Sole-Ful Sounds: Clarks in Jamaica + The Story of the Desert Boot

Words by Jah Banks

clarks-in-jamaica

There aren’t many footwear labels that have been able to transcend time and culture as effortlessly as Clarks. A brand that once solely represented the blue-collar working Englishman of the mid 20th century, by the 1970s it had transformed into an icon of luxury style for downtown Kingston youth.

Since then, the popularity of the Clarks brand has steadily grown worldwide, but especially so in the West Indies, where countless “desert boot” designs can be seen on the feet of proud consumers far and wide. A shoe as versatile as going to school, going to the beach, going out to the bar and then backย out to dinner all in the same day, Clarks are the perfect fit for the Caribbean lifestyle.

Even with the countless references in reggae and dancehall tracks, major sales and relevance in the West Indies, it was unclear whether the label ACTUALLY cared about actively promoting to its Caribbean consumer base, even after Vybz Kartel’s acclaimed “Clarks” massively bigged up the brand in 2010. Well, Clarks ended the speculation in a major way this summer by launching a new “The Story of the Desert Boot” campaign complete with a nostalgic video advertisement directed by Better Mus Come filmmaker Storm Saulter. And now comes a brand-new, Greensleeves Records-produced CD complete with 21 reggae and dancehall songs either in ode or in reference to the Clarks brand.

The video advertisement, anchored by classic deejay and selector Major Stitch (formerly Jah Stitch, of “No Dread Can’t Dead” fame) illustrates the influence of the Clarks brand in Jamaican fashion during the 1970s. Stitch describes the ravenous, cult-like mentality that consumers would display for the coveted shoes during the peak of the rudeboy era: “…If yuh doh’ have on ah Clarks, yuh just don’t have ah chance!”

That same mentality carries over to consumers today, enabling the Clarks company to bring in roughly 163 million pounds in revenue in 2014. Basically, A LOT of desert boots were sold within the past 60 years.

A companion to DJ Al Fingers’ 2012 book by the same name, Greensleeves Records’ Clarks In Jamaica compilation bounces along with harmonious melodies while featuring a multitude of classic artists vocalizing lyrics either in ode or in reference to the Clarks brand. The project, set for release in October, features classics artists such as Nicodemus, Billy Boyo, Culture, Richie Davis with his catchy single entitled “Lean Boot” โ€”check out the stream below, if you don’t know that one! โ€” and even Supercat voicing his ever-popular “Trash and Ready” (“Wi diamond socks and wi Clark booty…!”). Though the CD was lacking one obvious tune,ย  it still delivers through its knowledgeably selected tracklist.

It’s safe to predict that Clarks will be branching out and promoting a little more vehemently to those long-supporting demographics and cultures that they might have once held in their peripheral vision. With the brand being such an important staple in Caribbean fashion and culture, it’s only right for Clarks to take notice of how much of a staple our culture has been to their own history. Salute to the Clarks promotion team for finally showing love to their widely diversified consumer fan base.

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