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

June 20, 2014

A young Buju Banton wears a mesh marina while Spragga Benz, to his left, sports a standard ribbed white cotton tank. Photo courtesy: Super Beagle.

The garment became identifiable by an international audience as a Jamaican cultural โ€œthing.โ€ Mobb Deepโ€™s Prodigy nods to it on their 1996 track โ€œStill Shininโ€ (โ€œPut holes through your shirt like Jamaican clothesโ€) and Camโ€™ron makes a similar reference on 2004โ€™s โ€œFamily Ties.โ€ But use of the mesh marina in everyday wear dwindled somewhere in the late 90s as prices rose, leading men to switch to the more internationally ubiquitous ribbed white cotton tank. As a result, mesh marinas became more of a style choice than a practicality, reggae artist Protoje recalls: โ€œI never use to wear a mesh marina, I wore the normal top. You understand, other marinas are more of utility thing, you have them under your shirt. Mesh marina definitely is a style and an image that comes along with it, itโ€™s very rootsy, very Jamaican roots. Itโ€™s definitely a statement piece.โ€

Today, young dancehall and reggae artistes are utilizing the mesh marina primarily as a style choice, part of a broader identification with retro fashion. James Black wears her own mesh marina as a nod to ’90s dancehall but combines it with more modern trends. However, she acknowledges that the style is still solidified in the streets. โ€œI walk around everyday and I see at least one man in a mesh marina, whether its a taxi man or a man selling on the road,โ€ she says. โ€œThatโ€™s just like a Jamaican staple for the masses, itโ€™s not even something that fashionable people are really wearing.โ€

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