How did sensible Clarks shoes from Somerset become de rigueur for Jamaica’s rude boys? Al Fingers’ book Clarks In Jamaica explains all…
In Clarks In Jamaica, London reggae buff Al Newman (aka Al Fingers) and National Geographic photographer Mark Read chronicle the popularity of Clarks, an exceedingly unfashionable shoe brand from Somerset in southwest England.
In the UK, a pair of Clarks is synonymous with sensible shoes worn by individuals who value comfort over style. However, in Jamaica “the original gangster rude boy” wears Clarks, explains reggae producer “Jah” Thomas in Newman’s book. Indeed, since the ’70s Clarks’ classic desert boots have been popular among the island’s youth.
In Jamaica “the original gangster rude boy” wears Clarks
The shoes have, in fact, been held in such high esteem that reggae stars spanning Super Cat to (imprisoned) Vybz Kartel have been praising the footwear’s virtues for years. (See video below.)
And the root of this popularity? Mugging people is one reason proffered. Newman’s been told Clarks are so quiet, boys can sneak up on victims and rob them. A more plausible explanation suggests the shoes are viewed as ‘ital’ – a cornerstone of the Rastafari movement that extols all things natural; after all, Clarks are made from wholesome materials.
However, the most credible reason, says Newman, is the fact Clarks are exceptionally comfy and hard wearing, perfect for Jamaicans who walk heaps – a quality valued on both sides of the Atlantic, it seems.
Vybz Kartel’s hit video eulogizing about Clarks