'We got a lot of grief when our photo became a meme'

By Christian Hewgill
Newsbeat reporter

Image source, Connor Humpage
Image caption, The picture that started it all. Kevin, Alex, Jamie and Connor

"We were going to Birmingham on a train. I think we'd started drinking quite early to be fair."

Remember nights out? It's what people used to do with their weekends before the pandemic.

Kevin Rooney, Alex Lacey, Jamie Phillips and Connor Humpage from Birmingham and Coventry, had no idea their night out would still be trending two years later.

A picture, taken by a stranger, has become a hugely popular meme in the last twelve months.

The lads came in for a lot of stick, mostly for wearing skinny jeans or trousers - and people making assumptions about what sort of people they are.

But the picture's latest resurfacing, where it was added to a sea-shanty trend, has seen the tide turn and the boys receive more positive comments online.

'Everyone was judging us'

At first, when Connor, 28, uploaded the photo to his Instagram, nothing out of the ordinary happened, until a few days later someone made a meme out of the picture.

"Basically it was just mocking skinny jeans," Connor tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"At first it was funny, but then it all got a bit carried away. We started getting a lot of grief for it.

"We were just getting loads of stick just for our outfits and it was getting personal. It's a good job we're quite thick skinned because at first it did get to us."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

"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."

After its initial wave of popularity the picture, as many memes do, eventually died off.

But some clever TikTok trickery gave the lads a new lease of life - and a new talent.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

So what does Connor make to his new-found singing ability?

"It's just killed me! It's hilarious," he says.

"It took me so off guard. You think it's all over then someone animates our faces and it actually looks like we're singing.

"What can we do now? We've just got to embrace it. I don't think I've ever laughed so much!

Image source, Connor Humpage
Image caption, Connor wants to use his new found fame to help launch a tattoo business. If only he had someone to model them

Connor says the sea shanty TikTok has actually helped move the online comments about them from mostly negative to mostly positive.

"At first we were blown away by how negative everyone was. We didn't ask for any of this," he says.

"I think people forget about the people they're trolling behind their phones or keyboards. We actually are real people and it does affect you.

"It gets to a stage where you don't even read the comments anymore. You feel sorry for the people trying to ridicule someone just on how they look."

Connor decided he wanted to try and use some of the accidental attention to help him promote a new tattoo business.

"I'm actually in the midst of getting my own tattoo shop which I'm working hard for.

"So if anything, it's come at a good time where it's positive for me to be able use this for something I'm working towards.

And the final, probably most important question for Connor. Are the skinny jeans staying?

"Of course!" Connor laughs.

"Why change now? We're way too far in to stop!"

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