Fashion Fridays: Jamaica’s Love Affair with the Mesh Marina

June 20, 2014

Words by Erin Hansen-McKnight, Photo by Martei Korleyโ€”


Lately, we’ve been noticing mesh marinas, the netted garment long favored by Jamaican men like singer Cocoa Tea (above), turning up more and more, from retro-styled dancehall videos to the runway. We tapped Kingstonstyle‘s Erin Hansen-McKnight for a comprehensive history of this Caribbean fashion staple, from its roots in Scandinavia to its place today as an iconic rude-boy fashion statement.

One summer night in Montego Bay three years ago, amidst the gregarious chaos of Reggae Sumfest, photographer Marlon Reid asked a long-legged beauty with a floppy mop of blond hair if he could shoot her for our Jamaican streetstyle site, Kingstonstyle. The girl of interest was wearing washed out jean cut-offs, black patent leather sneakers, white socks with a skirt of frills around the ankle and a black, yellow, and green mesh marina. At the time, Reid didnโ€™t realize he was shooting stylist Savannah Baker, who would turn up in Popcaanโ€™s โ€œEverything Niceโ€ video. What caught his eye was her unusual pairing of the coquettish style of Japanese Harajuku with this iconic Jamaican garment staple.

The mesh marina, a tailored muscle tee made from a knitted cotton that resembles fishing net, has an iconic, albeit multi-faceted, place in Jamaican culture. Originating as a Norwegian utilitarian under-garment, the mesh marina has evolved in Jamaica, becoming synonymous with both the classic rude boy style of the ’70sโ€“ when it was worn beneath oneโ€™s button down shirtโ€“ and in the more blatant and colorful manifestations of โ€˜90s dancehall. The traditional mesh marinas worn by rude boys as far back as the โ€˜50s came in solid colors, typically white, while decades later the black, yellow and green mesh marina developed on a second wave of popularity, when manufacturers realized their most profitable audience was through Jamaicaโ€™s dancehall and reggae culture.

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