Four men with questionable fashion choices


Sea shanty trend revives ‘four lads’ meme

The four lads in the meme weren't happy about going viral last summer.


Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 19, 2021

Sea shanty TikTok is one of the first big trends on the app this year, but its virality also put the four lads meme back in the spotlight.

A photo of four lads in jeans, allegedly taken by a stranger, according to the BBC, resurfaced in the wake of sea shanty fever. The account @vonstrenginho posted a version of the photo to Twitter last week, but deepfaked the men to make it look like they’re singing popular sea shanty “The Wellerman.”

“Sea shanty tiktok is WILD,” reads the caption.

The photo of the four men—Kevin Rooney, Alex Lacey, Jamie Phillips, and Connor Humpage—was taken in July 2019, before a night out in Birmingham. Humpage posted it to Instagram and got some snarky comments about their skinny jeans and ill-fitting shirts. But during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., U.K., and beyond, the photo was used to imply a certain mindset. The caption on one viral tweet reads, “Yeah he might have been a bit racist, but defacing a Winston Churchill statue is just too far mate,” referring to the actual defacing of his statue last June.

Humpage tells the BBC that when he first realized the photo had become a meme, “We started getting a lot of grief for it.”

“Everyone was just judging us and thinking we’re all stereotypical lads and we’ve got nothing else about us other than wearing skinny jeans,” he said.

Last summer, a couple of the lads told the Tab they were upset people thought they were racist, especially after the photo was used in a now-deleted George Floyd meme. Humpage posted a statement to Instagram, clarifying that the meme doesn’t reflects their views and asking for it to be taken down. Appearing on Good Morning Britain this week, the lads said the comments took a toll on mental health, and Lacey said he left social media after his mother was trolled.

However, this new take on the meme apparently shifted comments from negative to a little more positive. Lacey told the Tab that he received a call to appear on the reality show Love Island, but he declined. They also got the Liam Gallagher seal of approval, for what it’s worth.

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*First Published: Jan 19, 2021, 11:18 am CST