Saga Bwoys, Rude Bwoys, and Saggers: Rebellious Black Masculinities

Michael McMillan
Critical Arts, Vol 31, No3, (15 Dec 2017) pp 72-89


Recycled in white cultural hegemonic representations of the black male body are colonial fantasies, based on fear and desire. Yet, in the formation of diasporic black masculinities, these tropes have been subverted and resisted. Diaspora, here, is a performative process of “becoming” (S. Hall. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” In Colonial Discourse and PostColonial Theory. London: Harvester, 1993) in a rhizoidal network of aesthetic exchange, transfer, and appropriation (K. Mercer. Welcome to the Jungle. London: Routledge, 1994). Therefore, the sensual, loosely fitting flamboyant suits of poor urban black and Mexican zoot suiters in 1940s America were sartorial antecedents of the “saga bwoys” (“bwoy” in Caribbean vernacular) who as Caribbean migrant men influenced subcultural style in postwar Britain through the subversive power of the “sweet bwoy” and the defiant rebellious style of the “bad bwoy”. This continued during the 1960s with the “rude bwoys”, who, together with the saga bwoys, are antecedents of contemporary “saggers”, who low rise their pants to reveal their underwear. In this article, I explore how saga bwoys, rude bwoys, and saggers used creative agency to subvert tropes that racialise the representation of the diasporic black male body. I draw on Carol Tulloch’s (“Style-Fashion-Dress.” Fashion Theory 14 (3): 273–304. 2010) triumvirate “style–fashion–dress”, Daniel Miller’s (“Fashion and Ontology in Trinidad.” In Design and Aesthetics. London: Routledge, 1996) transcendent/transient duality in relation to theories of “cool” and creolisation, as well as Stuart Hall’s idea of “becoming” to support the formulation of a transdisciplinary conceptual framework.

Keywords: saga bwoy