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Brixton Boyz

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    London (photographed)

  • Date:

    2001 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Baptiste, Jennie, born 1971 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lith-print

  • Credit Line:

    Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

  • Museum number:

    E.971-2010

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case COS, shelf PHO

Jennie Baptiste’s photographs explore fashion and style as expressions of black British identity, often with a focus on music culture. She was born in Northwest London in 1971, after her parents moved to the city from St. Lucia in the 1960s.

The trend of wearing baggy low-slung jeans is thought to have started in the American prison system when inmates were prohibited from wearing belts. African-American prisoners used the style to critique the prison system and it was later adopted in the wider black community, becoming associated with hip hop music culture and black masculinity. Wearing low-slung jeans also became a way to display designer branded underwear, which was in keeping with the hip hop style of wearing bold fashion labels to show social status. The trend became popular in Britain, which was acknowledged in 2004 by British rap artist Dizzee Rascal in his lyrics: ‘I socialise in Hackney and Bow, I wear my trousers ridiculously low.’

The V&A acquired four photographs by Jennie Baptiste as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives. Two photographs by Normski, which document further examples of black British male style in Brixton were also acquired as part of Staying Power.

Physical description

A black and white photograph of two young black men standing facing each other with their arms by their sides. The man on the left is topless and wears only low slung jeans with black Calvin Klein boxers showing above the waistband. He has sunglasses on and a crucifix on a chain around his neck. The man on the right wears a black tank top with trousers and is looking at the other man. Both men have tatoos. They are posed against a plain white background.

Place of Origin

London (photographed)

Date

2001 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Baptiste, Jennie, born 1971 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Lith-print

Dimensions

Height: 50.8 cm image, Width: 40.64 cm image

Object history note

The V&A acquired this photograph as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Jennie Baptiste, 'Brixton Boyz', lith-print, London, 2001

Labels and date

Baptiste's photographs explore fashion and style as expressions of black British identity. Here, low-slung jeans and flaunted designer labels are shown alongside the colourful, hand-embellished costumes associated with Ragga, a form of reggae music. Both styles show off the body, highlighting the wearer's masculinity or femininity. Two of the photographs capture the movements of a woman dancing to Ragga music, while the more static portrait of a woman named Pinky shows how personal style can extend to interiors as well as dress. [83 words] [2011]

Production Note

First edition print

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Photo-lithography

Subjects depicted

Underwear; Identity; Sunglasses; Fashion; Tattoos; Black men

Categories

Photographs; Men's clothes; African Diaspora; Fashion

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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