Clarks Originals, the British footwear brand, have disclosed plans to launch its new celebratory ‘Jamaica Pack’ line in April as part of its Spring 2021 collection. The collection comprises the Jamaica Bees, Jamaica Trek, and Desert Jamaica. Clarks also revealed that reggae and dancehall artistes and Jamaican communities will benefit from the campaign.
For close to 60 years, Clarks Originals have been a staple of Jamaican fashion. “Since they first hit the streets of Kingston, our profiles have occupied a special place in Jamaican culture,” a Clarks Originals statement said.
In appreciation of its affiliation with and support from Jamaica, the company has remodeled three of its most iconic styles, which it has named the Jamaica Bees (Wallabees), Jamaica Trek (Desert Trek), and Desert Jamaica (Desert Boot).
Clarks Originals say the models, which pay tribute to the individuality Jamaica is famous for, will feature exclusive new materials, patterns, and color schemes of black, yellow and green, the colors of Jamaica’s flag.
The company has committed to make charitable donations from proceeds from the sale of the pieces in the collection. “Jamaica has given us so much love over the years. As a way of saying thank you, we’re working with communities across the island and making charitable donations to programmes that really make a difference,” declared the company on the Instagram page of Clarks Original.
You may recall that in 2020, Bape and Clarks Originals enlisted Raheem Sterling, the Jamaican-born Manchester City soccer star, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling to front a collection of Clarks Originals.
In celebration of its partnership with Sterling, Clarks gifted students of Maverley Primary and Junior High School in Kingston with a pair of Wallabees. Sterling is a past student of the school.
With regards to the upcoming ‘Jamaica Pack’ campaign, Clarks have not only promised to provide charitable donations to community programmes, but to use Reggae and Dancehall artistes as brand ambassadors to promote the collection.
For many, the move to recognize and engage Jamaican reggae and dancehall artistes is a move that is long overdue. Since, the 1970s, Clarks have been the footwear of choice for Rastafarians, dreadlocks, inner-city youths, and Reggae and Dancehall artistes, the latter two of whom have immortalized the brand in their lyrics.
One of the earliest appearance of Clarks in Jamaica’s Dancehall is the DJ Alcapone being pictured in a pair of Wallabees on the cover of his 1971 album Guns Don’t Argue. Dillinger is recognized as the first artiste to sing about the label, on his monster hit CB200. In 1978, DJ Trinity released Clark Shoe Skank.
Other songs such as Little Johns’ Clarks Booty, Super Cats’ Trash and Ready and Eek-a-Mouse’s Wa Do dem?’ Kartel’s Clarks, and Iba Mahr’s Diamond Sox, come readily to mind. Diamond Sox paints a picture of how many youths in dancehall culture dress: “Mi inna mi diamond socks, and Wallabee Clarks and mi mesh merino.” Diamond socks are those with large diamond patterns.
More recently, Caano’s Bank Robber & Pole Shorts, and Jahvillani’s Clarks Pon Foot continue to celebrate the iconic brand.
While many are happy with the news, there is some skepticism.
Clarks Originals Commit to Dancehall
Following Clarks’ announcement, Instagram user gordonmckenzie56, wrote: “Nice, now sign some Reggae and Dancehall artists to endorsements…Thank you.”
Clarks Originals responded: “@gordonmckenzie56 it’s coming”.
In response, jamaicanaturalhairfestival posted: “Make sure. I will be watching. Make sure the deals are with artistes who have been saluting your brand in their songs all along, Like Super Cat and those veteran artistes who made your shoe popular from in the 1970s. and the rastas who still wore Clarks even after it went out of style until Kartel and Popcaan made it popular once more.”
One follower, pablo_bbl’s demanded to know how Jamaican artists would finally benefit, after having given Clarks copious amounts of free advertising for decades, resulting in a massive increase in their global sales. “Wondering how much and how long you’ll be giving back to Jamaica?!?! Jamaican artists have given Years of free advertising….hope it’s not just a marketing ploy! Jamaican diaspora have stayed loyal to the brand all over the world! Hope there’s sincerity in your gesture!”
Clarks responded: “@pablo_bbl “There is” (sincerity).
Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka has expressed cynicism, opining that Clarks’ are exploiting Brand Jamaica for selfish gain even with their promise to use some Reggae and Dancehall artistes as brand ambassadors. He indicated that he will be paying close attention to the outcome.
Reggae songstress Lila Iké, will most likely be a Clarks brand ambassador, having drawn the attention of Clarks because of choice of the brand’s footwear for several of her live performances. She wore Wallabees at Rototom Sunsplash 2019 and a live performance in Paris, France, during her Europe Sound System tour. In January 2020, the footwear company invited her to Paris Fashion Week.
Despite the skepticism expressed by some, the general feeling is that all Jamaicans would hope that Clarks’ campaign is a success, given the benefits to be derived by Jamaica.