Jungle Fever is the fifth and final documentary in our Music Nation series. Directed by Ollie Evans and produced by Friend London, it celebrates one of the UK’s most vibrant and vital genres, tracing jungle’s journey from humble beginnings in Hackney to the heights of the mainstream. The doc premieres tonight at 12.05am on Channel 4, and to mark the occasion, we’re celebrating all things jungle – from the style to playlists.
In the gallery above, DJs, jungle revellers and director Ollie Evans himself share their memories of jungle style – where the loud and proud elements of reggae and dancehall brought with it a passion for labels, and you wore your club allegiance emblazoned on your MA2 jacket. First, Nina Manandhar and Eve Dawoud of What We Wore chart the style development of a scene obsessed with expensive dressing down:
"A 'warrior stance' and Ragga influence defined the early Jungle look. 'Bad boys inna London, Rude boys inna England, Bad boys inna Jericho, Rude boys inna Kingston', UK Apachi proclaimed in the legendary Jungle tune 'Original Nuttah'.
In the early 90s the scene blew up in London. At raves like Roast, Telepathy, Innersense and Thunder & Joy the crowd wore a designer orientated look that borrowed from rave, B-boy and Ragga style. No club night would be complete without its very own merchandise line, which became staple wear for the crowd. Quintessential items were the shiny black MA2 jacket emblazoned with club logos 'Dreamscape', 'Eclipse', and 'NASA Nice And Safe Attitude' and a record bag – although Junglists rarely bought records to put in said bag, the latest tunes only being available to DJs on dubplates. Instead, they locked into their local pirate radio stations to hear the raucous MC’s toasting over the rowdiest tracks or bought a tape pack from their favourite promoter.
"Even in the hottest rave the Junglist, toting a champagne bottle and a spliff, looked cool and expensive"
Even in the hottest rave the Junglist, toting a champagne bottle and possibly a spliff, looked cool and expensive. A precursor to the garage scene, labels were integral to the look, but it was not a head to toe affair. Instead a designer t shirt or belt was paired with straight cut jeans: this was expensive but casual dressing.
Just as Ragga had influenced the music – Junglist was a nickname for the residents of Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica – so it did the look. The girls wore a sexy style: an outfit might be little black dress, leather waistcoats and jeans. Or more body conscious tight lycra dresses, mini skirts or hot pants were paired with embellished bustiers, tie front crop tops and satin bra tops to brock out all night."
For Jungle Fever director Ollie Evans, the catalyst to expand his love for jungle and drum and bass into a substantial documentary was the moment he interviewed Nicky Blackmarket late last year for LAW magazine. You can see a photo from the event in the gallery above, with Evans wearing a 1993 Iceberg jumper in honour of an Iceberg Tin Tin jumper Blackmarket once wore on a TV show called "Lost In Music".
Here Evans reveals the importance of style and loud labels to the jungle scene, and why it still reverberates through youth and music culture today, from his online vintage store Too Hot.
How important was style to the Jungle scene, and how would you describe it?
Ollie Evans: As the jungle sound gained traction it brought in a wide variety of new people into the rave scene. Parts of that new audience were coming from reggae and dancehall, and you saw elements of that fashion come over with them. This is where the bright, colourful designer label style came in. You would see ravers wearing full Versace or Moschino outfits that were loud and full of colour, and representative of the vibrant Caribbean influence that could be heard in the music.
When the scene solidified and became jungle as we know it, the MA2 bomber jackets became really popular. People wore their favourite rave, radio station or record label embroidered on the back as an identifier to say they were junglists. A lot of DJs we spoke to took huge pride in wearing theirs to let people know just who they were, Brockie (who features in Jungle Fever) describes his as his uniform.
What was a favourite outfit of yours to wear to Jungle nights?
Ollie Evans: I’ve always been into designer labels and trying to get stuff that no one else has. When I was going out raving I was really into brands like Armani, Prada, Burberry, Versace. I particularly liked early Evisu and Evis – their pre-Levi’s lawsuit incarnation. It was really exclusive, and hard to get hold of when it first came over. I also really liked their Japanese heritage. Japan seemed a strong influence in a lot of our culture in that era, people like Photek and Designers Republics were using Japanese iconography in their work in the mid to late 90s. So, to answer your question, Evisu jeans, Burberry jumper, Prada trainers and a Lacoste cap were a big look for me.
What kick started Too Hot? What 90s pieces and labels are having the biggest resurgence at the moment?
Ollie Evans: I’ve always wanted to run a business and Too Hot grew out of dealing Stone Island jackets online in my downtime. Sales got quicker and quicker so I expanded out and started dealing other brands, and it’s grown from there.
A lot of what we sell comes from stuff that I would see people wearing in raves; stuff my friends or I would wear. There was always a strong football firms element at a lot of the raves we went to in Birmingham; the Zulus were often out in force so you’d see a lot of Stone Island and Burberry. There were also gangs like Burger Bar who would be at all the Birmingham raves, and they would wear a lot of Prada and Armani.
"By being in Birmingham we were exposed to a lot of different fashion from both the north and the south of the country, and our style was a collision"
Among my own friends, it was all about Berghaus, Moschino, Iceberg, Ralph Lauren, Reebok and Nike. I think by being in Birmingham we were exposed to a lot of different fashion from both the north and the south of the country, and our style was a collision of both. This is definitely reflected in what I’ve been doing with Too Hot.
I’ve tried to keep it to clothes that I would wear myself, or stuff my friends would wear back in the day. By keeping it so close it’s stayed pretty true. The most important thing to me about the clothes we stock is that they are representative to a scene or a movement, and that they have a strong emotional connection to people. Alongside jungle there is strong casual influence, a garage influence and a hip hop influence, everything is culturally related because that is when clothes are important.
Brands that are proving popular at the moment… Stone Island is really strong, Berghaus jackets sell really quick and are proving as popular in London as they are Manchester, YSL is getting big again as an alternative to Polo and was massive on the club scene of the 90s so it’s good to see it back again. Burberry shirts are like gold dust, and of course Iceberg and Moschino.
In the gallery, we feature images and stories from Nina Manandhar’s upcoming book ‘What We Wore’, a ‘People’s Style History’ of British Youth Style, published by Prestel in October 2014.
To submit your own photos to What We Wore, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Natasha Slee on Twitter here @tashalouises