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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
*All pictures taken from Pinterest unless otherwise stated.