Clarks Originals has launched “The Dancehall Collection” to pay homage to the genre and Jamaica, for fully embracing the British shoemaker’s iconic styles.
Released on August 22, 2023, the collection sees the Wallabee and Wallabee Boot silhouettes in new designs consisting of the colors green, blush pink, and blue, which are said to be reminiscent of the island’s bold culture.
Besides the introduction of the Wallabee Boot in Cactus Green, Clarks Original’s Desert Trek and Desert Boot were “also altered to include the usage of premium suedes and tonal embroidered stripes that subtly nod to the pinstriped suits found on old photographs taken of dancehall goers,” according to FootWearNews.
The new batch also includes the Wallabee Boot in “Berry Leather” and the Desert Boot in “Rust Brown Suede.”
Jamaicans have had a love affair with Clarks for decades. If one didn’t know that the brand originated in England, it would take little work to convince them that the brand was Jamaican.
Over on Clarks Original’s Instagram page, a couple of admirers bargained for a store to be opened in Jamaica.
“Clarks use so much of Jamaica’s culture/imagery but there’s no outlet in Jamaica 😔,” one user complained.
“Clarks let’s work together mek we do this fi yard,” another added.
Another user said: “Need a Clarks store in every parish in Jamaica.”
According to Al Newman, author of the 2012 book Clarks in Jamaica, in the 1960s, police would raid Dancehalls and ask all the Clarks wearers to get on one side and the non-Clarks wearers to go on the other side as a way of identifying the rude boys of Kingston. The shoes were noted to cost more than the average and at the time, police profiled people as outlaws if they could afford to wear Clarks.
Clarks is one of the few brands worldwide that transcends generations and ethnicity. The company that started in Street, Summerset UK, in 1825 by brothers Cyrus Clark and James Clark has been experiencing massive losses due to changes in the British consumer habits according to a 2018 statement. Since then they set out on a 5-year transformation to make up for the loss of sales in the UK and Ireland markets.
The Original Clarks brand has been an accent on album covers and uttered in over 200 songs by Dancehall and Reggae artists dating back to the 1970s. Among them Trinity, Assassin (now Agent Sasco), Jahvillani, and No-Maddz. Songs like Trash and Ready by Super Cat, and Wah Dem A Do by Eek-A-Mouse are must-play Dancehall Clarks classics, but none more popular than the 2010 trilogy by Vybz Kartel: Clarks featuring Popcaan and Gaza Slim, Clarks Again, and Clarks 3.
The Guardian headlined in 2010 “Vybz Kartel puts Clarks footprint on Jamaica: Clarks are back in Fashion, thanks to dancehall artist Vybz Kartel”. It then stated that “Clarks Originals have long been a staple of Jamaican fashion, but Kartel lifted them to another level”.
Vogue magazine noted, “It took dancehall-reggae’s reigning king Vybz Kartel to transform that die-hard cult following into a viral feeding frenzy”. A viral craze they say, pushed the shoemakers bottomline beyond the 100 million pound mark.
In 2021, Clarks launched a collection and accompanying video campaign Clarks & Jamaica incorporating artists The No-Maddz, Sevana, Koffee, Protoje, Lila Iké, M1llionz, and football star Raheem Sterling to explain what the brand means to Jamaica.