Jamaica’s Place in the Long History of Clarks Shoes


The famous British shoe company has been making footwear since 1829 and has experienced several significant milestones over the centuries, from the Industrial Revolution to influencing fashion in the modern music industry. The brand has had a major influence on Jamaican culture, and the island culture has also made its mark on Clarks.

Clarks became synonymous with social rebellion over time. In 1971, Lance Clark, a descendant of the original Clark family, created the Desert Trek shoe when he saw a Dutch artist wearing the design and suggested that the Clark firm create a similar version with a crepe sole. The shoes were particularly popular in Jamaica where they were called “bank robbers.” The name stemmed from an illustration of a hike and backpack on the heel that looked like a bag of money. The Clarks Desert Boot dates from 1949, when the crepe-soled ankle-height Clarks Desert Boot became the staple of “rude boys” and others considered society’s “outlaws.” The Clarks Wallabees model quickly became just as popular, particularly in the hip-hop culture of New York and among musicians in Jamaica. The Wu-Tang Clan and Ghostface Killah wore this model in the 1990s.

Most recently, the iteration of the popular Clarks Originals is a collaboration between the manufacturer and Patta. The partnership celebrates the brand’s history by introducing a new style focused on the Desert Trek model. Clarks Originals have been adopted and feted by Jamaican musicians for some time.

Clarks shoes have a special cultural significance in Jamaica, and the brand has been acknowledged as such in literature as well as in music. Jamaican author Marlon James, winner of the Booker Prize for his novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” Describes how a dying father bequeaths his most prized possession, his Clarks, to his son. And an album of reggae tracks recorded between 1978 and 1988 entitled “Clarks in Jamaica” showcases the music paying tribute to the shoe. The dancehall artist Vybz Kartel released his own track called “Clarks” that reflected the island’s love for brand.

Source: The Guardian, Clarks Website 

About the author

Stephanie Korney