21st April 2021

Clark’s Caribbean Love Affair

going on since 1940s

If you were asked to name a few fashion heavyweights you might say the usual suspects: Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and so forth. These maybe the names slipping off everyone lips. But in the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica, there’s only one titan that matters for footwear… Clarks. And the love affair has been going on since 1940s. 

British Style & Caribbean Flavour 

Watching British soldiers sent on a campaign to Burma around 1941, Nathan Clark, the great-grandson of the younger of the two founders, based his new boot design, the Desert Boot, on their military footwear. And the romance between the Caribbean and Clarks started.

The ‘rugged but breathable’ design, the famed durability, the British name and the military style made it perfect match for Jamaicans in the 70s. It spoke to the culture and the reality that was faced by the inner-city Jamaicans in order to make ends meet; those dubbed ‘The Rudeboys’.The Romance was intensified when Prime Minister Michael Manley banned imports on foreign goods, opening up a  thriving black market for Clarks. The country and beyond were infatuated with the footwear and wouldn’t keep it to themselves. The love for it blossomed at the same time Reggae gave birth to a new Jamaican sound called Dancehall.

Everybody Haffi Ask Where Mi Get Mi Clarks 

From the 1980s Clarks were popularised heavily through Dancehall songs including heavyweights of the genre like Supercat and Eek-A-Mouse. But nothing could compare to when Vybz Kartel, hailed the king of Dancehall, echoed the line “Everybody Haffi Ask Where Mi Get Clarks” in his song ‘Clarks’ in 2010. And Jamaica’s love for Clarks hit an all time high. 

Vendors in Jamaica doubled the prices and it still couldn’t match the surge in demand. Going from $6,000 Jamaican Dollars to $10,000 Jamaican Dollars, almost £80 in British Pounds. “Clarks is as much part of the Jamaican culture as ackee {it’s national dish}” Is what Vybz Kartel said about Clarks. “I personally have more than 50 pair of Clarks.” 

Clarks introduction into Jamaican culture may have began with a push from Clarks itself, but its reverence continued because of Dancehall, which acted as a documentation of Jamaican experience, something that the Wallabees and Desert Boots became icons of. Its that combination of the two: experience and celebration that allowed Clarks to enjoy such a grassroots push and authentic admiration from the Caribbean. 

Rewind Selecta

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life? We don’t know. And we may never know. But we think it’s both. Impacting a culture and connecting with a people’s expressions like Clarks shoes has done with Dancehall rarely happens, but we know the recipe to create such moments. In our venues we focus on bringing the same authentic Caribbean Carnival vibe and experience that elevated Clarks to legendary status. For people to celebrate the things that they think represent them, in a way they think best does that. We also, as always, believe it’s better done with some Jerk and some rum. 


by Ramairo Davis – Team Member at Rum Kitchen Carnaby St.

by ramairo

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