What Is A Rude Boy?
Browse articles:
Auto Beauty Business Culture Dieting DIY Events Fashion Finance Food Freelancing Gardening Health Hobbies Home Internet Jobs Law Local Media Men's Health Mobile Nutrition Parenting Pets Pregnancy Products Psychology Real Estate Relationships Science Seniors Sports Technology Travel Wellness Women's Health
Browse companies:
Automotive Crafts, Hobbies & Gifts Department Stores Electronics & Wearables Fashion Food & Drink Health & Beauty Home & Garden Online Services & Software Sports & Outdoors Subscription Boxes Toys, Kids & Baby Travel & Events

What Is A Rude Boy?

The singer Rihanna has recently released a single entitled Rude Boy, which also appears on her album, Rated R, but what is a rude boy and where does the term come from?

The singer Rihanna has recently released a single entitled Rude Boy, which also appears on her album, Rated R, but what is a rude boy and where does the term come from?  Well, 'ush up and I'll explain. 


The term ‘Rude boy’ began as a colloquial name for juvenile delinquents and criminals in 1950s Jamaica. Despite, or perhaps because of its notorious origins, the term entered popular culture and came to denote a Jamaican subculture revolving around ska music, an early form of reggae.

The first rude boys appeared in the 1950s, particularly within the poorer sections of Kingston. Highly conscious of fashion and music, they dressed in the latest styles on the streets and in dancehalls. The rude boy look consisted of sharp suits, thin ties and pork pie hats; sometimes a trilby was worn instead. The aesthetic was inspired by American gangster movies, jazz musicians and soul artists. In this period, the most popular forms of music among young Jamaican audiences were ska and rocksteady, and these helped to sustain the emerging rude boy culture.

As the name implies, rude boys had a bad reputation. In this period, it was common for disaffected Jamaican youths to obtain temporary employment as ‘dance crashers’. Sound system operators would pay them to disrupt competitors' dances using violence and intimidation. The great ska artist Alton Ellis released a track called Dance Crasher in response to this trend. Street violence was integral to the rude boy lifestyle, and contributed to the rise of political gang violence in Jamaica. Troubled by these violent tendencies, some ska musicians produced songs that spoke directly to this faction and urged them to curb their activities. A key example was Dandy Livingstone’s 1967 track, A Message to You, Rudy, which was later covered by The Specials:

Stop your messing around

Better think of your future

Time you straighten right out

Creating problems in town


A message to you, Rudy

A message to you

Stop your fooling around

Time you straighten right out

Better think of your future

Else you’ll wind up in jail


A message to you, Rudy

A message to you

The United Kingdom experienced an influx of Jamaican immigrants during the 1960s and this greatly enriched British culture. In particular, the exotic rhythms of ska, reggae and rocksteady were assimilated into British popular music. Rude boy music and fashion became a strong influence on the skinhead movement, which was initially very different from the racist skinhead culture it became. This process is depicted in Shane Meadows’s film This Is England. The Jamaican influx led to a ska revival in England during the late-1970s. This movement was also known as 2 Tone, after 2 Tone Records, and also because groups like The Specials were racially-integrated. The terms rude boy and rude girl were used to describe UK fans of this music.

In the 21st century, the term rude boy is still in use, but has become a more general slang term referring to youths involved in street culture, similar to the word gangsta.  The name has recently been popularised by Rihanna's single. 


Please check out my article on Northern Soul:


Additional resources:

Need an answer?
Get insightful answers from community-recommended
in Popular Culture on Knoji.
Would you recommend this author as an expert in Popular Culture?
You have 0 recommendations remaining to grant today.
Comments (13)

I learn something new every day....love it. Thanks.

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thank you. Not sure about the image for this one - a bit too risque?

Even conservative Marie would say that it fits your article - and is proper since it IS pop culture and out there in album just like the image and your read -- but she really should not be a bad example and smoke - think anyone else notices that besides me? LOL-- besides, if Rihanna ever reads Factoidz - she'll love it!

@Marie: I think we should tweet it, adding her name. Then she or people would see it:) But I'm not sure she would be interested in the pop culture and the story behind the term. Sorry, I am not exactly a Rihanna fan;) Thanks for the info Michael. I had no idea the term went way back....

Fascinating article! I raised four boys, and you never know what teenage boys are getting into.

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

It's so long ago, I can't remember.

This is an awesome article! Thanks for reading mine. :)

Cool stuff and love the image!

I really enjoyed this article, I am going to quiz my son on it to see if he knows the origins,

Great article Michael. I hate rude boys but I love Rhianna's song... It has a ctachy tune. Makes you want to dance til the song ends.

Very interesting look into this term rude boys. You certainly know how to find history is virtually every category my friend, fantastic ability to do so as well! Excellent work.

Ranked #1 in Popular Culture

Thanks for your comments. I wish we had more than 10 votes per day so I could repay you all for your encouragement.

Interesting info!