Reggae meets Fashion


In the late 1960’s, a new genre of music was given to the world by a tiny island in the Caribbean, Jamaica. Reggae music originated in the most  unlikely of places by a resourceful set  of people who were not wise enough to know that what they were doing was deemed improbable by wise folk. By the early 70’s these extremely talented musicians had started to tinker with the reggae beat, creating a One Drop version and later a Rockers Rhythm.
The music was captivating and almost intoxicating, not to mention the singers and musicians. There was a certain free thinking, happy-go-lucky yet rebellious spirit in them. Apart from all of this, there was something characteristic about their speech and dress that was just absolutely fascinating.

Horsemouth and Dirty Harry (Dillinger) in a scene from the movie Rockers.

The Rastafarian movement was taking root and most of the emerging and prominent musicians were influenced by its teachings. The dialect used was particularly affected by this spiritual group. There was the constant use of terms like “I and I” which was a reference to the first person. “Babylon” could be interpreted as the police/government or the Roman Catholic Church. When speaking of a young lady one would call her “dawta”, or “empress”, or “queen.” A gentleman would refer to his male friend as a “bredrin”, or “i-drin” all of which stemmed from brother.


The style of dress was very flamboyant with lots of patterns, prints and large hats of all different colors.

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer
The legendary rasta man, Jacob Miller. He was a long time advocate for the legalization of marijuana.
Eek-a-mouse, Leroy “Don” Smart, Horsemouth and Bongo Herman
These may well be seen as idlers but in truth they are renowned musicians.

One thing that certainly stood out were those rather large brim hats. These were commonly known as Rockers Uptown Hats, a staple of the 70’s era. The then “rude boys” of Kingston would wear them.

Image may be subject to copyright.
At the other end, the shoes were equally fancy with large heels. The wearing of Clarks Desert Trek shoes is something that has been featured in various books and magazines. Jamaican men have a passionate love affair with Clarks shoes that goes back to the 50’s some say. The Desert Trek is the most famous of the Clarks Original line.
Popular Drummer “Horsemouth“in a platform shoe. Talk about funky!
IMAGE: Beth Lesser

In the recently published book Clarks in Jamaica, Al Fingers examines this phenomenon that exists on the island with these shoes that were manufactured in Somerset, London.

IMAGE: Clarks in Jamaica

Another iconic piece of clothing was what we Jamaicans called a “mareena” aka a tank top. The mareena was always perfect for our warm weather. It could also be worn under a button down shirt.

Lee “Scratch” Perry another musical genius.
A rude boy checkin’ a dawta
The “Diamond” Socks was also a classic.

The 70’s, although bedevilled by crime and violence, was filled with an overwhelming creative vibe that was expressed through our culture. Reggae music was more than a few notes played on an instrument, it was coming from the heart of the people. The music was global but the fashion remained local. We are a vibrant, colorful and happy set of people despite our obvious challenges.

As always, remember “Style is personal”. Do you.

*All pictures taken from Pinterest unless otherwise stated.

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