mods; skinheads; punk rock; dance music) appropriation of aspects of Rudeboy, Rasta, hip hop and sound system culture. Soul II Soul perhaps ideally encapsulate the young, black and British cultural awakening of the mid-1980s with their unique synthesis of a black British attitude, music, fashion and philosophy (Tulloch 1992:93).
   Further reading
    Tulloch, C. (1992) ‘Rebel Without A Pause: Black Streetstyle & Black Designers’, in J.Ash and E. Wilson (eds), Chic Thrills: A Fashion Reader, London: Pandora Press (a brief but informative historical overview).
   SATINDER CHOHAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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