Big Youth’s ‘dress code’ – Staying sharp through the decades
Legendary cultural ‘toaster’ Manley Augustus Buchanan, more popularly known as Big Youth, is always reggae red carpet ready. He is a benchmark for signature style and flair in the reggae music landscape, but reminds youths that “image is not what makes the man”.
“Growing up, I was always a stylish youth; Imma urban guerrilla that has always been in love with fashion. The city was filled with the sounds of parties and when we as young boy go out and ting, we always have the nicest stripes, the crisp white shirts and the fine shoes – sharp – an’ me still sharp,” Big Youth told The Sunday Gleaner.
“But from my true spirit, me render my heart. Me nuh watch garments because remember is not the dress you have on that makes you a lady, clothes is just image. Character is what makes a person and part of that for me is knowing that when I’m going in front of people I must have a good appearance, that what got me to where I is today,” he continued.
Speaking about “dress codes of the current era,” Big Youth expressed that outside of a formal space such as school, “the youths must have discipline”.
Recently a video circulated of a policeman letting out the hem of a male high school student’s khaki pants, to which the S90 Skank singer reacted, “Big up to the youths and dem trends, dem creativity is theirs. Me like see di expression of dem style but outside of a school uniform … cyaa keep up that in school. It is important to know when and where to do certain things too.”
At his recent performance at Thursday Night Live ‘Acoustic Inna Di City’ – Reggae Sumfest Edition, Big Youth donned a warm-coloured, elegant, slim fit jacket over a black Cooyah T-shirt with the words, ‘Dancehall made me do it’ printed in white paired with beige pants, red bucket hat and brown shoes. “Originally, I thought the shirt would spoil my dress code, cause me wanted to look bush, but I end up liking the vibrations of the message,” he shared.
The veteran artiste added, “I like getting creative with my wear. More time me just buy designer suits, dress pants and jackets whenever I see something I like. Me also have a bredrin in New Jersey by the name of Jah Lutz do some nice suit. It just come naturally for me over the years.”
Big Youth rose to prominence in the mid-1970s when he made a major impact on the recording style of reggae music. Along with style, a zestful and charismatic nature helped the entertainer make ‘big’ moves and earned him appearances on shows and even on-screen back in the day. Big Youth was cast in the movie Every N****r Is A Star which was released in 1974 but “it never hit,” he said.
“Dem time I was young in this business, and nuhbody nah really know it, ‘cause it was a flop. Around those time, dem never write nothing good about Rasta but it was said that every time I appear on the screen them give me standing ovation,” Big Youth said.
The film directed by Calvin Lockhart, featuring other recording legends such as Boris Gardiner, Fab Five and Count Ossie, chronicled the journey of a man returning home (to Jamaica) who meets up with famous reggae bands. Like the title of the production, the accompanying soundtrack is usually mentioned with some trepidation.
“I’m never afraid to perform Every N****r Is A Star song written and recorded by Boris Gardiner; it was controversial…even now it’s controversial. It has been reinterpreted so many times and we often find some musicians – white musicians – don’t want to sing the harmony on it. Sometimes I would say negros, nigos or Rasta instead of n****r,” he said.
“The song do better than the movie because of the message. So, me stand by it, because every black youth is a star, dem just have to know how to carry themselves. Always remember is always about the character, not the image,” Big Youth echoed.